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Zink: Visas Open A Door Of Opportunity


I don't know the numbers, but there are a lot of foreigners working, investing, and buying businesses in the United States. Immigrating to the U.S. can be confusing. I decided to research this topic and have provided a brief guide to the various types of visas available as it pertains to working, investing or buying a business. I referred to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) government website. I strongly recommend that you consult with an immigration attorney before pursuing these options.

To qualify as an immigrant investor, a foreign national must invest, without borrowing, a minimum capital dollar amount in a qualifying commercial enterprise. In general, the minimum is $1,000,000, or $500,000 if invested in a high-unemployment or rural area which is considered a targeted employment area.

To qualify for an E-2 visa, the amount needed for a U.S. residency visa varies and depends on the nature of the business the investor creates or directs. While there is no minimum amount that can be invested in a business for an E-2 visa, funds generally start at around $100,000. The applicant must have more than 50 percent ownership of the investment, unless the applicant is coming as an employee of the enterprise. It generally takes from 22 to 26 months to obtain legal residency through this program, as opposed to several years for other visa programs.

Under the EB-5 Program, entrepreneurs, their spouses and unmarried children under 21 are eligible to apply for a green card (permanent residence). They are required to make the necessary investment in a commercial enterprise in the United States and create or preserve 10 permanent full-time jobs for qualified U.S. workers. There are 10,000 EB-5 visas available each fiscal year.

The L-1A nonimmigrant classification enables a U.S. employer to transfer an executive or manager from one of its affiliated foreign offices to one of its offices in the United States. This classification also enables a foreign company which does not yet have an affiliated U.S. office to send an executive or manager to the United States with the purpose of establishing one.

Here are some common visa (business) categories along with their symbols:

  • B-1: business visas
  • H-1B, H-2B, and H-3: visas for temporary specialty or agricultural workers
  • L-1: visa for intracompany transferees
  • E-1 and E-2: visas for treaty traders and investors
  • O, P, or R: visas for temporary workers

There is also a dual-intent visa that applies to H-1 and L visas. This assumes that an applicant has the intent to stay permanently in the U.S., but will nonetheless grant the applicant a nonimmigrant visa. If the applicant is unable to obtain an immigrant visa during his or her stay in the U.S., he or she will voluntarily return to the home country.

Visas are divided into two main categories, nonimmigrant and immigrant. In general, recipients of immigrant visas have permission to stay in the U.S. for as long as they would like. A nonimmigrant visa is usually for temporary visitors to the United States who may be here to travel, seek medical attention, conduct business, or study. Usually, people in the United States on a nonimmigrant visa are not allowed to work here.

Often, visitors are issued a multiple purpose business/tourist visas (B-1/B-2 category). Both B-1 and B-2 visa are valid for one year and are renewable in six-month increments. It is noteworthy that neither B-1 nor B-2 visa holders may accept employment in the U.S., although an alien on a B-1 may do work for a foreign company located in the U.S.

Temporary Worker Nonimmigrant Visas

An area of nonimmigrant visas that has grown recently is the H-temporary workers category. These visas are issued to workers with "specialty occupations" (such as computer systems analysts and programmers) or to workers performing temporary services or labor when persons capable of performing this work are not available in the U.S (such as agricultural workers). The visas are designed to help employers meet an immediate and temporary need for labor. Numerical limitations exist for some nonimmigrant work visas. For instance, the law limits temporary visas for professionals (H-1B category) and temporary agricultural workers (H-2A category).

Immigrant Visas

Aliens seeking admission to the U.S. as immigrants follow one of two paths, depending on their residence at the time of application.

Aliens living abroad apply for an immigrant visa at a consular office of the Department of State. Once issued a visa, they may enter the U.S. and become legal immigrants when they pass through the port of entry.

Aliens already living in the U.S., including certain undocumented immigrants, temporary workers, foreign students, and refugees, file an application for adjustment of status (to legal permanent residence) with the Bureau of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). At the time they apply for adjustment of status, applicants may also apply for work permits. New legal immigrants are automatically authorized to work and should receive alien registration cards ("green cards") after becoming legal permanent residents. A green card allows the holder to live and work in the United States, usually indefinitely. People seeking permanent immigration to the United States (and a green card) are usually sponsored by an employer or a family member.

Employment Visas

There are many categories that encompass employment-based immigration. These visas are different than temporary employment-based, non-immigrant visas, and they require a complete understanding of U.S. immigration law. For example, an investor/employment creation visa includes two different types of investors, is numerically capped as to the number of visas issued each year and is very specific in terms of the types and amount of investment required. Employment-based immigrant visas are based upon categories such as:
  • Extraordinary Ability of Aliens
  • Outstanding Researchers and Professionals
  • Professional Talent
  • Multinational Executives and Managers
  • Investors and Employment Creation

United States Employer's Compliance

The United States immigration laws make it illegal for businesses to employ foreign nationals who have not received USCIS permission to work in the U.S. Employers are required to verify that all employees are authorized to work here. Companies must complete and maintain Form I-9, which records review of the worker's identity and work permission documentation. Employers failing to complete and keep required documentation are subject to severe penalties.

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