Why Was I Refused Entry to the US When I have a Valid Visa?

New York City

What does a visa mean to you? I remember in late 2009, a young Korean lady was held at John F. Kennedy airport in New York by a US Immigration Officer who was accusing the young lady of illegally using her valid tourist visa to enter into the United States to do temporary work.

The officer began interrogating the teary eyed Korean teenager, who denied all allegations against her. The Officer suspected the real purpose of the teenager in coming to the United States because of her suspicious frequent travels every two months to New York. He examined her personal belongings  beginning from her purse to her wallet, then to her luggages. The officer found  several pairs of modeling lingeries and a notebook with lists of “possible  US customers” and their corresponding contact information.

Asked whether she was engaged into some kind of prostitutions, the young lady awkwardly replied that she was only modeling for photo shoots. Initially, the lady denied she was receiving monetary compensations from modeling jobs. But when the officer threatened to call one of the customers on her lists, the Korean teenager was forced to admit that she was being paid as an adult model. Upon hearing the confession, the officer denied her US entry and ordered her to go back to South Korea. While the lady was crying out loud and begging the officer to reconsider her for a US entry, the officer adhered to his final decision to deny her entry.

Does a US visa guarantee entry to the US?

In many instances, visa is interchangeably identified with someone’s entrance ticket  for going into the US. Many people believe that once you obtain a visa, you are automatically entitled to enter into the US.

A US visa is a travel document issued to a foreign national who likes to go to the United States. The visa entitles the holder to travel to a port of entry, an airport, or land border wherein the permission of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) must be sought in oder to step into the US soil.

A visa does not guarantee you an entry to the United States. It simply means that a consular officer has ascertained that you qualify to seek entry in a certain type of visa. The DHS or CBP personnels are ones  in charge of a traveler’s admission. They are also responsible for allowing a foreign national to stay in the US for a specific period of time. Having a visa gives one a permission to apply for a US entry. The validity of a visa indicates the duration of time that you are allowed to travel to any port of entry in the US. The date appearing on visa expiration does not indicate the authorized period when you can stay in the US. The two general types of visas are nonimmigrant and immigrant visas.

A single entry visa gives a foreign national one time permission to travel to a port of entry from the date of issue to the expiration date.

A multiple entry visa can be used more than once from the date of issue until it expires.


Michael Niren

About Michael Niren

Michael is a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto. He is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada, the Canadian Bar Association’s Citizenship and Immigration Section and the Associate Member of the American Bar Association. Read more

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