Ask the US Consul

The U.S. Embassy in Colombo, in collaboration with the Sunday Times in this monthly column "Ask the Consul", provides an opportunity for Sri Lankans interested in visiting, studying, or living in the United States to ask questions about U.S. visas, immigration laws and procedures, and other questions relating to travel to America.

Sri Lankans wishing to apply for U.S. visas often have many questions about the application process and eligibility requirements. Unfortunately, potential applicants are sometimes misled by incorrect information and rumours about eligibility requirements, or about how visas are adjudicated.

This column aims to provide accurate information to better inform visa applicants. Questions concerning all types of visas are welcome, including tourist and student visas, employment visas, and visas for permanent migration. We also welcome questions from American citizens who are interested in petitioning for Sri Lankan relatives to immigrate to the United States.

To submit your question, simply write to or send an email to The Sunday Times at: or

post your query to

'Ask the Consul'
The Sunday Times
No. 8, Hunupitiya Cross Road, Colombo 2.

On the first Sunday of each month the Sunday Times will publish a selection of these questions as well as answers from American Consular officers.

Dear Consul,

Is the US visa (R B1/B2) an entry visa or a stay Visa? Why I ask this is because I intend entering the US when my visa has a two-month validity. But when I leave after a three-month stay, the visa would have expired. Do I have to get a fresh visa for this trip?

Also, I have now got a new passport when my US visa is in the old passport. Is this in order to travel to the US?


Dear Rajan,

The validity period for a visa refers to when it can be used to enter America. It does not refer to how long a person can stay in America. The length of stay is determined by the immigration officer at the port of entry. Therefore, as long as your visa has not expired, you are allowed to travel to America, even if the visa will expire the next day.

When your visa is still valid, but your passport has expired, you do not need to get a new visa. However, you must travel with both your new passport and your expired passport. If you would like a new visa put in your new passport, you must go through the regular procedures to apply for a new visa.

Dear Consul,

I am in the United States on an H4 visa. I arrived here in November 2008. I want my parents to visit me, but when they applied for visas, their applications were refused. The visa officer told them to cancel their Green Card applications and then reapply. I have known cases where people have applied for green cards and still got visitor visas. How can they be denied visitor visas? My parents answered all the questions honestly and confidently.

Can you advise me on how they can be successful in getting their visa as there is no guarantee that they will get it even if they cancel their Green Card applications.


Dear Anonymous,

Among other things, applicants for a visitor visa to America must prove that they intend to leave America at the end of their stay. When a person has a pending application for legal permanent residence in America, it will probably make it very difficult for them to prove that their intention is not to stay in America.

If your parents desire to live in the United States, I would recommend that they not cancel their Green Card applications. Instead, since their visitor visa application has already been refused, it’s best for them to wait until their immigrant visa applications (the first step in getting a Green Card) have been approved.

Dear Consul,

I applied for a student visa recently and the officer refused my visa. I was accepted to a university in America and had a valid I-20. How can the officer refuse my visa if I was already accepted to a university?

A.N.P. Perera

Dear A.N.P. Perera,

There are many people who apply for student visas, who actually have no intention of studying in America. Because of this, visa officers have to look critically at each student visa application. The officer is trying to determine three things: 1) that the person intends to actually study in America; 2) that the person has the financial resources to pay for his education; and 3) that the person intends to leave America at the end of their studies. If the officer is not convinced on all three of these points, he is not allowed to issue a student visa.

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