U.S. Immigration laws only allow married spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 to enter the U.S. in derivative statuses such as the J-2 or the H-4. It does, however, acknowledge that long-term relationships do exists between two people that might not have the legal ties required for the dependent statuses. Examples of such relationships include:
- long-term cohabitating partners (of either opposite or same-sex partners)
- elderly parents
- individuals with multiple wives in their home country (The first wife would qualify for dependent visa, any other wives qualify for B-2)
It is possible for these individuals to obtain B-2 status. Eligibility for specific immigration classifications in the U.S. is determined by the primary purpose for coming to the U.S. If the primary purpose for coming to the U.S. is to accompanying someone who is studying or working, then this reason falls under the "travel for pleasure" provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act [INA 101(a)(15)(B)].
Someone coming to the U.S. as B-2 cohabitating partners or extended family must keep the following in mind:
- The overall stay must be seen as having an end. Even though the individual may be in the U.S. for an extended period of time, consular officials issuing the visa should not look at exactly how long the person will be in the U.S. with their partner, but rather whether or not there is s specified end to the period of study or work.
- He or she must maintain a residence abroad that they do not intend to abandon. In other words, nonimmigrant intent is very important for maintaining this status. Ties to the home country must be maintained. The B-2 status applicant must have the intent to leave the U.S. when the person they accompany to the U.S. finishes his/her study or work.
- Immigration will only admit the B-2 for periods of up to six months to a year at a time. Therefore someone accompanying an individual whose period of work or study may extend over several years will need to develop an immigration strategy for maintaining legal immigration status that includes travel and/or applications for extension of stay. To obtain additional time in the U.S., one of the following must occur:
- The B-2 status holder must file an application for extension of status (Form I-539) with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. USCIS will accept only one application for extension of stay per visit. OR
- The B-2 must exit the U.S. (thus ending their "visit") and return to be readmitted in B-2 status for a "new visit." Starting a new period of stay makes the individual eligible to submit another application for an extension of stay, even if he or she already submitted an application on a previous visit.
- Applications for permanent residency would be problematic for these individuals as that would imply possible immigrant intent.
Prohibitions on Work and Study
B-2 domestic partners are not eligible for work permission. If the individual wishes to pursue employment, he or she will have to change their immigration status before they can do so. Individuals who hold B-2 status can also not engage in a program of study