She’s just a friend
A Dutch traveler arrived by air in Detroit claiming that he was en route to Las Vegas to visit a friend. The inspecting officer asked him (1) if he was looking for work in the US, and (2) if he and his “friend” had talked about getting married. The traveler answered ‘no’ to both of these questions, and was insistent that his friend in Las Vegas was just a friend.
After two attempts to call the traveler’s friend, the inspecting officer finally made contact on the third attempt. He introduced himself to the traveler’s friend and then asked her, point blank “Are you guys planning on getting married?… Yes!?… and you will petition for him when the time is right.”
The inspecting officer then turned back to the traveler. “She said she was your girlfriend.” After an awkward exchange, the inspecting officer decided to admit the traveler to the U.S., and advised him to have a talk with his “friend.”
Not all inspecting officers are this nice, and at least one former officer has boasted about making more adverse findings than any other officer.
It could have been much worse
Here, the traveler’s case could have gone awry in at least two different ways. First, his girlfriend’s statement that she would petition for him when the time is right, could have been evidence of immigrant intent. An alien applying for admission to the U.S. as a non-immigrant visitor, whose true intent is to remain in the United States as an immigrant, is inadmissible (INA § 212(a)(7)(A)(i)). If this traveler was participating in the visa waiver program, he would have been removed from the US as well (8 CFR § 217.4(1)). He would then have to apply for a visitor visa at the US consulate, and demonstrate his ties and equities to his home country.
Second, and much worse, the traveler’s claim that he was just visiting a friend, rather than his girlfriend, could have led to an inadmissibility finding due to misrepresentation of a material fact (INA § 212(a)(6)(C)). Such a finding would have made this traveler’s eventual immigration to the United States incredibly more difficult. He would need to apply for a waiver of inadmissibility demonstrating that his US-citizen spouse would suffer “extreme hardship” if he was not allowed to immigrate (INA § 212(i)). “Extreme hardship” means “more than the usual level of hardship that commonly results from family separation.” Applicants for this type of waiver must demonstrate that as many factors as possible would cause extreme hardship to their US-citizen relative. Not only are these waivers difficult to obtain, the adjudication process can significantly delay the petition for permanent residence.
What happens next time he comes to the US?
There will be notes in the system on this traveler related to this inspection. If this traveler fails to make forthright disclosures, he faces a risk of one of the two outcomes discussed above. Foreign nationals in relationships with US citizens are often subject to increased scrutiny when applying for admission. To be prepared for inspection the next time he travels to the US, this traveler should be prepared with evidence of his ties and equities to his home country.