Foreign nationals coming to the United States need a non-immigrant visa, unless they are Canadians, or are eligible for the Visa Waiver program, which allows business or tourist visits of up to 90 days. If non-U.S. citizens wish to live in the United States permanently, a “green card” or permanent resident status is required. The “green card” offers the ability to live, work or conduct business anywhere in the United States. An application for permanent residence often involves complex procedures which can take years to complete. Most applicants obtain permanent resident or “green card” status through either family or job sponsorship. Since there are long waiting lines for most categories, temporary, non-immigrant visas are often required to visit, study, work or invest in the United States. Many of these visas provide relatively quick immigration status and can allow employment authorization.
H-1B Specialty Occupation Visa for Professional Workers
The basic requirement for a H-1B visa is a Bachelor’s degree or its equivalent, and a job offer which requires the degree. The visa petition is filed by the U.S. employer and the work authorization is specific to the employer. It is necessary to obtain an approved labor condition attestation from the Department of Labor prior to filing the petition with the Immigration Service. This is required to ensure that the wages and working conditions do not undermine those for U.S. workers. The H-1B visa may be approved for up to three years and it can be extended for a total of six years. If an application for permanent residency is submitted at least one year prior to the last day of the sixth year, additional yearly extensions will be granted. Spouses and minor children are eligible for H-4 dependent status, which does not grant employment authorization.
Free-Trade Agreement H-1B1 Visas
The Free-Trade Agreement H-1B1 visa is available to professionals from Chile and Singapore. There are 1,400 H-1B1 visas for Chileans and 5,400 H-1B1 visas set aside for Singaporeans. Free-Trade Agreement H-1B1 visas are issued for 18 months and are renewable. Spouses and minor children are eligible for H-4 dependent status, which does not grant employment authorization.
L-I Intracompany Transferee Visa
The L-1 intracompany transferee visa is particularly useful for managers, executives and persons holding specialized knowledge who own or are employed by a business abroad. If the company has a U.S. branch office or affiliate, and they have a common ownership relationship, it is possible to obtain an L-1 intracompany transferee visa. The maximum period of admission for managers and executives is seven years, with a five-year limit for the specialized knowledge category. If the U.S. branch office is new, the L-1 is only approved for one year. Extensions are not routine and usually require proof of employees and substantial business activity. Large sales revenue as well as several layers of employees are key to the extension. If the extension is obtained, and the overseas company continues to operate, it is usually possible to apply for permanent resident status as a first preference multinational manager. This can usually be accomplished relatively quickly. Spouses of L-1 visa holders are also allowed to obtain work authorization.
E-1 Treaty Trader / E-2 Treaty Investor Visa
Nationals of many countries are eligible to obtain Treaty Trader or Treaty Investor visas. The E-1 Treaty Trader visa requires that at least 51% of the company’s trade be between the treaty country and the United States. The E-2 Treaty Investor visa requires a substantial investment in a U.S. business which must be controlled by treaty nationals. No fixed amount is required and “substantial” varies depending on the nature of the business. E visas may also be issued to managers, executives and essential employees of the...