Legal Immigration Services

Generally, a citizen of a foreign country who wishes to enter the United States must first obtain a visa, either a nonimmigrant visa for a temporary stay or an immigrant visa for permanent residence.  The visa allows a foreign citizen to travel to a U.S. port of entry and request permission of the U.S. immigration inspector to enter the United States. A “visitor” visa is a nonimmigrant visa and generally is used to enter the United States temporarily for business (B-1), for pleasure or medical treatment (B-2), or a combination of these purposes (B-1/B-2). 

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Permanent Residence in the USA

Living permanently in the United States

If you are a citizen or a permanent resident of the United States, you may help a relative become a permanent resident of the United States by obtaining what is often referred to as a “Green Card.” To do so, you need to sponsor your relative and be able to prove that you have enough income or assets to support your relative when she comes to the United States. You will need to file a Petition for Alien Relative and prove an existence of family relationship between you and your relative. 

A U.S. citizen can file a petition for the following relatives: 

• Husband or wife; 

• Children, married or unmarried.

A U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years or older may also petition for the following relatives: 

• Parents; 

• Brothers or sisters

A permanent resident can file a petition for the following relatives: 

• Husband or wife; and 

• Unmarried child/children, regardless of age. 

Please note that only U.S. citizens may petition for married children. 

Filing a Petition for Alien Relative and proving a qualifying relationship gives your relative a place in line with others waiting to immigrate from the same country or region based on the same type of relationship. When your relative reaches the front of the line, she may be eligible to immigrate after passing the required background checks and meeting requirements for admission. The law gives special consideration to immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, which includes a U.S. citizen’s spouse, unmarried children under 21 years of age, and parents. There is no waiting list to immigrate these relatives. 

If your petition has been approved, and your relative is currently in the United States after making a legal entry (and she meets certain other requirements), she may be able to file applications with USCIS to adjust to permanent resident status. 


Obtaining Asylum in the United States

If you suffered persecution or fear that you will suffer persecution due to:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Nationality
  • Membership in a particular social group
  • Political opinion

you may apply for asylum in the United States. To obtain asylum through the asylum process you must be physically present in the United States. You may apply for asylum status regardless of how you arrived in the United States or your current immigration status.

You must apply for asylum within one year of the date of your last arrival in the United States, unless you can show:

  • Changed circumstances that materially affect your eligibility for asylum or extraordinary circumstances relating to the delay in filing   
  • You filed within a reasonable amount of time given those circumstances.    

You may apply for asylum by submitting an application to USCIS. If your case is not approved and you do not have a legal immigration status, USCIS will issue a Form I-862, Notice to Appear, and forward the case to an Immigration Judge at the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR). The Immigration Judge conducts a ‘de novo’ hearing of the case. This means that the judge conducts a new hearing and issues a decision that is independent of the decision made by USCIS. You may live in the United States while your application is pending before USCIS. If you are found ineligible, you can remain in the United States while your application is pending with the Immigration Judge. 

You cannot apply for permission to work (employment authorization) in the United States at the same time you apply for asylum. You may apply for employment authorization if:

  • 150 days have passed since you filed your complete asylum application, excluding any delays caused by you (such as a request to reschedule your interview) and  
  • No decision has been made on your application   

If you are granted asylum you may work immediately.

If you are granted asylum you may petition to bring your spouse and children to the United States. You must file the petition within two years of being granted asylum unless there are humanitarian reasons to excuse this deadline. To include your child on your application, the child must be under 21 and unmarried. You may apply for a green card one year after being granted asylum. 

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Business Visitor Visas (B-1)

If the purpose of the planned travel is business related, for example, to consult with business associates, attend a scientific, educational, professional or business conference, settle an estate, or negotiate a contract, then a business visitor visa (B-1) would be the appropriate type of visa for the travel. 

You must demonstrate the following criteria in order to be eligible to obtain a B-1 visa:

  • The purpose of your trip is to enter the United States for business of a legitimate nature
  • You plan to remain for a specific limited period of time
  • You have the funds to cover the expenses of the trip and your stay in the United States
  • You have a residence outside the United States in which you have no intention of abandoning, as well as other binding ties which will ensure your return abroad at the end of the visit
  • You are otherwise admissible to the United States

Pleasure, Tourism, Medical Treatment - Visitor Visas (B-2)

If the purpose of the planned travel is recreational in nature, including tourism, visiting friends or relatives, rest, or is related to medical treatment, activities of a fraternal, social, or service nature, or participation by amateurs who will receive no remuneration in musical, sports and similar events or contests, then a visitor visa (B-2) would be the appropriate type of visa for the travel.  Persons planning to travel to the United States for a different purpose including students, temporary workers, crew members, or journalists, must apply for a different category of visa.

Initial Period of Stay

1 to 6 months; 6 months is the maximum

Extension of Stay

Up to 6 months; maximum total amount of time permitted in B-1 status on any one trip is generally 1 year.

At the port of entry, an immigration official must authorize your admission to the United States, and, if you are eligible for admission, you may be admitted initially for the period necessary to carry out your business activities, up to a maximum period of 1 year.  If you who wish to stay beyond the time indicated on the Form I-94 without departing from the United States, you must apply for an extension of stay.

Studying in the United States

If you want to study in the United States, the first step is to research the school or program that most interests you and get a student visa. 

There are two nonimmigrant visa categories - F and M visas.

In order to receive F-1 or M-1 visas you have to meet the following criteria:

  • You must be enrolled in an "academic" educational program, a language-training program, or a vocational program
  • Your school must be approved by the Student and Exchange Visitors Program, Immigration & Customs Enforcement
  • You must be enrolled as a full-time student at the institution
  • You must be proficient in English or be enrolled in courses leading to English proficiency
  • You must have sufficient funds available for self-support during the entire proposed course of study
  • You must maintain a residence abroad which you have no intention of giving up.

F-1 Student Visa

The F-1 Visa (Academic Student) allows you to enter the United States as a full-time student at an accredited college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school, or other academic institution or in a language training program. You must be enrolled in a program or course of study that culminates in a degree, diploma, or certificate and your school must be authorized by the U.S. government to accept international students.

Only schools certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) can accept international students.

Employment

Please be advised that F-1 students may not work off-campus during the first academic year, but may accept on-campus employment subject to certain conditions and restrictions. After the first academic year, F-1 students may engage in three types of off-campus employment:

  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
  • Optional Practical Training (OPT) (pre-completion or post-completion)
  • Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Optional Practical Training Extension (OPT)

M-1 Student Visa

The M-1 visa (Vocational Student) category includes students in vocational or other non-academic programs, other than language training.

M-1 students may engage in practical training only after they have completed their studies.

For both F-1 and M-1 students any off-campus employment must be related to their area of study and must be authorized prior to starting any work by the Designated School Official (the person authorized to maintain the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)) and USCIS.

Receive Your Form I-20 as an F-1 or M-1 international student

Once accepted into an SEVP Certified School you will receive a Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status,” from your designated school official (DSO). DSOs work at SEVP-certified schools and are there to help you understand and follow the rules for studying in the United States. It is important that you know who your DSO is and how to contact them.

The Form I-20 is an important document that you should keep safe, as you will need it throughout the international student process. 

Bringing Your Dependents

As an F-1 or M-1 international student, you may bring your spouse (for example, husband, wife, legal partner) and children with you while you study in the United States. However, they will also need to receive a Form I-20 from your DSO and follow specific rules while they are in the United States.

Student Benefits

While studying in the United States, you can apply for certain benefits. These student benefits are not granted by SEVP and require students to apply to other U.S. government agencies to receive them:

  1. Apply for a Driver’s License
  2. Participate in a Training Opportunity
  3. Apply for a Social Security Number

J-1 Exchange Visitors Visa

The J-1 classification (exchange visitors) is authorized for those who intend to participate in an approved program for the purpose of teaching, instructing or lecturing, studying, observing, conducting research, consulting, demonstrating special skills, receiving training, or to receive graduate medical education or training. 

In carrying out the responsibilities of the Exchange Visitor Program, the Department of State designates public and private entities to act as exchange sponsors. J-1 nonimmigrants are therefore sponsored by an exchange program that is designated as such by the U.S. Department of State. These programs are designed to promote the interchange or persons, knowledge, and skills, in the fields of education, arts, and science. 

Examples of exchange visitors include, but are not limited to:

  • Professors or scholars
  • Research assistants
  • Students
  • Trainees
  • Teachers
  • Specialists
  • Au Pairs
  • Camp counselors

To apply for the Exchange Visitor Program, you should determine which program is right for you, and contact a designated sponsor to take part in one of its exchange programs. The sponsor will provide specific program and application requirements.

Two-year home-country foreign residency requirement

Please be advised that when you agree to participate in an Exchange Visitor Program you will be subject to the two-year home-country foreign residency requirement if your exchange program is funded by either your government or the U.S. government, involves specialized knowledge or skills deemed necessary by your home country or you received graduate medical training. If this requirement applies, you must return to your home country for a cumulative total of two years at the end of your exchange visitor program.  You are not prohibited from traveling to the United States but may not benefit from certain employment-based or family-based visas until the foreign residency requirement is satisfied.

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Employment

Working temporarily in the United States

In order for you to come to the United States lawfully as a nonimmigrant to work temporarily in the United States your prospective employer must generally file a nonimmigrant petition on your behalf with USCIS. 

Below are the main nonimmigrant temporary worker classification:


H-1B Specialty Occupations

An H-1B visa allows an individual to enter the United States to temporarily work at an employer in a specialty occupation. The regulations define a specialty occupation as requiring theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge in a field of human endeavor including but not limited to biotechnology, chemistry, computing, architecture, engineering, statistics, physical sciences, journalism, medicine and health: doctor, dentists, nurses, physiotherapists, etc., economics, education, research, law, accounting, business specialties, technical writing, theology, and the arts, and requiring the attainment of a bachelor's degree or its equivalent as a minimum (with the exception of fashion models, who must be "of distinguished merit and ability"). Likewise, the foreign worker must possess at least a bachelor's degree or its equivalent and state licensure, if required to practice in that field. H-1B work-authorization is strictly limited to employment by the sponsoring employer.


H-2A Temporary Agricultural Workers

An H-2A visa allows a foreign national entry into the U.S for temporary or seasonal agricultural work. There are several requirements of the employer in regard to this visa. The H-2A temporary agricultural program establishes a means for agricultural employers who anticipate a shortage of domestic workers to bring non-immigrant foreign workers to the U.S. to perform agricultural labor or services of a temporary or seasonal nature. H-2A employers are the only group of employers who are required to pay inbound and outbound transportation, free housing, and provide meals for their workers. H-2A agricultural employers are among the most heavily regulated and monitored employers in the United States. Unlike other guest worker programs, there is no cap on the number of H-2A visas allocated each year.


H-2B Temporary Non-Agricultural Workers

The H-2B visa permits employers to hire foreign workers to come temporarily to the United States and perform temporary non agricultural services or labor on a one-time, seasonal, peak load or intermittent basis. The H-2B visa classification requires the U.S Secretary of Homeland Security to consult with appropriate agencies before admitting H-2B non-immigrants. Homeland Security regulations require that, except for Guam, the petitioning employer first apply for a temporary labor certification from the United States Secretary of Labor indicating that: (1) there are not sufficient U.S. workers who are capable of performing the temporary services or labor at the time of filing the petition for H-2B classification and at the place where the foreign worker is to perform the work; and (2) the employment of the foreign worker will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers. The Department of Labor will review and process all H-2B applications on a first in, first out basis.


H-3 Nonimmigrant Trainee or Special Education Exchange Visitor

An H-3 visa issued to trainees or special education exchange visitors. It is designed to provide a foreign national with job-related training for work that will ultimately be performed outside the United States. Trainees' spouses and children who are under the age of 21 may accompany them to, but may not work in the United States.


I Representatives of Foreign Media

An I-1 visa issued to foreign media representatives and journalists who travel to the United States for the purpose of working exclusively in their profession. All applicants must meet eligibility criteria, which requires them to be residents of foreign countries, working for foreign information outlets headquartered in their respective countries. 


L-1 Intracompany Transferee

L-1 visas are issued to employees of an international company with offices in both the United States and abroad. The visa allows such foreign workers to relocate to the corporation's U.S. office after having worked abroad for the company for at least one continuous year within the previous three years prior to admission in the U.S. The U.S. and non-U.S. employers must be related in one of four ways: parent and subsidiary; branch and headquarters; sister companies owned by a mutual parent; or "affiliates" owned by the same or people in approximately the same percentage. 

L-1 visa has two subcategories:

  • L-1A for executives and managers, valid up to 7 years.
  • L-1B for workers with specialized knowledge, valid up to 5 years

Note:

An Exchange Visitor Visa holder is only allowed to perform the activity listed on her Form DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility) and as stated in the regulations for that category of exchange.

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Special Abilities

Visas based on Special Talent, Religion or Culture

O-1 Visa: Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement

O visa is granted to an alien, who possesses extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or who has a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry and has been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements, and to certain assistants and immediate family members of such aliens.

O-1 Visa has three subcategories: 

  • O-1A for individuals with an extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics (not including the arts, motion pictures or television industry)
  • O-1B for individuals with an extraordinary ability in the arts or extraordinary achievement in motion picture or television industry.
  • O-2: individuals who will accompany an O-1, artist or athlete, to assist in a specific event or performance. For an O-1A, the O-2's assistance must be an 'integral part' of the O-1A's activity. For an O-1B, the O-2's assistance must be 'essential' to the completion of the O-1B's production. The O-2 worker has critical skills and experience with the O-1 that cannot be readily performed by a U.S. worker and which are essential to the successful performance of the O-1.

P-1A Internationally Recognized Athlete

P visa is granted to alien athletes, artists, and entertainers, and their spouses and children. 

P visa has 4 classifications:

  • P-1 applies to individual or team athletes, or members of an entertainment group (P-1B) that are internationally recognized. A maximum of 25,000 P visas are issued annually.
  • P-2 applies to artists or entertainers who will perform under a reciprocal exchange program.
  • P-3 applies to artists or entertainers who perform under a program that is culturally unique.
  • P-4 is for the spouse, or child under the age of 21, of a P-1, P-2, or P-3 alien and who is accompanying, or following to join, the alien.

Q-1 Cultural Exchange

Q-1 visa allows travel to United States to participate in a cultural exchange program. The purpose of the program is to allow for practical training and employment, and the sharing of history, culture, and traditions.

R-1 Temporary Nonimmigrant Religious Workers

R-1 visa allows travel to the United States for service as a minister or other religious occupation.The institution must be a registered non-profit organization in the U.S., or authorized for the use of a group tax exemption.The individual must have worked for at least the preceding two years as a member of a religious denomination, and work at least 20 hours a week for the institution while in the U.S.

Applicable For:

  • Internationally Recognized Athlete
  • Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement
  • Cultural Exchange
  • Temporary Nonimmigrant Religious Workers

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Investor Visa

Investing in the United States economy

E-1 Treaty Traders

E-1 Treaty Trader Visa allows an individual to enter and work inside of the United States based on a commerce she will be conducting, while inside the United States. Treaty trader visas are available only to citizens of certain countries, and the company performing the trading must be at least 50% owned by citizens of the same country as the trader the visa is granted to. Persons with the treaty country's nationality must own at least 50% of the enterprise. Additionally, more than 50 percent of the international trade involved must be between the United States and the treaty country.


E-2 Treaty Investors  

E-2 Investor Visa allows an individual to enter and work inside of the United States based on an investment she will be controlling, while inside the United States. The E-2 visa is good for three months to five years (depending on the country of origin) and can be extended indefinitely. The investment must be "substantial." Investor visas are available only to citizens of certain countries. E-2 visas are also available to non-investor employees of the business, as long as the persons are of the same nationality as the investor and are destined for a role in the U.S. business that is either executive/supervisory or requires specialized skills that are essential to the efficient operation of the US enterprise.

For new startups, the investment must be large enough to start and operate the business. The amount of investment varies on the type of business. The investment will not be considered substantial if it is not large enough to capitalize the venture.


EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program 

EB-5 visa provides a method for eligible Immigrant Investors to become lawful permanent residents, by investing at least $1,000,000 to finance a business in the United States that will employ at least 10 American workers. Most immigrant investors who use the EB-5 program invest in a targeted employment area (TEA) — a rural area or area with high unemployment — which lowers the investment threshold to $500,000.The EB-5 program is intended to encourage both foreign investments and economic growth.

Applicants have the choice of investing individually or they can choose to work through a larger investor pool via regional centers (RC), which are federally approved third-party intermediaries that connect foreign investors with developers in need of funding, and take a commission. Regional centers are usually private, for-profit businesses that are approved by the U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) which is part of the Department of Homeland Security. If an EB-5 investment is made in a regional center, the jobs may be created indirectly through economic activity, as opposed to a direct investment, where the investment vehicle must directly employ 10 U.S. workers.

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About the investor based visa options. Contact us for free consultation to discuss further. 

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