Frequently Asked Questions: Visas, Green Cards & Investment Immigration Law
As a result of assisting hundreds of immigration clients with various visa matters in past years, our immigration lawyers have compiled a list of frequently asked questions. Be sure to check back often as this list is continually updated. Still have a question? Contact us today to speak with an experienced immigration law attorney.
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If I have a valid H-1B visa, can my spouse and children accompany me to the United States?
Yes, certain dependents can travel to the United States with you and live with you in America if you have a valid H-1 visa. However, they must first apply for an H-4 visa for dependents to obtain their own visa.
Your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 may apply for an H-4 visa for dependents. With this visa, they will be able to attend school full-time, but they will not be able to seek employment or work in the United States. The H-4 visa allows your family to travel freely throughout the country and the world, and is valid for as long as the H-1 visa holder’s paperwork is current. An H-4 visa can be extended just as an H-1 visa can be extended.
If you would like to work while in the United States on an H-4 visa, you must change your visa status. Likewise, if you are a child of an H visa holder and turn 21 while studying in the United States, you must change your visa status in order to legally continue your education.
What Is a STEM Worker?
A person with an educational background in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics is considered a STEM worker. The majority of STEM workers have advanced degrees, such as masters' degrees and doctorates in these areas.
Do We Have Enough STEM Workers in the United States?
Currently in the United States, lawmakers, businesses, and universities are engaged in an important discussion: is the United States producing enough STEM workers? Are we allowing enough STEM workers to enter the country through work visas? And what can we do to ensure that we are producing enough STEM workers in the future?
As technology advances and many manufacturing jobs move overseas, the U.S. would like to focus on growing the economy through certain high-tech industries. However, many companies complain that a STEM worker shortage makes it impossible for us to keep pace with other competing countries across the world, including India and China. Many believe that increasing the number of STEM worker immigrants can help solve this problem – along with new programs that focus on technology in schools.
New Immigration Policies To Attract STEM Workers to American Companies
At this time, the federal government generally agrees that new immigration policies and reforms should be put in place to help get the most talented STEM workers in the world to American companies.
Can My Spouse And Children Come With Me If I Have An L-1 Visa?
Yes, your spouse and minor children may travel with you to the United States if you have a valid L-1 visa. However, they must apply for an L-2 visa for dependents to legally accompany you to America.
The L-2 visa is meant for the dependents of an L-1 visa holder: the husband or wife of the worker as well as any of their unmarried children under the age of 21. L-2 visa holders have a number of privileges: they can study in the United States without acquiring a F-1 visa for students and they can travel freely in the United States and the world.
The spouse of a L-1 visa holder is allowed to work as long as they attain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). These cards must be renewed every two years.
An L-2 visa is good for as long as the L-1 visa of the spouse or parent remains valid. The L-1 visa is a non-immigration visa that is valid for five to seven years.
The L-1 Visa Process Explained
If you are applying for an L-1 employment visa, you will likely have to file a lot of forms and stand in many lines before your application is complete. Our immigration lawyers offer a general timeline of what you can expect before your L-1 visa is approved.
Here are the steps to filing an L-1 visa application to work in the U.S.
- Form I-129 submission. The parent company must file an L-1 visa petition (Form I-129) with the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS), along with supporting documents proving that both the U.S. company and the foreign affiliate branch meet the qualifications for L-1 classification.
- Form I-797 approval. If your Form I-129 is approved, the USCIS will issue a Notice of Action (Form I-797), stating that your application is valid. However, approval of the visa petition does not guarantee that a visa will be issued; the petitioner must take Form I-797 to the United States consulate or embassy in his home country to submit for visa approval.
- L-1 visa approval. The consular officer will evaluate your petition to ensure that you meet the employment qualifications and that the U.S. company and the foreign affiliate are legitimate businesses eligible for L-1 transfers.
- L-2 visa applications. If your L-1 visa is approved, you may submit L-2 visa applications at the consulate for your family members. Your spouse and unmarried children (under age 21) may accompany you. Your children may attend school but cannot work in the U.S.; your spouse may accept any legal employment of his or her choosing.
Although the L-1 is considered a non-immigration visa, there are no restrictions on an applicant having dual intent. This means L-1 applicants cannot be denied visas if they eventually intend to immigrate to the United States. At Jatoi & de Kirby, A.P.C., we can help you transform your visa into a green card, allowing you and your family to stay in the U.S. indefinitely.
The L-1 visa for intercompany transfers is an important employment-based visa option, especially for businesses who want to start up a United States subsidiary or bring in skilled managers or executives from abroad to work in their American offices. However, how do you know if the L-1 visa is the best option when it comes to work-related visas? Let’s take a closer look at its benefits by comparing it to a few other common options:
L-1 Visa Versus the H-1B Skilled Worker Visa
There are a number of similarities between the L-1 visa and the H-1B visa, which allows American and international companies to bring highly skilled workers to the United States for employment. However, the L-1 visa does have several advantages: an L-1 worker does not need a degree, an L-1 company does not have to prove that a U.S. worker could not fill the position, and an L-1 visa does not have an annual quota.
L-1 Visa Versus the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa
Some business-minded immigrants can choose between the L-1 visa and the E-2 visa. The E-2 visa is also tailored for businesspeople that want to expand a business or open a new business in the United States. However, to qualify for an E-2 visa, the foreigner must originate from a country that has a treaty with the U.S. In addition, you must invest a substantial amount in your business and your business must have a positive impact on the American economy. Finally, you must make your investment before the visa petition is finalized.
L-1 Visa Versus the B-1 Temporary Investor Visa
While both of these visas are designed for foreign workers who need to travel to the United States to conduct important business, the L-1 visa has several advantages over the B-1 visa. While an L-1 visa can give you the opportunity to set up or do business here, B visas are meant for a temporary stay in the country – an initial six-month time period that may be extended another six months. A B visa also requires you to prove that you have the funds to stay in the U.S. for months at a time, but prevents you from becoming an employee during your visit. While both L-1 visas and B-1 visas are non-immigration visas, the B-1 visa requires that you do not have intentions or interest in moving to America and that you have a home that you are keeping overseas.
Should I apply for the EB-1 visa or the O-1 visa for extraordinary ability?
Many talented foreigners are confused by the visa options for immigrants with extraordinary abilities. At first glance, the EB-1 visa and the O-1 visa seem to be extremely similar. How do you know which choice is right for you?
Although both the EB-1 and O-1 visas were developed to encourage foreigners with special talents and abilities to immigrate to the United States, the two options are considerably different.
The EB-1 visa for extraordinary ability is geared toward athletes, artists, and businessmen with acclaimed talents. It is an immigration visa meant for those who would like to live permanently in the United States with a green card. If you come to America with an EB-1 visa, you do not need an employer sponsor or a job lined up, but you are expected to continue working in your field if you would like permanent residency.
The O-1 visa for extraordinary ability is for anyone with internationally acknowledged talents, from athletes to managers to actors. This is a non-immigration visa that requires an employee sponsor and a job in the U.S. Proving a certain level of talent and qualifying for an O-1 visa is more difficult than qualifying for an EB-1 visa. An unlimited number of O-1 visas can be issued each year.
What is the COMPETE Act of 2006?
The Creating Opportunities for Minor League Professionals, Entertainers, and Teams through legal Entry Act (COMPETE Act) gives minor league athletes and amateur athletes the opportunity to enter the United States legally through a P-1 visa. Before the COMPETE Act, these athletes had to seek H-2B non-immigration visas, which is more tailored to other seasonal foreign workers.
Passed in December 2006, the COMPETE Act makes it clear that the P-1 visa is meant for a more diverse collection of international athletes and coaches, not just those that are internationally known or that perform at an international level. Specifically, the COMPETE Act makes it possible for minor league baseball players, junior league hockey players, minor league soccer players, semi-professional athletes, and others to live and work in the United States while playing on a team, training, and working on their skills.
If you are an athlete who wishes to travel to the United States to participate in competition, join a team, or coach, you may have several different options when it comes to visas, including the P-1 visa.
Who Can Act as an O-1 Visa Petitioner or Sponsor?
Unlike some other visas, in which the person petitioning for the visa is the immigrant himself, the O-1 visa for extraordinary ability requires that a sponsor petition U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The beneficiary of the O-1 visa (the person with the extraordinary talent) cannot also act as the petitioner (the person who is sponsoring the extraordinary talent).
While other work visas often require an employer to be the sponsor, this is not necessarily true in the case of the O-1 visa. Most beneficiaries are still sponsored by their company or employer, but others are sponsored by an individual United States citizen or permanent United States resident who acts as an agent. In some cases, a foreign employer working through a U.S. resident who acts as an agent can be a sponsor. Individual sponsors are common when a talent doesn’t have a single employer, but rather has an itinerary of events or is an independent contractor.
O-1 visa sponsorship can be more confusing and complex than other visa sponsorships.
How do I become a permanent resident after securing a conditional green card through the EB-5 visa program?
After you have been part of the EB-5 green card program for two years – and after you have successfully invested your money in a United States business, regional center, or project – you may file for permanent residency. When you move from having a conditional green card to being a permanent resident, many restrictions are lifted, and your freedom to work, live, and travel increases.
In order to secure permanent residency, you must file Form I-829 (Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions) with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services within 90 days of your two-year conditional green card anniversary. This form should be filed with the USCIS California Service Center and comes with a fee of $3,835 – read the instructions carefully. In addition, a biometrics services fee of $85 is due for each dependent staying with you.
Do you need assistance with your EB-5 investment immigration plan, or help removing the conditions from your residency status after two years of having a conditional green card? The Investment Immigration lawyers at Jatoi & de Kirby, A.P.C. can help guide you and your family through the process and to permanent, unconditional residency in the United States.
Is it possible for a foreigner to retire to the United States?
While some other countries offer foreigners retirement visas, sometimes known as silver cards, the United States does not have a retirement visa program – and has no current plans of creating one. However, just because the U.S. does not specifically have a visa program for retirees does not mean that there are no options for those who wish to spend their golden years on American soil.
Retire In The U.S. with EB-5 Investor Visa
If you do not have a close relative who is a United States Citizen and who can sponsor you, your best option for retiring to the U.S. might be an EB-5 investor’s visa. Geared toward foreigners who have accumulated significant wealth and who would like to live and invest in the United States, the EB-5 visa grants eventual permanent residency to those who are willing to invest either $800,000 or $1.05 million in an American business or project.
Retirement Options Are Possible for EB-5 Investors
Although it can be difficult to retire in the U.S., and while there is no specific visa program for retirees, there are viable options to consider, especially if you have retirement money that you plan on investing.
If you have questions about retiring in the United States with the EB-5 investment Visa, contact us today to discuss.
Is an L-1A visa approval required prior to obtaining an EB-1C visa approval if a company is looking to petition a multinational executive or manager?
The EB-1C visa and the L-1A visa are similar, but one major difference is that the L-1A visa is a non-immigrant visa, while individuals with an EB-1C visa approval would qualify for permanent residency in the United States.
This makes the EB-1C visa more attractive to multinational companies and individuals. However, according to experienced California immigration lawyers at Jatoi & de Kirby, A.P.C., the approval process for an L-1 visa tends to be less burdensome.
The L-1A visa is not a prerequisite for the EB-1C visa, and approval of an L-1A visa does not automatically guarantee approval of an EB-1C visa. Further, a multinational corporation may file an EB-1C petition directly as long as all of the requirements are met.
However, a company may choose to petition for an L-1A visa because the requirements are not as strict as the EB-1C visa. In particular, under the EB-1C visa requirements, the U.S. company is required to have been in “substantial operation” for one year prior to applying for the EB-1C visa.
As explained by an immigration lawyer in California, this means that if your California office is looking to petition for an EB-1C visa for an executive or manager, it must have an established corporate structure in the United States for at least one year with a reasonable number of employees. The revenue of this U.S. business must have then led to the need for a manager or executive to head operations.
How can I show proof of an affiliate business relationship for purposes of an L-1 visa?
The L-1 visa is important to companies conducting business outside of the United States, as it allows the foreign entity to open a United States subsidiary and transfer managers and executives to operate the U.S. business. Employees of the foreign corporation can obtain an L-1 visa if the corporation has a related branch, subsidiary, affiliate or joint venture partners.
Contact our firm for assistance if you are looking to show proof of an affiliate business relationship, as this is complicated. There is no direct relationship between the foreign corporation and the affiliate. Instead, both are controlled by a third party, which may include another company, group of companies, an individual or a group of people.
If you are looking to apply for an L-visa , our attorneys can assist you in showing proof of an affiliate business relationship if:
- An individual or business entity owns at least 50% of the U.S. company and 50% of the non-U.S. company; or
- There is more than one single entity, each owner of the non-U.S. company owns the U.S. company in the same percentages.
For additional information about the L-1 visa, order our free book The Business Owner’s Guide To: United States Residency via the L-1 Visa.