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I'm an Indian citizen, who lived in the US for 6 years before and now in Europe. I've a travel(B1) visa to the US valid till 2024, and I'm awaiting my work visa (J1), which will start from January 15, as far as I know. January 15 is also the start date of my job in the US, and I'd like to enter a little early, say around January 5. The travel visa allows me to enter the US multiple times, without staying longer than 90 days.

My questions are:

1) Will they automatically cancel my B1 when they give me my J1?

If the answer to is yes, then, no need to proceed further!

2) Will I be able to enter the US around January 5 with my travel visa? The way I'm thinking of a positive answer here is: since I already have a travel visa, I can enter and say I'm here to travel. And then, when my work visa starts, I'm all okay. Is this really so?

3) If the answer to 2) is yes, will I have to find an excuse to travel? For example, attending a conference, or visiting friends, or show them that I've a proof of accommodation? I'll have the excuse and the proof of accommodation.

4) Let's say that I show the immigration only the travel visa on my passport, but what if they browse through my passport and also find the work visa? What will happen then?

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By the way, B1 is business visitor visa. B2 is pleasure visitor visa. You may also have B1/B2 visa in which case you can either as either B1 or B2. If you just have a B1 visa you cannot use it to enter without a business purpose.

Also, someone with a J visa can enter up to 30 days before the start of their program, so there should be no reason to use another visa to enter 10 days early.

1) will they automatically cancel my B1 when they give me my J1?

Maybe they will, maybe they won't. Probably they won't cancel it, because the B1 visa is still valid for so long and it's reasonable to still need to use it after the J1 program is complete.

2) will I be able to enter the US around January 5 with my travel visa?

Yes, for B2. Yes for B1 if you have a business purpose.

The way I'm thinking of a positive answer here is: since I already have a travel visa, I can enter and say I'm here to travel. And then, when my work visa starts, I'm all okay. Is this really so?

No. You cannot work on B status. You can only work on your internship in J1 status. There are two ways to get on a particular status: 1) enter the US on the respective visa (J1 visa), or 2) apply for Change of Status in the US and get approved. Note that Change of Status costs hundreds of dollars and takes months to process.

3) If the answer to 2) is yes, will I have to find an excuse to travel? For example, attending a conference, or visiting friends, or show them that I've a proof of accommodation? I'll have the excuse and the proof of accommodation.

For B2, any personal reason to visit is fine. For B1, you will need a business purpose like a conference.

4) Let's say that I show the immigration only the travel visa on my passport, but what if they browse through my passport and also find the work visa? What will happen then?

Nothing happens. You can't hide it anyway. They know what visas you have. They may ask you about it in which case you would be honest about it.

  • Thank you for your answer! I checked my travel visa again, it says B1/B2. 1)In the case they cancel my B1/B2, I certainly won't be able to enter the US before wok visa starts, no? 2)I was not thinking of working on my B visa. The sole intent of entering early is to settle down, get a phone number, reopen bank account etc. 3) and 4) B1/B2Since my visa says, I think I'll be okay if I tell them the realm reason to enter, right? Thanks again! – Mathmath Dec 9 '15 at 8:02
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    @Mathmath you missed the key part, which is that J-1 visa holders can enter up to 30 days before their employment begins. You will just enter early as a J-1, no problem, no complication. After all, every J-1 worker needs to find an apartment, open a bank account, etc. I believe they'll keep your B visa so you can use it after you leave your J-1 job. – phoog Dec 9 '15 at 16:58
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    @Mathmath: The duration of stay for B2 will almost always be 6 months. Again, you will need to leave the US and re-enter with the J-1 visa, or apply for Change of Status. If you are going to leave the US and re-enter, how many days early you enter on B2 is not directly related to when your J-1 program starts, as long as you leave before your B2 duration expires. – user102008 Dec 9 '15 at 17:48
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    @Mathmath: That doesn't make sense. You don't "collect" a visa. You have to give them your passport, and they put the visa in your passport, and then you pick up your passport. You can only do this outside the US, because 1) there are only US consulates outside the US, and 2) US visas are only for entry, so you need to be outside the US in order to use a US visa anyway. – user102008 Dec 9 '15 at 22:53
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    @Mathmath if you have not yet applied for your J-1 visa, you could also look into the possibility of never applying for one. That is, enter the US on your B visa, and when you get the documents necessary for the J-1 visa, apply for change of status in the US instead of applying for a visa. There may be some factors that make this approach problematic, but I would not know what they are. Perhaps a new question would help you find out whether there are any such issues. – phoog Dec 10 '15 at 5:43

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