VISAS TO WORK, INVEST OR STUDY IN THE U.S.

Do you want to work, invest or study in the United States?

Below, our immigration attorneys explain some of your options and answer the most common questions.

E2 VISA FOR INVESTORS

E2 Visa for Investors
The E2 Visa allows foreign nationals to enter the United States in order to direct and develop a business.  The foreign national must invest a substantial amount of money or capital towards the business. The E2 Investor visa does not lead to a U.S. permanent residence nor does it provide a qualifying basis for it.

E2 visa applicants must meet the following specific requirements to qualify:

  • The foreign national must be a citizen of a treaty country.  To see the list of eligible countries, click here.
  • The investment must be substantial. It must be sufficient to ensure the successful operation of the enterprise.  The law does not require a minimum and the amount depends on the type of business and geographical location.
  • The investment must be a real operating enterprise.  Speculative businesses 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 for the investor and his or her family.  The business 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 E2 visa applicant is not the principal investor, he or she must be employed in a supervisory, executive, or highly specialized skill capacity.

Benefits of the E2 Visa
The economy of the United States is strong and stable.  Many foreign investors open businesses in the United States that generate economic movement. Some of the benefits of the E2 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.  Our immigration attorneys been successful with businesses that cost as little as $65,000 and as much as $750,000.
  • The spouse of the E2 visa holder gets an E-2 dependent visa.   The spouse can apply for a work permit based and work for any employer.
  • Children under 21 years are issued an E-2 dependent visa.  They are able to attend a school of their choice.  In many states, children can even qualify for in-state tuition at State Universities up until they reach the age of 21. Children of E2 visa investors do not qualify for a work visa.
  • E2 visa holders can travel in and out of the U.S. without any limitations for as long as the visa is valid.
  • The E2 visa holder can apply for unlimited extensions as long as the investor continues to meet the requirements of the visa.
L-1A VISA FOR INTRACOMPANY MANAGERS OR EXECUTIVES TRANSFEREES

L-1A Visa for Intracompany Transfers of Executives or Managers
The L-1 visa allows a company abroad to “transfer” an executive or manager to one of its offices, or subsidiary, 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 visa lasts up to seven-years for owners, executives, and managers. It lasts up to 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 (“work permit”) from USCIS.

Which type of employee transfers are least likely to get an L-1 visa?
Employees working on a contract basis for their employers may have a difficult time getting an L-1 visa approved. Employees who claim specialized knowledge, but cannot document that they bring skills not readily available in the local job market, may also face difficulty getting an L-1 visa approved.

Are green cards easy to obtain for L-1 visa holders?
Yes. L-1 visa holders who are owners, managers, and executives can apply for a green card after one year.

TN NAFTA VISA FOR PROFESSIONALS

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.

O-1 VISA FOR EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY

The O-1 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 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 common issues do O-1 visa applicants encounter?

  1. Applicants need an “agent.”  Do you have an employer, manager, or agent in the U.S. who can sign your application? If not, you will have a problem getting an O-1 visa approved.
  2. Is there a peer organization willing to recommend you and have no objection to your O-1 visa application?
  3. Do you have a major international recognition or at least three of the following:
  • Documentation of the nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor
  • Any 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?
  • Is there evidence that you participated 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?
  • Have you authored 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 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 VISA FOR INTERNATIONALLY RECOGNIZED ATHLETES

The P-1 visa classification is reserved for 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 and speak to an experienced immigration attorney that can help you.  Terra Immigration Partners has a track record of success and can help you get your visa without issues or delays.

R-1 VISA FOR RELIGIOUS WORKERS
  • 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.
F-1 VISA FOR STUDENTS

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 VISA FOR EXCHANGE VISITORS

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 VISA FOR STUDENTS

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.

B-1 OR B-2 VISA FOR SHORT TERM VISITORS

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.

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