This expression, in addition to being odd, is very versatile. After all, there is no shortage of situations in which people take one thing for another and make a big mess. This is the case, for example, of the difference between the visa and the immigration status. A lot of people think they are the same thing, but, contrary to the apples and oranges of the famous saying, one thing (visa) is one thing, and another thing (immigration status) is something else, and the two institutes don’t look alike at all.
The visa is nothing more than the stamp printed, by the U.S. consular officer, on the foreigner’s passport when he requests entry into the country as a tourist or student, for example.
The visa only demonstrates that the U.S. government, upon your request, has previously conducted a background check and allowed you to board a plane going to the Uncle Sam’s house (for a legal creation quite convenient for the US government, airports and other border crossings are not considered US territory, per se, and this doctrine excludes the applicability of important US laws in these places to, for example, detain and deport anyone without the individual guarantees of due process); so, without a visa you don’t even board a plane in a foreign territory going to the U.S. – at least, not legally. And if, by chance, you manage to board an aircraft without a visa or with an expired visa, the US government will impose a heavy fine against the airline. However, even with a valid visa in your passport, this alone does not guarantee entry into the country; upon arriving at any port-of-entry, whether airport, seaport or dry border, the traveler will be subject to inspection by a Border Officer, or Customs and Border Protection Officer. This officer, linked to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, will carry out another analysis to determine if the visa you have is compatible with your actual intent. The truth is that, for Uncle Sam, every visitor is a potential illegal immigrant, and the border officer’s mission is to try to discover your secret desire to live in the United States (and believe me, those guys get efficient training to sniff out this sort of thing from afar.
As I was once such an officer at Miami International Airport, I can assure you that the training is very effective). If the border officer realizes that you have a student visa but actually intend to work in the US, you could be sent home on the first plane, with no chance of appeal to anyone.
But let’s say you actually came to the United States to do tourism or study, and you managed to demonstrate this to the border officer; in this case, the immigration agent will finally admit you to the US and your immigration status will be established, including determining your period of stay in the country. To illustrate: the tourist visa usually has a validity period of 10 years, however, at each entry into the country, the official will establish the time you can stay in the USA (generally, the period allowed for tourist or business visas, the B1 and B2 visas, is 6 months). If it exceeds the period, that visitor’s stay in the country will be irregular, and may even lead to the invalidation of that visa.
Therefore, the visa stamped in a tourist’s passport by the embassy grants him a period of 10 years to visit the country, but it is the border officer who determines whether he will actually enter the United States, and who sets the period of his stay., that is, it is he who determines your immigration status.
See you in the next article, with more immigration tips!