Intent. The magical, mystical word found throughout U.S. immigration.

10 June 2021

Why do immigration officers have so much authority? How can an area of law with so many rules seem so arbitrary? Why did I get turned away by customs at the border? Why can’t I visit my husband while my visa application is pending. There is one concept in immigration law that answers these questions: Intent.

United States immigration law is controlled by the Immigration and Nationality Act and then by a series of rules and regulations created by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of State. The rules seem very clear – fill out some applications, submit them to the proper office, pay the fee, and get your visa. But it doesn’t always work that way.

The concept of intent gets in the way of many visa and entry applications. There is a presumption of immigrant intent when applying for a nonimmigrant, or temporary, visa. Meaning all applicants are presumed to be coming to the U.S. to stay permanently. This presumption puts the burden on the applicant to prove they are going to the U.S. for a temporary stay and will then leave. And when the applicant proves their intent to the consular officer, they then have to prove to the inspecting officer that they intend to leave.

There are some visas that allow dual intent, which means the visa holder does not need to prove they have no intention of staying in the U.S. But they are few and limited.

Intent takes on many forms. If you are studying in New York on an F1 visa but arrive in Chicago, your intent can come into question. If you arrive in Miami for vacation but you have household items, your intent can come into question. If you are coming to the U.S. to visit your petitioning spouse, your intent can come into question.

There are so many instances where intent is the single most important factor that causes a visa or entry denial. Contact Midwest Law today to discuss your immigrant and nonimmigrant intentions.


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