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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I am on an H-1B visa and I have been laid off from my job. How much time do I have to find a new job and what are my options?
If you have been laid off or otherwise terminated from your employment in California, or elsewhere throughout the United States, and you are in the country under an H-1B visa, there is a 60-day grace period for you to either find a new employer willing to sponsor your H-1B or change your status to another visa.
Our H-1B immigration lawyers will speak with you about your options, which may include:
- Finding a new employer before your I-94 expires, or your petition is revoked and processed by the United States Citizen and Immigration Service (USCIS).
- Filing for a change in visa status, including changing to a B-1 or B-2 visa, until you find a new job.
I am applying for an F-1 student visa and my school collected a Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) I-901 fee, does this cover the fee paid to the government?
Not necessarily. An immigration lawyer can help distinguish between a fee collected by the college or university and the required I-901 fee to be paid to the government. Please read through the following scenarios and recommendations:
- Some colleges and universities collect a fee to help with the costs that support international students. This may be called an I-901 fee, but does not cover the mandated paperwork and costs that you need to pay the US government prior to applying for an F-1 visa.
- Other colleges and universities collect the SEVIS I-901 fee and pay on your behalf.
- If your college or university has charged a SEVIS I-901 fee, you must ask whether this is the government fee or a school fee.
- If this is a government fee, the school will provide you with a written receipt on a Form I-797 for proof of payment or separate confirmation of payment.
Call our California immigration attorneys if you have any questions, as a properly completed SEVIS I-901 form will allow the Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) to:
- Determine the appropriate fee (which is usually $200)
- Post payment to the SEVIS record
- Mail the receipt
- Provide for expedited delivery, if you have requested and paid extra for this service
Proof of payment of the SEVIS fee is required prior to processing your F-1 visa application and prior to your interview. If you are enrolled in or have been accepted to an approved college or university in California, or elsewhere throughout the United States, our F-1 immigration attorneys in California can provide assistance throughout the process.
What Is a P-4 Visa?
P-4 visa is the type of visa that the spouse and dependent children of a P-1, P-2, or P-3 visa holder applies for in order to accompany a family member to the United States legally.
Here are some more quick facts about the P-4 visa:
- To be approved for a P-4 visa, you must prove your relationship with the holder of the P-1, P-2, or P-3 visa.
- Those with P-4 visa status may study in the United States either full-time or part-time without acquiring an F-1 student visa.
- Those with P-4 visa status may not work at all during their stay in the United States unless they receive separate approval to do so, such as through a work visa.
- P-4 visa holders can study in the country for as long as their family member's visa is valid.
- To apply for a P-4 visa, you must have a valid passport, evidence of your relationship to the P visa holder, and a copy of your family member's Notice of Action Form I-797.
Does an EB-1 "Extraordinary Ability" Green Card applicant have to have an employer?
No. One important advantage of the EB-1 is that (unlike with the non-immigrant O-1 Visa) the applicant doesn't need to have found an employer willing to guarantee a job. In other words, the applicant can "self petition"- that is, apply on his or her own behalf.
This is a critical difference between the O-1 non-immigrant visa and the EB-1 immigrant option.
How long can I stay in the U.S. on an O-1 Visa?
Should your evidence and petition to the USCIS succeed in proving that you are indeed a person of extraordinary ability, the O-1 can be approved for a maximum of three years at a time. You will be allowed to apply for unlimited extensions should you be able to provide additional evidence of upcoming events or employment. However, O-1 visas are not always approved for three years. When a person applies for an O-1 visa, the validity dates-meaning the period the recipient is allowed to stay in the U.S.-are set around the specific period of time that is required to perform or participate in a certain event or events. If you have only one short event or project in which you wish to participate, then the USCIS will approve your O-1 visa to cover only this time period.
When should I apply for an H1B Visa?
The H-1B is a very popular immigration option. At the time of this FAQ, the United States grants 85,000 H-1B visas each year. In the past, within a relatively short time after the visas are made available each year (starting on April 1st), all the visas were used up within a few weeks. In today's economic climate, however, the visas are being used up at a slower rate. Nonetheless, the quota has been filed each year, leaving some people without the option of applying. That's why our immigration lawyers always recommend that clients apply early. Note that if this is your first H-1B application you will only be allowed to begin working with the employer in H-1B status on October 1 of that year.
Basic Rules Governing H1-B Workers Sponsored by a University
- All applications for an academic H-1B must be filed by the hiring university. Individuals cannot file for H-1B visas on their own behalf.
- You may be in the U.S. on another type of visa, such as a student or visitor visa, while you are being considered for H-1B sponsorship.
- All applicants must receive a labor condition certification from the U.S. Department of Labor and employment authorization from USCIS. The university must do this for each sponsored applicant.
- If you are granted an H-1B visa, you may work for an academic institution for up to six years.
- Once your H-1 petition has been approved by USCIS, you are prohibited from accepting any monetary payment, compensation, or reimbursement from any organization or employer outside of the university.
- You may transfer your H-1B visa to another academic or research institution; however, you cannot transfer to a U.S. company. If you leave academia, you must be sponsored for a new H-1B visa.
In order to be approved for this type of visa, you must have adhered to the requirements of any former visas as well as all U.S. laws.
What advantage does the EB-1 Green Card route provide?
One of the major advantages of the EB-1 category is that it often allows a qualified applicant to receive a Green Card in far less time than it takes to navigate through some of the other categories. Some EB categories, for example the EB-2 and EB-3 options, can take decades for people born in certain countries! Right now, the EB-1 category is considered "current," which means that as soon as an EB-1 application is filed, the only waiting time is however long it takes USCIS to process the application and make a decision.
How May I Prove My Clear Intention To Return Home After Graduation On My F-1 Visa Application?
During the F-1 application process, officials will be interested in determining whether or not you intend to return home once your course of study is complete in the United States. Your application has a better chance of being approved if you can verify that you have important ties to your country and long-term plans to reside there.
While there are no specific documentation requests, you may wish to prove through documentation that:
• You own a home in your country or have a long-term rent agreement.
• You have immediate family members residing in your home country, such as a spouse or children.
• You have a bank account or have investments in your home country.
• Your or your family own a business in your home country.
• You have a job you plan to return to in your home country.
• Your future degree will lead to employment opportunities near your home.
• You are involved in ongoing cultural activities or organizations in your home country.
• If you do not currently live in your home country, that you visit home frequently.
Proving your intent to return to your country of origin after school is over is one of the most difficult and confusing aspects of an F-1 Visa application.
Am I Allowed To Find Work If I Have F-1 Student Status?
Unless specifically authorized by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), students with F-1 student status have limited opportunities to work in the United States.
Legally, those holding F-1 student visas may only work 20 hours a week and may only hold on-campus jobs. In addition, students with F-1 status generally may not displace employees who are United States citizens and may not work for commercial firms on campus that do not directly provide student services. If school is not in session, such as during summer months or over holidays, students can work full-time (40 hours per week) at their on-campus job.
Working on campus requires students to fill out an I-9 Employment Verification Authorization form and often requires approval from your International Student Office.
International students with F-1 status who are facing severe economic hardship may be authorized to seek off-campus employment. To qualify for this authorization, students must prove a significant change in their financial situation since their application for an F-1 visa.
International students who are out of F-1 status are not eligible for either on-campus or off-campus employment.
What is Consular Processing and Change of Status?
An import processing aspect to understand is whether your case will be filed as a consular processing or change of status petition. Consular processing refers to the step that requires a visa applicant to submit immigration forms to their home consulate or embassy, appear for a visa interview, and await a visa stamp in their passport. This process is required for almost all visa applications made while a person is located outside of the U.S.
On the other hand, the change of status process is a means by which a person already present in the U.S., on a valid non-immigrant visa, such as a B-2 visitor visa, can apply to change their visa status to another status. The key to a change of status petition is that the petition must be received by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) prior to the expiration of the I-94 card issued to the applicant. As long as this is achieved, and as long as the current visa status the applicant is on allows for a change of status petition to be filed, as most do, the applicant may remain in the U.S. until a decision is rendered by USCIS.
Note that understanding the difference between a visa stamp in your passport and an I-94 document is of utmost importance and plays a critical role in whether one must consular process or if you have the option of filing your case as a change of status petition. Read more about this in our FAQ dedicated to this issue.