A multiple entry visa is a special type of visa that permits its holder to enter the United States multiple times within a given time frame. For instance, a nonimmigrant who is granted a multiple entry visa will be allowed to enter the United States for a short period, go back to their country of origin, and then return to the United States at a later date a number of different times.

Most multiple entry visa applications are usually for a particular kind of visa called a “visitor visa” or a “B visa.” B-1 and B-2 visas are typically issued to nonimmigrant visitors who wish to enter the United States on a temporary basis for a particular purpose. 

You should apply for a B-1 visa if you are a nonimmigrant who wants to travel to the United States for a limited amount of time to engage in certain business activities, such as settling an estate or negotiating a contract.

On the other hand, you should apply for a B-2 visa if you are a nonimmigrant who wants to travel to the United States for a limited amount of time for tourism purposes or to obtain medical treatment. For instance, if you are taking a long holiday or visiting friends and relatives in the United States, then you may want to consider applying for a B-2 visa. 

It is important to note that while there are various categories of multiple entry visas, many of them are for persons seeking entry into the United States as a nonimmigrant traveler who does not intend to abandon the residency status of their home country. In other words, nonimmigrant travelers are not looking to remain in the United States on a permanent basis. 

In contrast, persons who wish to permanently live and work in the United States will need to apply for an immigrant visa and follow the process to register as a lawful permanent resident. Those who become a lawful permanent resident of the United States (i.e., a green card holder), will need to apply for a re-entry permit if they want to travel abroad for a period of less than two years and then resume their immigrant status as a U.S. lawful permanent resident.

How Does a Multiple Entry Visa Work?

The way in which a multiple entry visa works is that they are normally valid for a specific period of time. This time period is known as the “validity period.” The validity period can range from anywhere between six months to 12 months, with a maximum of up to twenty-four months if the visa holder applies for an extension. 

The visa holder will then be allowed to enter and re-enter the United States within this validity period in accordance with various travel restrictions.

Assuming that their passport and multiple entry visa has not expired, a person who holds a multiple entry visa may enter and re-enter the United States as many times as they want. Bear in mind, however, that these visas are only meant to allow access to the United States for particular travel purposes like business or tourism. Accordingly, multiple entry visa holders who return shortly after they departed from the United States may raise suspicions. 

In which case, if an immigration officer does not believe that a nonimmigrant multiple entry visa holder is genuinely returning for business or tourism purposes, then they may be permitted to deny them entry into the United States and can send them back to their home country immediately. Hence, why it is so crucial for individuals seeking entry to the United States to select the correct type of visa, which will be based on their reasons for visiting.

What is the Difference Between Multiple Entry Visa, a Re-Entry Visa, and a Single Entry Visa?

It is very important that a nonimmigrant keep in mind that there are a number of differences between a multiple entry visa holder, the holder of a re-entry permit, and a single entry visa holder. These differences are as follows:

  • Multiple entry visa: As discussed above, a multiple entry visa allows nonimmigrant travelers to arrive and depart from the United States multiple times within a given visa holder’s validity period. Multiple entry visa holders will not be required to re-apply for a visa again until the visa expires. It should be noted, however, that just because the visa may not expire for a number of years, does not mean that its holder will be allowed to remain in the United States for all of those years without restrictions.
    • Instead, a multiple entry visa holder will be allowed to stay for the validity period, then may need to leave the United States, and return again at a later date. In general, these types of visas usually cost more and take longer to secure one.
  • Re-entry permit: A re-entry permit allows its holder to travel outside of the United States for up to two years at a time. A re-entry permit is useful for when an immigrant who holds lawful permit resident status wishes to travel abroad for longer than a year, but does not intend to abandon their lawful permanent resident status. In other words, they plan to return to the United States before the two-year period expires, so that they may continue permanently living and working within the U.S. 

    • The main difference between that of a re-entry permit versus a multiple entry visa is that its holder is already considered a lawful permanent resident of the United States. Those who are holders of multiple entry visas do not intend to and cannot become lawful permanent residents of the U.S. through this type of visa. Instead, they would need to file an application to become a lawful permanent resident.
  • Single entry visa: A single entry visa is usually issued to nonimmigrant travelers who intend to make a single trip to a particular destination within the United States. In other words, nonimmigrant travelers have a certain reason as to why they wish to travel to the country, which is usually for the purposes of a long holiday and/or for tourism reasons. As its name implies, a single entry visa only allows a nonimmigrant traveler access to the United States one time. 
    • Once the nonimmigrant traveler leaves the country, they will need to re-apply for a new visa to be able to return again to the United States. Unlike a multiple entry visa, single entry visas are generally easier, cheaper, and faster to obtain. 

What are the Requirements for Obtaining a Multiple Entry Visa?

Applicants who wish to apply for a multiple entry visa must comply with the requirements set out by their country of origin. In general, such requirements may vary based on the country as well as on the type of visa for which an applicant is applying. Multiple entry visas are primarily issued based on an applicant’s reasoning for obtaining one. 

For example, if an applicant was traveling to the United States for the purposes of settling a quick business matter, then they would apply for a multiple entry work-related visa, such as a B-1 visa, and adhere to all of the conditions required to obtain that kind of visa.

Multiple entry visas also have some unique requirements, which applicants may not encounter when applying for a different sort of visa like a single-entry visa. Some conditions that may only apply to multiple entry visas include:

  • Gap visitation periods: Depending on their country of origin, a nonimmigrant traveler may need to wait a certain amount of time in-between each visit to the U.S. For example, nonimmigrant travelers from India who hold a multiple entry visa will be required to wait two months before they can re-enter the U.S. after a visit. However, there may be some exceptions wherein an immigrant traveler may be able to waive this requirement.
  • Maximum time limits per stay: Again, depending on the country, there may be a maximum amount of time set on how long an applicant can stay per each visit. For instance, a nonimmigrant traveler from China can remain in the U.S. for a maximum of thirty days per each entry period. Nonimmigrant travelers from Brazil, however, can stay in the U.S. for a maximum period of 90 days. 
  • Good record standard: Aside from the eligibility criteria, applicants seeking multiple entry visas must also demonstrate that they have a good or clean record with immigration authorities. This means that their record must not contain items, such as a criminal history, incidents of removal or deportation, and/or violations while visiting countries outside of their home country.

Again, it is important that applicants bear in mind that the requirements for each type of multiple entry visa will depend on a number of factors, including the rules established in the applicant’s country of origin and their overall immigration record. Additionally, the eligibility criteria for each type of multiple entry visa can vary from year-to-year since U.S. immigration laws and policies may be subject to change.

How Long is a Multiple Entry Visas Valid for?

Multiple entry visas can remain valid from anywhere between five to fifteen years, depending on the type of visa and which country a nonimmigrant traveler is arriving from. However, most are usually valid for a period of ten years. 

As discussed above, this does not mean that persons who hold a multiple entry visa will be permitted to stay for that amount of time. It only means that they will not need to apply for another multiple entry visa until their current one expires. 

For example, imagine if a person is given a 10-year multiple entry visa document that expires in 2035. Although they will not be permitted to remain in the United States from 2025 to 2035, they will not have to apply for a new multiple entry visa document until 2035. In other words, they will be able to use that document to enter the United States throughout the 10-year time frame, assuming all other criteria are met and they abide by the rules of the validity period.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Multiple Entry Visas?

A multiple entry visa can be a very useful document for its holder. However, they can be somewhat difficult to obtain and are typically more costly to apply for than a single entry visa. Therefore, if you need assistance with applying for a multiple entry visa, you should consult with a local immigration lawyer immediately for further advice. 

An experienced immigration lawyer will be able to explain precisely how multiple entry visas work and can offer recommendations as to which option may be best suited for your particular circumstances. Your lawyer can also walk you through the application process and can discuss how to go about obtaining one for a loved one.