Work, Invest or Study in the US

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Work, Invest or Study in the US

VISAS TO WORK, INVEST, OR STUDY IN THE US

Are you considering working, investing, or studying in the United States?

Here we explain some of your options and answer some of the most common questions.
 
WORK VISAS

H-1B Visa
These visas are available for people in “specialty occupations”.

H-1B visa applicants should consider the following factors:

  1. Do you have a university degree?
  2. Do most people in your field in the US have a university degree?
  3. If you lack a degree, do you have several years of work experience in your field?
  4. Do you have an employer in the US willing to hire you?
  5. Does the job pay as much as similarly employed US employee earn?
  6. Does the employer typically hire only people with university degrees for the job?
  7. Does the employer guarantee that it will have continued work available to you?
  8. If the occupation requires a license, do you have the necessary license?

How long is the H-1B visa valid?
An H-1B visa is valid for up to six years; three years initially, and then it may be extended for three years. The status can potentially be extended if a permanent residency application has been filed.
Can an H-1B visa holder apply for a green card?
Yes, H-1B visa holders can simultaneously have a green card application pending.

Are spouses or children of H-1B visa holders permitted to work?
Under some circumstance, if an H-1B visa holder has been granted status under the American Competitiveness in the 21st. Century Act of 2000, as amended by the 21st. Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act, then a dependent spouse is eligible for work authorization.

Are H-1B visa holders required to maintain ties to their home countries?
No.
 
How many H-1B visas are provided each year?
H-1B visas are limited to 65,000 visas per year. However, many H-1B employees are exempt from this cap, and there is an additional quota of 20,000 for people holding master’s degrees or higher granted by a U.S. university. USCIS monitors the number of petitions received and notifies the public once the H-1B numerical allocation is met.

Are H-1B visa holders permitted to change employers?
H-1B visa holders can change employers, but the new employer must file a petition with USCIS before the employee can begin working for the new employer.
Are H-1B visas permitted for self-employment?
Yes, but the applicant must demonstrate all H-1B requirements, including demonstrating an ability to earn the prevailing wage. This can be extremely difficult.

What happens in the event the H-1B applicant lacks an appropriate degree?
The applicant must show equivalent work experience and must obtain an evaluation from an expert.

L-1 Visa for Intracompany Transfers of Executives or Managers
The L-1 visa allows a U.S. employer to transfer an executive or manager from one of its offices abroad to one of its offices in the United States.  The L-1 visa also allows a foreign company, that does not yet have a U.S. office, subsidiary, or affiliate in the U.S. to send one of its executives or managers to the U.S. to open an office.

You may qualify for an L-1 Visa if you are a manager, executive (L-1A), or have “specialized knowledge” (L-1B) and are employed by a foreign business entity.  If you seek approval of an L-1 visa, you must answer yes to the following questions:

  • Have you worked full-time for the foreign entity abroad for at least one continuous year within the past 3 years?
  • Are you coming to the United States to open an affiliate, branch, or subsidiary of the foreign entity?
  • Will the foreign entity continue to exist and conduct business as usual after the manager or executive transfers to the U.S.?
  • Are you coming to the U.S. as an owner, executive, manager, or employee with specialized knowledge of the company’s operation?

What are the time limits of the L-1 visa?
The L-1 has a time limit of seven-years for owners, executives, and managers. It has a time limit of five years for employees with specialized knowledge. The longest that an initial stay can be granted is three years with two-year extensions thereafter. If the transfer to the U.S. business involves opening a new office in the U.S. the initial stay is granted for only one year.

Can I bring my immediate family with me?
If you are an L-1 visa holder, your spouse and unmarried children who are under 21 years of age may come to the United States with you.  These family members may seek admission under the L-2 nonimmigrant classification and, if approved, generally will be granted the same period of stay as you.

Are spouses of L-1 visa holders allowed to work?
Yes, if they apply and receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS.

Which type of employee transfers has the most difficulty?
Employees working on a contract basis for their employers may have a difficult time. Employees who claim specialized knowledge but cannot document that they bring skills not readily available in the local job market may face difficulty to get their L-1 visa approved. If the U.S. location is new, the approval of the L-1 visa can be difficult.

Are green cards easy to obtain for L-1 visa holders?
Yes. L-1 visa holders who are owners, managers, and executives can easily obtain green cards.

O-1 Visa
The O-1 nonimmigrant visa is for the individual 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.
The O nonimmigrant visa classification has several 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 for 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 must have critical skills and experience relating to the O-1 which are essential to the successful performance of the O-1 and cannot be readily performed by a U.S. worker.
  • O-3 for individuals who are the spouse or children of O-1’s and O-2’s

Am I eligible for the O-1 visa?
To qualify for an O-1 visa, you must demonstrate extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, athletics, or any field of “creative endeavor”. You must show a sustained national or international acclaim and you must be coming to the U.S. temporarily to continue working in your area of extraordinary ability.

To qualify for an O-1 visa in the motion picture or television industry, you must demonstrate extraordinary achievement evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition significantly above that is ordinarily encountered.

Extraordinary ability in the fields of science, education, business or athletics means a level of expertise indicating that the person is one of the small percentages who has risen to the very top of the field of endeavor.

Extraordinary ability in the field of arts means distinction.  The word distinction means a high level of achievement in the field of the arts evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered to the extent that a person described as prominent is renowned, leading, or well-known in the field of arts.
What kind of issues do O-1 visa applicants encounter?

  1. Do you have an employer, manager, or agent in the U.S. who can sign your application?
  2. Is there a peer organization willing to recommend you and have no objection to your O-1 visa application?
  3. You must show that you have won a major international recognition or at least three of the following:
  • Do you have documentation of the nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor?
  • Do you have documentation of your memberships in associations in the field of the classification you are applying, which requires outstanding achievements of their members, as judged by recognized national or international experts in their disciplines or fields?
  • Do you have published material in professional or major trade publications or in major media relating to the work in the field of the classification sought, including the title, date, and author of the published material?
  • Do you have evidence of your participation on a panel or individually as a judge of the work of others in the same or in an allied field of specialization?
  • Do you have evidence of the original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field?
  • Do you have evidence of authorship of scholarly articles in the field, in professional journals, or in the major media?
  • Do you have evidence that you have been employed in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation?
  • Do you have evidence that you have commanded and currently command a high salary or other remuneration for services, demonstrated by contracts or other reliable documentation?

What is the time limit of the O-1 visa?
The O-1 visa allows you to stay up to three years.

 Are O-1 visa holders required to maintain a residence outside of the U.S.?
No, you do not have to keep your residence abroad.

May O-1 visa holders apply for a green card?
Yes, you can apply for a green card while your O-1 visa is current.

P-1A Internationally Recognized Athlete
The P-1 classification applies to individuals coming to the U.S. temporarily to perform at a specific athletic competition as an athlete individually or as part of a group or team at an internationally recognized level of performance.

Am I eligible for a P-1 Visa?
To be eligible, you must be coming to the United States to participate in an individual event, competition or performance in which you are internationally recognized with a high level of achievement.  Your achievements must be shown through your high degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered.  Your achievement must be renowned, leading, or well known in more than one country.

Is my team eligible?
Your team must be coming to the United States to participate in team events and must have achieved significant international recognition in the sport.  The event in which your team is participating must be distinguished and require the participation of athletic teams of international recognition.

If you have any questions about the P-1 visa, contact our office today to schedule an initial consultation.
 
TN NAFTA Professional Visa
The TN nonimmigrant classification permits qualified Canadian and Mexican citizens to seek temporary entry into the United States to engage in business activities at a professional level. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) created special economic and trade relationships for the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

Among the types of professionals who are eligible to seek admission as TN nonimmigrants are accountants, engineers, lawyers, pharmacists, scientists, and teachers. You may be eligible for TN nonimmigrant status, if:

  • You are a citizen of Canada or Mexico;
  • Your profession qualifies under the regulations;
  • The position in the United States requires a NAFTA professional;
  • You have a prearranged full-time or part-time job with a U.S. employer (but not self-employment, and
  • You have the qualifications to practice in the profession in question.

Eligibility Criteria
Unlike Mexican citizens, Canadian citizens are generally eligible for admission as nonimmigrants without a visa.  The TN category reflects this general exemption from the visa requirement.  NAFTA governs which evidence is required to prove whether a Canadian or Mexican citizen is a professional in a qualifying profession.
What is the time limit for TN visa holders?
The TN visa is valid for three years and can be extended in three-year increments.
Are TN visa holders required to demonstrate intent to immigrate to the U.S.?
No. The TN is a nonimmigrant visa; therefore, the beneficiary cannot have immigrant intent.
How do Canadians apply for TN visa status?
Canadians can apply for TN status at the ports of entry with a “TN offer letter” or through a petition filed with USCIS. You are not required to apply for a TN visa at a U.S. consulate. You must provide the following documentation to the CBP officer:

  • Proof of Canadian citizenship;
  • Letter from your prospective employer detailing items such as the professional capacity in which you will work in the United States, the purpose of your employment, your length of stay, and your educational qualifications; and
  • Credentials evaluation (if applicable), together with any applicable fees.

How do Mexicans apply for TN visa status?
Mexicans can apply directly at U.S. consulates.

Where are TN visa extensions and change of status applications filed?
They may be filed with USCIS. Canadians can file a TN visa extension at a port of entry.

Are degrees in a field required?
Yes, most jobs require a degree in the field.

How would TN visa holders be impacted if NAFTA is revoked by President Trump?
TN visa holders would lose their work authorization.

R-1 Religious Worker Visa
An R-1 is a foreign national who is coming to the U.S. temporarily to be employed as a minister or in another religious vocation or occupation at least part-time (average of at least 20 hours per week). The employer must be a non-profit religious organization under IRS code 501(c)(3) in the U.S. or a non-profit religious organization which is affiliated with a religious denomination in the U.S.

This R-1 visa program is intended for religious workers whose lives are dedicated to religious practices and functions, as distinguished from secular members of the religion.
 
Do I qualify for the R-1 visa?
To qualify, you must have been a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the U.S. for at least two years immediately before the filing of the petition.
 
What is the time limit for R-1 visa holders?
R-1 visas are valid for up to five years.

At what point R-1 visas convert to Green Cards?
R-1 visas are convertible to a green card after two years of religious work.
 
How long is the petition process?
Processing times may vary; however, the petitions now take longer than they used to because USCIS conducts site visits to the petitioning religious institution.
 
SHORT TERM VISITORS FOR PLEASURE OR BUSINESS
B-1 or B-2 Visa
You may be eligible for a B-1 visa if you will be participating in business activities of a commercial or professional nature in the US, including, but not limited to consulting with business associates, traveling for a scientific, educational, professional, or business convention, or a conference on specific dates, settling an estate, negotiating a contract, participating in short-term training, missionary work, volunteer service, or similar.

Do I qualify for the B-1/B-2 visa?

  • Do you have a job abroad that pays well and one you can leave for a few weeks on a vacation?
  • Do you have close relatives who will be remaining in your home country when you come to the US?
  • Do you have close community ties in your home country?
  • Are you coming for a short visit to the U.S.?
  • Do you have assets in your home country?
  • Do you own property in your home country?
  • Do you have a set itinerary for your trip or a round trip plane ticket?
  • Do you have money or proof of support from friends or relatives in the U.S. to show adequate financial arrangements to carry out the purpose of the trip?
  • If you are coming to do business, will you be paid abroad rather than in the U.S.?

How long is the B-1/B-2 visa valid?
Generally, the visa is valid for a period of 10 years, however, when you come in through the port of entry, you will be granted an authorized stay of up to six months. The officers have the authority to grant a stay shorter than six months; therefore, you should always make a note of the date that was stamped on your passport at the time of entry. You can also visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home to get your Form I-94 number and the official date of expiration of your authorized stay. You must not overstay the length of your stay.

Are B-1/B-2 visa holders allowed to work?
Generally speaking, no.

INVESTORS
E-2 Investor’s Visa
The E-2 Investor Visa allows foreign nationals to enter the United States in order to direct and develop a commercial enterprise or business in which they have invested a substantial amount of money or capital. The E-2 Investor visa does not lead to a U.S. permanent residence nor does it provide a qualifying basis for it.

Treaty investor applications must meet specific requirements to qualify under immigration law:

  • The investor must be from a treaty country. In order to verify the list of treaty countries click here
  • The investment must be substantial. It must be sufficient to ensure the successful operation of the enterprise.
  • The investment must be a real operating enterprise. Speculative do not qualify. Uncommitted funds in a bank account or similar security are not considered an investment.
  • The investment may not be marginal. It must generate significantly more income than just to provide a living to the investor and its family and must have a significant economic impact in the United States.
  • The investor must have control of the funds, and the investment must be “at risk” in the commercial sense. Loans secured with the assets of the investment enterprise are not allowed.
  • The investor must be coming to the U.S. to develop and direct the enterprise. If the applicant is not the principal investor, he or she must be employed in a supervisory, executive, or highly specialized skill capacity.

Benefits of the E-2 Visa
The economy of the United States is very strong and foreign investors take advantage of that fact to open an enterprise in the United States that generates more economic movement. Some of the benefits of the E-2 visa are:

  • There is no minimum investment amount that is required if the investment is enough to establish, develop and operate a profitable business that meets the criteria above.
  • The spouse of the E-2 Investor will be issued an E-2 dependent visa which can allow the spouse to apply for work authorization based on their E-2 visa.
  • Children under 21 years of age of the E-2 Investor are issued an E-2 dependent visa and are able to attend a school of their choice (in many states, children can qualify for in-state tuition at State Universities up until they reach the age of 21). Children of E-2 Investors do not qualify for a work visa.
  • The E-2 visa holder can travel in and out of the U.S. without any limitations for as long as their visa is valid.
  • Unlimited extensions are available for the E-2 visa holder, as long as the investor continues to meet the requirements of the visa.

STUDY IN THE US
F-1 Student Visa
The F-1 Student Visa allows you to enter the United States as a full-time student to study at an accredited college, university, other academic institution, or in a language training program.

Do I qualify for an F1 visa?
To qualify, you must:

  • Be enrolled in a program or course of study that culminates in a degree, diploma, or certificate.
  • The school you choose must be authorized by the U.S. government to accept international students.

Once the academic institution determines that your application is complete and you are academically eligible to study, they will issue a Form I-20 that allows you to apply for your student visa.

What do I need to apply for an F1 visa?

  • Show that you have enough funds to cover your expenses while in the U.S. without having to obtain employment in the U.S.
  • Show that you will maintain ties to your home country and residence abroad while you are in the U.S.
  • Show your intent to return to your home country.

Can an F-1 visa holder work in the U.S.?
No, the F-1 visa holder cannot work. However, upon completion of the program, you can receive up to one year of work authorization. If you have a degree in certain fields of science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM), you may receive an additional 24 months as long as the employer uses E-Verify and produces a training plan.
 
What are the limitations for the spouses and children of F-1 visa holders?
Spouses and children are not entitled to work in the U.S. unless they independently secure a work status. Children can enroll in K-12 education. A spouse cannot study unless he or she has a separate student visa.

J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa
The J-1 classification is a program designated by the U.S. Department of State for those who intend to participate in an approved program for the purpose of teaching, instructing or lecturing, studying, conducting research, consulting, demonstrating a special skill, receiving training, or to receive graduate medical education or training.  The program may be paid or unpaid.
 
Is there a requirement for J-1 visa holders to return home before switching to another visa?
Generally, yes. There is often a requirement for J-1 visa holders to return home for two years before switching to another visa.

What are the time requirements for J-1 visa holders?
Time limits vary depending on the type of program:

  • Training: 18 months
  • Interns: 12 months
  • Scholars and professors: up to three years
  • Medical residents: up to seven years
  • Students: up to 18 months of post-graduate work authorization (post-doctoral work 36 months) and must be enrolled full-time.

What are the most common issues encountered by J-1 visa applicants?

  • If you are coming for a business trainee or intern visa, you must find an employer to provide you with the training opportunity.
  • If you have found a training opportunity, you will need a program sponsor.
  • If you are a doctor seeking to train in the U.S. you must be admitted to a medical residency or fellowship program and obtain sponsorship from the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates.

M-1 Student Visa
The M-1 Visa category is for students in vocational studies or other non-academic programs.
 
Do I Qualify for an M-1 Visa?
To qualify, you must:

  • Be enrolled in a full-time community or junior college with at least 12 semester or quarter hours.

Once the academic institution determines that your application is complete and you are academically eligible to study, they will issue a Form I-20 to allow you to apply for your student visa.

What do I need to apply for an M-1 Student Visa?
To apply for an M-1 Student Visa, you must:

  • Show that you have enough funds to cover your expenses while in the U.S. without having to obtain employment in the U.S.
  • Show that you will maintain ties to your home country and residence abroad while you are in the U.S.
  • Show that you intend to return to your home country.

Our office recommends that you seek the help of our experienced and knowledgeable attorneys. Contact our office today for an initial consultation at  (407) 818-1244 or Click here
Terra Immigration can help.