BY: BRUNELLA COSTAGLIOLA
Having a baby is one of the most important events in the life of expectants parents, and it is also one of the most joyous occasions for family members to witness and share in their love and happiness. While a brand-new baby is reason of unbelievable cuteness—especially when they smile, coo, sleep, move their tiny hands and feet, and… oh well, it might be easier to just say that they are always so unbelievably cute—it can quickly become overwhelming.
Sooner rather than later, you come to the conclusion that, it does indeed take a village to raise a child, and this village is usually made of family members, such as baby’s grandparents, aunts, and uncles. But. Here comes the but.
This is the military community we are talking about. And more specifically, we are talking about the foreign military spouse community, which means, our village is in a different continent. While most of our neighbors and friends can easily have their parents and siblings come visit from another US State and stay for an unspecified amount of time to help out as much as possible with their brand-new baby, it is not as easy for us, foreign military spouses, to have our village come to us. And, what’s more, have that village stay for the desired amount of time. Why? Well, because of a tiny issue we can easily describe as: Entry Visa.
Most of us can only have family members come visit us in the United States of America for up to three months. The Visa Waiver Program allows people of a participating country—there are currently 38 countries that qualify for this program—to enter the US of A and stay for 90 days or less, so long as they have a valid Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) approved prior to embarking, and they meet all the necessary requirements. But what if our family members would like to stay longer than 90 days?
This question is not so easy to answer, as it mostly depends on which country your family is from. Also, this is a situation that is usually decided on a case-by-case basis. So, there is no “one size fits all”.
However, the general answer would be: your family could apply for a B-2 Visa. A B-2 Visa is a temporary, nonimmigrant visa that allows people to come to the United States of America for pleasure and tourism for up to six months.
There are general qualifying criteria that the person requesting a B-2 Visa must meet:
· That the purpose of their trip is to enter the United States temporarily for business or pleasure;
· That they plan to remain for a specific, limited period;
· Evidence of funds to cover expenses in the United States;
· That they have a residence outside the United States as well as other binding ties that will ensure their departure from the United States at the end of the visit.
So, how do you apply for a B-2 Visa? Well, your family members would have to make sure to apply for it on time so that they can be with you for the birth as well as to help out once baby is born. Here are a few guidelines to follow:
· Contact the nearest US Embassy or Consulate of the country where they live and apply for a B-2 Visa well in advance;
· Fill out the DS-160 Form, which is an Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application form;
· Once the DS-160 has been submitted, print the confirmation page and bring it to your interview;
· Pay the non-refundable visa application fee before your interview;
· Make an appointment with the nearest US Embassy or Consulate for your interview.
Once your family members have been granted a B-2 Visa, you need to make sure they can come stay with you on the military base—if you actually live in base housing. Most bases offer a visitor’s pass that can last up to three months. However, you can also make an appointment with the Pass & I.D. office of your base to see if there is any way for you to obtain a longer visitor’s pass for your family members. Usually, they will try and work out something that grants your family members access to the base for a longer period of time. Also, don’t forget to let housing know that you plan on having family members come stay with you for a considerable amount of time, as you might have to make arrangements with them as well.
While this can be a long and draining process, it is surely worth it if your desire is to have your family members be with you, help and support you, as well as enjoy quality time with the newest member of your family. For more information, please don’t hesitate to contact the toll-free military help line at: 877-CIS-4MIL (877-247-4645) or e-mail them at: firstname.lastname@example.org