Work-Based Immigration Solutions

B-1 Business Visitors

Are you interested in a short trip to the U.S. for business purposes, but not for employment or “local work for hire”? You may qualify for a B-1 visa…

B-1 visas permit entry into the U.S. temporarily for business activities, such as:

  • consulting or meeting with business associates;
  • attending a scientific, educational, religious, or professional conference;
  • negotiating contracts;
  • attending a meeting of the board of directors of a U.S. corporation, if the visitor is a member of the board;
  • engaging in non-productive training that benefits the visitors foreign employer;
  • conducting types of missionary work;
  • performing services as a domestic servant of certain nonimmigrant workers;
  • performing services as a domestic servant of a U.S. citizen who permanently resides abroad or who is temporarily assigned to the U.S.;
  • conducting independent research;
  • participating in nonsalaried professional athletic events;
  • investigating a potential E-2 investment or, for foreign corporate employees, coming to set up a U.S. subsidiary; or
  • participating in voluntary religious activities.

A B-1 visitor is not allowed to perform productive work in the U.S. Receiving pay from U.S. sources is not the determining factor in whether a person’s activities constitute work. Productive activities performed on behalf of a U.S. entity while in the U.S. are likely to be viewed as work even if performed voluntarily or where the pay comes from foreign sources.

To prove eligibility for a B-1 visa, you must demonstrate that you: intend to remain for a specific, limited period; have funds to cover the purpose of the U.S. visit; have family, social, and economic ties abroad; and maintain a residence in a foreign country that will ensure your return abroad at the end of the visit. The B-1 visitor will generally remain on a foreign employer’s payroll and perform all duties for the benefit of the foreign employer, and is not allowed to receive compensation from a U.S. source, other than reimbursement for incidental expenses. Applications for a B-1 visa may be made directly at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad.

B-1 Duration

B-1 visa holders are generally admitted for the period of time necessary to conduct the business. In theory, a B-1 entrant may be admitted up to a maximum of six months. However, in practice, immigration officers typically allow business visitors to remain in the U.S. for no more than 30-90 days. When unexpected events necessitate an extension, individuals may apply to extend the authorized period of stay up to six months. However, prolonged business visits may give rise to a presumption that the visitor is engaged in prohibited productive work.

A B-1 visa is automatically invalidated if the visa holder overstays or otherwise violates the terms of his/her nonimmigrant visa status. Such persons must apply for new visa stamps in their home countries, barring extraordinary circumstances. Persons who overstay their admission under VWPP cannot enter without a visa in the future.

If an immigration officer believes that an arriving foreign national is not entitled to be admitted, or has committed a misrepresentation, the immigration officer can order a foreign national summarily “removed.” There is no appeal from that removal order, and the consequence of such an order is inability to enter the United States for five years. A B-1 visa holder confronted with the threat of removal can request that the application for admission be withdrawn, but granting such a request is at the immigration officer’s discretion.

The only other alternative, if appropriate, is to request asylum. A foreign national who has been ordered removed can later apply for a waiver of the removal bar. Also, note that foreign nationals who overstay admission for more than 180 days and voluntarily depart cannot reenter the United States for three years, and foreign nationals who overstay admission for one year cannot re-enter for 10 years.

If you have business interests that require a B-1 Business visa and have questions about your particular situation, please contact us.

B-2 Tourist Visitors

Are you interested in a short trip to the U.S. for pleasure or medical treatment? You may qualify for a B-2 visa…

B-2 visas permit entry into the U.S. temporarily for activities including tourism; social visits to friends or relatives; medical treatment; participating in conventions of social organizations; participating in amateur musical or sports events; accompanying D or B-1 visitors; and accompanying a non-spouse long-time partner (regardless of gender) in E, H, or L status.

A B-2 visitor is not allowed to work in the U.S. To prove eligibility, you must demonstrate that you: intend to remain for a specific, limited period; have funds to cover expenses in the U.S.; have social and economic ties abroad; and maintain a residence outside the U.S. that will ensure your return abroad at the end of the visit. Applications for a B-2 visa may be made directly at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad.

Prospective students seeking admission in B-2 status who plan to change to F-1 student status must declare this intent to immigration officials at the port of entry. The immigration official will note this intention on the person’s Form I-94, which is required in order for the student to change to F-1 status while inside the U.S.

B-2 Duration

Tourists are usually given stays of up to six months.

A B-2 visa is automatically invalidated if the visa holder overstays or otherwise violates the terms of his/her nonimmigrant visa status. Such persons must apply for new visa stamps in their home countries, barring extraordinary circumstances. Persons who overstay their admission under VWPP cannot enter without a visa in the future.

If an immigration officer believes that an arriving foreign national is not entitled to be admitted, or has committed a misrepresentation, the immigration officer can order a foreign national summarily “removed.” There is no appeal from that removal order, and the consequence of such an order is inability to enter the United States for five years. A B-2 visa holder confronted with the threat of removal can request that the application for admission be withdrawn, but granting such a request is at the immigration officer’s discretion.

The only other alternative, if appropriate, is to request asylum. A foreign national who has been ordered removed can later apply for a waiver of the removal bar. Also, note that foreign nationals who overstay admission for more than 180 days and voluntarily depart cannot reenter the United States for three years, and foreign nationals who overstay admission for one year cannot re-enter for 10 years.

If you have questions about B-2 eligibility, please contact us.

E-1 Treaty Traders

Are you a part owner or key employee of a company that trades with the U.S. and coming to the U.S. to trade or help develop or direct the company’s U.S. operations? You may qualify for an E-1 visa…

E-1 visas permit entry into the U.S. to further substantial trade that is international in scope. The trade must be primarily between the U.S. and the treaty country where the person holds citizenship. For a list of current E-1 and E-2 treaty countries, click here (please note that both E-1 and E-2 are shown in the same State Department chart).

In order for a business to qualify for E-1 visas, it must demonstrate that the U.S. business has created substantial trade between the U.S. and the treaty country. Trade is not limited to goods and services and must be principally with the treaty country. This means that more than 50% of the total volume of international trade done by the U.S. business must be between the U.S. and the treaty country. If the U.S. entity is a branch office, then the foreign business must have more than 50% of its trade with the U.S.

At least 50% of the U.S. entity must be owned by non-U.S. resident nationals of the treaty country. If the company is publicly traded, the firm’s nationality is considered to be that of the country in which the firm’s stock is listed and traded.

E-2 Treaty Investors

Are you a part owner or key employee of a company that has or will invest in a U.S. company with natives of your country, and coming to the U.S. to work for the U.S. company? You may qualify for an E-2 visa…

E-2 visas permit entry into the U.S. to further a substantial investment in a U.S. enterprise made by individuals or businesses that are citizens of a treaty country. For a list of current E-1 and E-2 treaty countries, click here (please note that both E-1 and E-2 are shown in the same State Department chart).

For a business to qualify for E-2 visas, it must demonstrate that a substantial investment in the U.S. business has been made by individuals or companies that are citizens of the treaty country. In order to be considered a substantial investment, the funds must be “at risk”. Whether the actual amount invested is substantial depends on the type of business and is weighed based upon a variety of factors. In addition, the investment must not be “marginal” (i.e., not made solely for the purpose of earning a living).

Similar to the E-1 visa, at least 50% of the U.S. entity must be owned by nationals of the treaty country to qualify for E-2 visas.

Applying for an E-1 or E-2

Depending on your situation, applications may be either filed with USCIS here in the U.S. or with a U.S. consulate abroad.

For those who are already legally in the U.S. and who are eligible to change status to another type of visa may file their applications with USCIS. If USCIS believes that the criteria discussed above are met, it can change the applicant’s status to an E-1 or E-2 status. However, when these applicants travel outside the US, they must make another full application for the E-1 or E-2 visa at a U.S. consulate. The E-1 and E-2 visa specialists at the consulates around the world do not defer to USCIS determination of visa eligibility. They review applications anew and exercise virtually complete discretion in their conclusions.

More than any other nonimmigrant visa, the E-1 and E-2 are creatures of the U.S. consular system under the jurisdiction of the Department of State. Most consulates that review E-1 or E-2 visa applications have specialists who are able to parse through the financial documentation that is used to prove these cases. Once an applicant proves to the visa specialist’s satisfaction that the trade or investment qualifies for the issuance of an E-1 or E-2 visa, the Consulate will consider that company to be “registered” at their office. If the trader or investor is actually a company that will be sending many employees to work at the new operations in the US, then the following employees need not re-prove the substantiality of the trade or investment. They can simply reference the initial registration of the company and file far less complicated applications proving that they are qualifying E-1 or E-2 employees. Once the company is qualified, a treaty country national can apply for an E-1 or E-2 visa as an executive or supervisor, or an essential employee. The individual does not have to be employed by the company abroad to qualify for E-1 or E-2 status.

E-1 and E-2 visas can be issued for up to five years and are renewable indefinitely as long as the company and the individual continue to qualify for E-1 or E-2 status. Upon each entry to the U.S., E-1 and E-2 visa holders are generally granted two years of E status on Form I-94 as long as the E-1 or E-2 visa is valid at the time of entry.

Dependent visas are available for spouses and unmarried children (under 21) of E-1 or E-2 visa recipients. Furthermore, E spouses are eligible to apply for work authorization after they enter the U.S.

E-1 or E-2 nonimmigrants who do not plan to travel internationally may apply to extend their status for up to two years by filing an application with U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS).

If you have questions about E-1 or E-2 eligibility, please contact us.

E-3 Australian Professionals

Are you an Australian national with a U.S. job offer? You may qualify for an E-3 visa…

On September 6, 2005, the U.S. Department of State published regulations for the newly created E-3 visa category, allowing applications for visas for Australian professionals to proceed. The E-3 visa program mirrors the Singapore and Chile H-1B free trade visas but benefits from a 10,500 cap separate from the H-1B cap. The regulation establishes the following requirements for an E-3 visa:

  • The E-3 applicant must be an Australian national.
  • The position offered by the U.S. employer must meet the same “specialty occupation” requirements as established by the H-1B program. Thus, this category will only apply to professional level positions (typically requiring a Bachelor’s degree or higher).
  • The E-3 applicant must present evidence of academic or other qualifying credentials for the specialty occupation to the consular officer.
  • Before filing, the employer will need to secure wage and working condition approval from the Department of Labor using the Labor Condition Application process. The original Labor Condition Application must be submitted to the Consular officer as part of the application package. Certified copies are permitted by discretion.
  • The employer must detail in writing the job offer, wage and specialty occupation requirements.
  • Spouses and children of E-3 nonimmigrants are eligible for E-3 dependent visas. Dependents can be any nationality (i.e. they do not need to possess Australian citizenship). E-3 spouses are eligible to apply for E spousal work authorization once in the U.S. under the same process established for spouses of E-1/2 employees. The spousal work permit is not limited to a specialty occupation or a specific employer. E-3 visas issued to dependents are not counted towards the annual 10,500 allocation.
  • The E-3 category is exempt from the six-year H-1B time limit and can be renewed indefinitely. However, E-3 visas require “nonimmigrant intent” meaning that the visa holder must demonstrate an intention to depart from the U.S. upon the termination of the E-3 status. It is, therefore, possible that E-3 status might be rejected if the applicant has indicated an intention to immigrate to the U.S.

If you have questions about E-3 eligibility, please contact us.

F-1 Students

Have you been accepted at an academic school in the U.S. and want to know your work eligibility? You might be eligible to work while you are in school and upon graduation for a limited period of time…

F-1 visas allow an individual to come to the U.S. to attend an academic program as a full-time student. F-1 students are issued Form I-20 by their sponsoring school and apply for their F-1 visas at a U.S. consulate abroad. F-1 students are allowed to remain in the U.S. for the time period required to finish their educational program, as evidenced by Form I-20. Usually, F-1 students will be issued an I-94 card upon entry to the U.S. with the annotation “D/S”, meaning duration of status. Dependents (spouses and unmarried children under 21) of F-1 visitors may apply for F-2 status, but are not permitted to work in the U.S.

F-1 Employment

F-1 visa holders may be entitled to work authorization. Enrolled F-1 students, as well as recently graduated foreign students, may be eligible to engage in “practical training” in the field in which they studied. There are two common types of Practical Training:

  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
  • Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Distinction Between OPT and CPT

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is issued to students currently enrolled on a full-time basis at an approved educational institution to obtain work experience in their field of study. This is defined as an alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum that is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school. The student usually receives academic credit for this training. CPT is granted by the university and the student’s Form I-20 is endorsed with the dates the student is eligible to work, as well as the number of hours per week. A student with CPT must present an original Form I-20 indicating CPT approval to an intended employer before employment may lawfully commence.

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is granted to students who wish to work in their field of study but are not going to work as part of their academic program. OPT is granted for a maximum of 12 months throughout the student’s academic career. Students can work during their vacations or during the school year, or save OPT to be used after graduation. If working during the school year, the student is only permitted to work 20 hours a week. If used after graduation, OPT must be completed within 14 months of graduation. For OPT eligibility, the student must apply with USCIS for an EAD card (Form I-688B – Employment Authorization Document). The F-1 OPT employment cannot begin until actually receiving the EAD card in hand from USCIS.

Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM) Students

Students who completed their studies in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics may be eligible to receive a 17-month extension of post-completion OPT, in addition to their initial period of post-completion OPT.

If you have questions about your work authorization options as a student or recent graduate, please contact us.

H-1B Specialty Occupation Workers

Has a U.S. employer offered you a job requiring highly specialized knowledge gained from a university degree or equivalent work experience? You may qualify for an H-1B visa…

H-1B visas apply to job candidates in a “specialty occupation.” U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) considers specialty occupations to be those requiring the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge. Typically this will entail completion of a specific course of higher education. For certain individuals with specialized skills and considerable work experience, equivalency evaluations can be obtained to meet the educational requirements.

Authorization for H-1B employment is specific to the petitioning company. Additionally, the authorization extends only to the specific occupation named in the H-1B petition. The status cannot be transferred between employers without the new company first filing a petition with USCIS.

Before filing an H-1B petition, the company must file a Labor Condition Application (LCA) with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The LCA defines the employer’s obligations to ensure that the foreign worker does not adversely affect the wages or working conditions of U.S. workers. Employers with a large contingent of H-1B workers may be considered an H-1B dependent company and add additional obligations.

Upon approval of the LCA, the H-1B petition is filed with USCIS. At the time of filing, employers are responsible for paying the substantial filing fees for the H-1B classification, including a one-time Fraud Detection and Prevention fee ($500), and an H-1B Education and Training Fee ($1,500). Certain educational institutions and nonprofit or government research organizations are exempt from the Education and Training Fee, and employers with less than 26 full-time employees pay one-half of the Education and Training Fee ($750).

Candidates previously issued an H-1B visa or otherwise provided H-1B status and who have lawfully worked in the U.S., may be eligible to take advantage of a “portability” provision in the law. “Portability” makes it faster to transition between H-1B employers. The portability provision permits some H-1B holders to begin their new employment with the new company upon the filing of the new H-1B petition. Candidates and companies should make sure that portability applies in their situation, and candidates are advised to continue with their present employment until portability attaches. Candidates not already holding lawful H-1B status must generally wait for USCIS approval before beginning work.

New H-1B visas are subject to annual limits per fiscal year. Currently, the annual limit is 65,000 per year with an additional 20,000 available to H-1B applicants holding U.S. advanced degrees. After the limit is reached, a candidate must wait until at least the start of USCIS’ fiscal year (October 1) to obtain H-1B status and begin work. Due to the cap, employers often need to accelerate their H-1B process, to file as early as allowed (April 1) for the next fiscal year. Certain educational institutions and nonprofit or government research organizations are exempt from the cap. Special cap number allocations are also available to H-1B nonimmigrants who are nationals of Chile or Singapore pursuant to special Free Trade Agreements; however, the H-1B duration is limited to only one year (renewable).

H-1B Duration

H-1B petitions may be approved for up to three years, and can be extended for up to a total of 6 years maximum stay, regardless of the number of employers. Ordinarily, after 6 years of H-1B status, the candidate must usually reside outside of the U.S. for a full year before new eligibility arises. However, in certain limited circumstances, H-1B employees who have started a green-card process may be eligible to extend their status beyond six years, in one-year increments. The employee may be eligible for an extension beyond six years if either an application for labor certification or an immigrant visa petition was filed on his or her behalf at least 365 days prior to reaching the 6-year H-1B limit. NOTE: A labor certification is different from a labor condition application (“LCA”); it is often a prerequisite for an I-140 immigrant petition filed in connection with obtaining permanent residence (i.e. a “green card”).

Dependent Family Members

Dependent visas (H-4) are available for spouses and unmarried children (under 21) of H-1B workers. H-4 spouses and children may not work.

H-1B Portability

An H-1B worker who wishes to transfer to a new employer must have the prospective employer file a new H-1B petition. In some circumstances, an individual who was previously in H-1B status or issued an H-1B visa may be able to begin work upon filing of the H-1B petition under a legal provision known as H-1B portability. Portability requires that:

  • The individual was lawfully admitted to the U.S.;
  • The new petition is non-frivolous;
  • The new petition was filed before the date of expiration of the previous period of stay;
  • The H-1B beneficiary has not worked without authorization since his or her last entry.

Since the portability provisions contain certain restrictions, it is important for the individual and employer to consult with immigration counsel to ensure that portability attaches, and for the H-1B worker to continue with his or her present employment until the new H-1B petition is filed. Individuals not already holding H-1B status must wait for USCIS approval before beginning work.

If you need assistance in securing an H-1B, please contact us.

H-2B Temporary Workers

Has a U.S. employer offered you a temporary or seasonal nonagricultural job, whether skilled or unskilled? You may qualify for an H-2B visa…

H-2B visas are for individuals coming temporarily to the U.S. to perform services or labor. The employer must demonstrate that no U.S. workers capable of performing the service or labor are available in the U.S. and that employment of the H-2B worker will not adversely affect wage rates and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers.

To determine whether the job is temporary, the employer must demonstrate that the request for labor is a one-time occurrence, a seasonal need, or an intermittent need. Generally, H-2B petitions are approved for one year or less.

Before filing the H-2B petition with U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS), the employer must obtain a temporary labor certification approval from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), which can take several months. Although the DOL’s approval or denial is given great weight, USCIS is not bound by the DOL’s decision. H-2B petitions can be filed with a request for premium processing, which guarantees a response from USCIS within 15 days upon payment of an additional $1225 fee and allows immigration counsel or the petitioner to make direct contact with USCIS concerning the case. Regular processing usually takes several months, although the time frame depends on the current processing times for each USCIS Service Center.

An employer that dismisses an H-2B worker before the end of the approved period of must pay the reasonable cost of the worker’s transportation to his or her last city of residence.

If you need assistance in securing an H-2B, please contact us.

H-3 Temporary Trainees

Does a U.S. company plan to offer you on-the-job training in order to help your career in your home country? You may qualify for an H-3 visa…

H-3 visas permit an individual to enter the U.S. to receive training that is not available in the individual’s home country, and that will aid the individual in pursuing a career outside of the U.S. H-3 trainees must not be placed in positions in which U.S. citizen and resident workers are regularly employed, and can only engage in productive employment if it is incidental and necessary to the training.

H-3 training programs must include the following elements:

  • the kind of training to be given;
  • the proportion of time that will be devoted to productive employment;
  • the number of classroom instruction hours;
  • the number of hours in on-the-job training, both supervised and unsupervised;
  • the position for which the training will prepare the individual;
  • the reason why the individual cannot obtain the trainee in his or her country of origin and why the training must be given in the U.S.;
  • the reason why the training program is a benefit to the petitioning company; and
  • the source of remuneration received by the trainee.

An employer that desires to sponsor an H-3 trainee must file a petition with U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). H-3 petitions can be filed with a request for premium processing, which guarantees a response from USCIS within 15 days upon payment of an additional $1225 fee and allows immigration counsel or the petitioner to make direct contact with USCIS concerning the case. Regular processing usually takes several months, although the time frame depends on the current processing times for each USCIS Service Center.

H-3 Duration

H-3 trainees are admitted for the length of the training program, up to two years. No extension, change of status, or readmission will be granted unless the H-3 trainee has resided out of the U.S. for six months. This rule does not apply if the training is seasonal, intermittent, or lasts for less than six months.

If you need assistance in securing an H-3, please contact us.

I-1 Press or Media Representatives

Are you a journalist, reporter or film crew and wish to come to the United States for journalistic purposes? You may be eligible for an I-1 visa…

The I-1 visa is available to representatives of a foreign information media outlet (press, radio, film, or other information media). Professionals admitted under this category include reporters, film crews, editors, and similar occupations. They must be coming to the United States to engage solely in this profession, and maintain an office in their home country.

I-1 Visa Duration

Admission as an I-1 visa holder is generally authorized for the duration of status, and no application for extension of stay is required to be filed as long as the media representative continues working for the same employer in the same information medium.

Dependent Family Members

Any spouse and children under the age of 21 may accompany or follow to join an I visa holder. Dependents are not eligible to work, but can study in the United States without applying for a student visa.

If you have questions about the I-1 visa, please contact us.

J-1 Exchange Visitors

Have you been accepted to participate in an exchange program in the U.S.? You may qualify for a J-1 visa…

J-1 visas apply to individuals participating in a recognized international exchange program. The purpose of the J-1 visa is to promote cultural and educational exchange between the U.S. and other countries. The goal of the program is that foreign citizens will come to the U.S. to share their cultural experience and learn about U.S. culture, and, in turn, take their experiences back to their home country as a way of improving international relations.

There are various programs to facilitate J-1 sponsorship in different fields of endeavors. The J-1 visa may be available for Professors and Research Scholars, Short-term Scholars, Trainees, College or University Students, Teachers, Secondary School Students, Graduate Medical Education or Training, International and Government Visitors, Camp Counselors, Summer Work/Travel Students and Au Pairs. A J-1 visa is obtained by applying through an approved sponsoring organization that can be a school, company, public or private organization approved by the U.S. Department of State. The sponsor will issue a Form DS-2019 (once called IAP-66) that is used by the foreign national to obtain a J visa.

Some exchange programs permit trainees to obtain paid on-the-job training and internships with firms, institutions, and agencies. Under this category, the J-1 trainee is usually admitted to the U.S. for a period from 3 to 18 months. Often, the company or its attorneys will coordinate with J program sponsors to acquire J-1 trainee visas.

The J-1 student and researcher program allows the J-1 visa holder to accept training in the U.S. J-1 students are generally admitted for the length of their educational studies in the U.S. J-1 students often receive a period of authorized practical training (18 months for undergraduate and pre-doctoral training and 36 months for post-doctoral training) similar to F-1 students. The authorization for such employment is issued by the J program sponsor and does not require prior USCIS approval.

The J-2 dependent spouse of a J-1 visa holder may qualify for work authorization as long as it is demonstrated that the spouse’s income is not necessary to support the J-1 visa holder.

Home Residency Requirement

Certain J-1 exchange visitors may be subject to a two-year foreign home residency requirement at the end of their period of stay. The two-year foreign home residency may apply to J-1 exchange visitors who participate in programs which were financed in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, by an agency of the U.S. Government or by the exchange visitor’s government, or who are nationals or residents of a country which have been designated by U.S. Information Agency as requiring the skills of the exchange visitor. Those subject to the home residency requirement must return to their country of nationality or last residence after completing their program in the U.S., and must reside there physically for two years before they may become eligible to apply for an immigrant or temporary worker visa.

A complete list of skills by country is available here.

In certain cases, a waiver of the home residency requirement may be available.

Waiver to Home Residency Requirement

J-1 visitors who are subject to, but do not wish to comply with, the two-year foreign residency requirement, may apply for a waiver of that requirement under one of five grounds:

  1. No Objection statement from the applicant’s country of nationality or last residence;
  2. Request by an interested U.S. government agency;
  3. Persecution in the country where the J-1 visitor would have to return;
  4. Exceptional hardship to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or child; or
  5. Request by a designated State Department of Health, or its equivalent (for foreign medical graduates only).

Detailed information on the process of obtaining a waiver of the home residency requirement is available from Department of State here.

If you have questions about your J-1 eligibility or need assistance with a waiver, please contact us.

L-1 Intracompany Transferees

Does your company, which has offices both inside and outside the U.S., want to transfer you to the U.S. as an owner, executive, manager, or employee with “specialized knowledge”? You may qualify for an L-1 visa…

L-1 visas are available to intracompany transferees who, within the three preceding years, have been employed continuously outside of the U.S. for at least one year (or six months for companies with approved Blanket L petitions), and who will be employed by a qualifying U.S. entity in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity. An L-1 candidate cannot count any time spent visiting the U.S. as part of the six month or one year foreign employment requirement. To qualify, the U.S. entity must be a branch, parent, affiliate, or subsidiary that has at least 50% common ownership with the foreign employer. The L-1 classification allows dual intent: L-1 workers are not required to maintain a foreign residence and may seek permanent residence in the U.S.

There are two categories of L-1 status. L-1A classification applies to candidates who will perform managerial or executive-level work in the U.S. L-1B classification applies to candidates who will perform work in the U.S. requiring “specialized knowledge” of the company’s processes and procedures.

L-1 sponsors can file individual L-1 petitions with U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). L-1 petitions can be filed with a request for premium processing, which guarantees a response from USCIS within 15 days upon payment of an additional $1,225 fee and allows immigration counsel or the petitioner to make direct contact with USCIS concerning the case. Regular processing can be relatively short, perhaps one month, but can take several months. The time frame depends on the current processing times for each USCIS Service Center. Multinational companies that have an approved Blanket L petition may sponsor new L-1A candidates, and L-1B candidates who are specialized knowledge professionals, without having to file a petition with USCIS. Such companies may have L-1 candidates present a visa application under the Blanket L petition directly to a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad.

L-1 Duration

L-1 visa status may generally be approved for up to three years, and can be extended for up to a total of seven years for an L-1A (manager or executive) or five years for an L-1B (specialized knowledge). (L-1 applications for new offices in the U.S. are approved for only one year, initially.) After the end of the maximum L-1 period of stay, an individual must reside outside of the U.S. for a full year before becoming eligible to reapply for H or L status.

Dependent Family Members

Dependent visas (L-2) are available for spouses and unmarried children (under 21) of L-1 workers. L-2 spouses may apply for work authorization in the U.S. once they enter in L-2 status.

Blanket L Application

The Blanket L classification affords established multinational employers the greatest flexibility and speed allowed for intracompany transfers. Each qualified employee’s L-1 visa petition is processed even faster than the premium processing procedures offered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If the company has an approved Blanket L petition, most candidates will qualify to present a visa application under the Blanket L petition directly to a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad, avoiding the L-1 petition stage above.

If you need assistance in securing an L-1 visa, please contact us.

M-1 Vocational Students

Have you been accepted at a vocational school in the U.S. and want to know your work eligibility? You might be eligible to work upon graduation for a limited period of time…

M-1 visas allow an individual to come to the U.S. to attend a vocational or other nonacademic program (other than language classes) as a full-time student. M-1 students are issued Form I-20 by their sponsoring school and apply for their M-1 visas at a U.S. consulate abroad. M-1 students are allowed to remain in the U.S. for the time period required to finish their vocational program, as evidenced by Form I-20. Usually, M-1 students will be issued an I-94 card upon entry to the U.S. with the annotation “D/S”, meaning duration of status. Dependents (spouses and unmarried children under 21) of M-2 visitors may apply for F-2 status, but are not permitted to work in the U.S.

M-1 Employment

M-1 visa holders may engage in practical training in their area of study only after they have completed their studies.

If you have questions about your work authorization options as a recent graduate, please contact us.

O-1 Persons of Extraordinary Ability/Achievement

Has a U.S. employer offered you a job based on your extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, education, business or athletics? You may qualify for an O-1 visa…

O-1 visas apply to individuals with extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, education, business or athletics. To qualify, an applicant must generally have extraordinary ability demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim. Artists and entertainers in the television and motion picture industries are treated somewhat differently, and must demonstrate a record of extraordinary achievement. Applicants must present extensive documentation that demonstrates that they have received recognition of their extraordinary abilities and/or achievements from qualified, objective sources in their occupational field.

O-1 visas are based on a petition filed by a U.S. employer offering a specific job in the U.S. that requires a person of extraordinary ability. Membership in a group or team that has received recognition for extraordinary achievement is not sufficient; the beneficiary must qualify on the basis of individual merit. The petitioning employer must submit evidence that the prospective employee meets the established O-1 criteria, that the position offered requires an individual of extraordinary ability, and that the individual is coming to the U.S. to continue to work in the area of extraordinary ability. O-1 status may be granted for a maximum of three years at a time, and may be renewed indefinitely.

Scientists, Educators, Business Persons, and Athletes

Sustained national or international acclaim can be shown by receipt of a major international award such as a Nobel Prize. Eligibility is demonstrated by submitting evidence of accomplishments in three of the following categories:

  • Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes/awards for excellence in the field;
  • Membership in organizations in the field that require outstanding achievement of their members, as judged by recognized national or international experts;
  • Published material in professional or major trade publications or major media about the prospective employee;
  • Participation on a panel or as a judge or the work of others in the same or an allied field of specialization;
  • Original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance;
  • Authorship of scholarly articles in professional journals or other major media;
  • Current or previous employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation;
  • Past or proffered high salary or other remuneration for services, evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence.

The above categories of evidence may not be appropriate for all individuals; thus, the regulations also state that the employer can submit “comparable evidence” of extraordinary ability, which may take the form of letters of support from distinguished authorities in the individual’s field.

Extraordinary Ability in the Arts

“Arts” includes any field of creative activity or endeavor such as, but not limited to, fine arts, visual arts, culinary arts, and performing arts. Also included in the categories of essential technical or creative personnel are set designers, choreographers, music coaches, and related professionals.

Employers must demonstrate that the O-1 artist is recognized as being prominent in his or her field. For the motion picture or television industries, employers must show that the O-1 artist is recognized as having a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the industry. In either case, this may be done by showing that the artist has been nominated for or has received a significant national or international award or prize, such as an Academy Award, an Emmy, a Grammy, or a Director’s Guild Award. Most individuals qualify by submitting evidence in at least three of the following categories:

  • Has performed or will perform services as a lead/starring participant in productions or events with distinguished reputations as shown by critical reviews, ads, publicity releases, publications, contracts or endorsements;
  • National or international recognition for achievements through critical reviews, other published materials by or about the beneficiary in major papers, trade journals, magazines, etc.
  • Has performed in a lead, starring or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation evidenced by media articles, testimonials, etc.;
  • Has a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed success;
  • Has achieved significant recognition from organizations, critics, government agencies, and/or recognized experts;
  • Has commanded or will command a high salary or other remuneration in relation to others in the field.

Again, if the foregoing categories of evidence do not readily apply to a particular individual, “comparable evidence” of extraordinary ability may be submitted.

Consultation Requirement

Consultation with an appropriate peer group, labor and/or management organization regarding the nature of the proposed work and the beneficiary’s qualifications is required before an O petition can be approved. “Peer group” means a group or organization comprised of practitioners of the beneficiary’s occupation. This requirement may be especially important in the arts, entertainment fields or athletics. Advisory consultations are labor consultations unless no appropriate union exists. In the latter situation, employers may submit an advisory opinion from an individual expert in the field, a peer group, or management organization that describes the beneficiary’s ability and achievements, the nature of the duties to be performed, and whether the services require someone of extraordinary ability.

Dependent Family Members

Dependent visas (O-3) are available for spouses and unmarried children (under 21) of O-1 workers. The O-3 classification does not allow for U.S. employment.

O-2 Accompanying Employees

This category is restricted to foreign nationals seeking to accompany O-1 employees in the arts, motion picture and television productions, and athletics. O-2 foreign nationals cannot work separate and apart from the O-1 prospective employee in question and must be named in the O-1 petition.

Individuals seeking admission to accompany an O-1 employee must meet the following criteria: (1) they must enter for the purpose of assisting in the O-1’s performance; (2) they must be an integral part of the actual performance; (3) they must have critical skills and experience with the O-1 employee which are not of a general nature and which are not possessed by a U.S. worker; and (4) they must have a foreign residence they do not intend to abandon. More specific requirements apply to O-2 foreign nationals involved in motion picture and television productions.

If you have questions about the O-1 or O-2 visa, please contact us.

P-1 Athlete(s)/Entertainers

Have you been offered a job in the United States based on your international recognition as an artist, athlete or entertainer? You may qualify for an P-1 visa…

P-1 visas are available for individuals who are members of entertainment groups, for individual athletes, and for members of athletic teams that have been internationally recognized as outstanding for a long and continuous period of time. P-1 visa holders can legally work in the U.S. for their sponsor only. If they change jobs, they must obtain a new visa. They may also travel in and out of the U.S. as long as their visa stamp and status are valid.

P-1 visas are typically issued quickly. Applicants must present extensive documentation demonstrating their internationally recognized reputation and level of performance. They must also provide evidence with regard to the specific event, competition or performance they will be participating in.

Individual Athletes and Teams

Individual athletes or teams must have an internationally recognized reputation in their sport. Eligibility is demonstrated by submitting evidence of accomplishments in at least two of the following categories:

  • Evidence of previous significant participation with a major U.S. sports league;
  • Evidence of participation in an international competition with a national team;
  • Evidence of previous significant participation with a U.S. college in intercollegiate competition;
  • Written statement from an official of a major U.S. sports league or the governing body of the sport, detailing how you or the team is internationally recognized;
  • Other evidence that the athlete or the team is internationally ranked;
  • Evidence that the athlete or the team has received a significant honor or award in the sport.

Entertainment Groups

P-1 visas are not available to individual entertainers, but only to groups with international reputations. Evidence of this participation must include:

  • Evidence that the group has been performing regularly for at least one year;
  • A statement listing each member of the group and the exact dates each has been regularly employed by the group;
  • Evidence of the group’s nomination for, or receipt of, significant international awards or prizes, OR at least three of the following:
    • The group has performed or will perform as a lead/starring entertainment group in productions/events with distinguished reputations as shown by critical reviews, advertisements, publicity releases, publications, contracts, or endorsements;
    • National/international recognition for achievements through critical reviews, other published materials by or about the beneficiary in major papers, trade journals, magazines, etc.;
    • Performance as a leading or starring group for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation evidenced by media articles, testimonials, etc.;
    • Record of major commercial or critically acclaimed success;
    • Achievement of significant recognition from organizations, critics, government agencies, and/or recognized experts;
    • The group commanded, or will command, a high salary/other remuneration in relation to others in the field.

Applicants in entertainment companies must have been an integral part of the group for at least one year. Yet, if the necessity arises, up to 25% of members may be excused from the one-year clause. The one-year clause may also be waived in exceptional situations, where due to illness or other unanticipated circumstances, a critical performer is unable to travel. The one-year clause does not apply to circus personnel, including performers.

Validity of a P-1 Visa

The validity of the P-1 visa varies, as visa holders are admitted for the time necessary to complete their event, competition, or performance. Individual athletes and their essential support personnel may remain in the U.S. for up to ten years. Athletic groups may receive a visa for up to one year. Entertainment groups may be granted up to one year, with a maximum one-year extension.

Dependent Family Members

Dependent visas (P-4) are available for spouses and unmarried children (under 21) of P-1 workers. The P-4 classification does not allow for U.S. employment, but it allows for school or university attendance.

If you have questions about the P-1 visa, please contact us.

Q-1 Cultural Exchange Participant

Have you been accepted to participate in an exchange program in the U.S.? You may qualify for a Q-1 visa…

Like the J-1 visa, the Q-1 visa is designed for persons who want to participate in Exchange Visitor programs in the United States. However, while the J-1 visa is for exchange programs designated by the Department of State, the Q-1 visa is for international cultural exchange programs designated by USCIS. The Q-1 exchange program is for the purpose of providing practical training and employment, and to share the history, culture, and traditions of the visa holder’s home country with the United States.

Employers who administer cultural exchange programs may petition for Q-1 visas. It is an employment oriented program, but an integral part of the visa holder’s duties must have a cultural element. The purpose of the Q-1 visa is to facilitate the sharing of cultures.

The Q-1 visa does not allow for dependents to accompany the visa holder. Therefore, any spouse or children must qualify for an independent visa.

Eligibility Criteria

Applicants must be at least 18 years old and be able to communicate effectively about the cultural attributes of their country. The sponsoring employer must offer the applicant wages and working conditions comparable to those accorded local workers similarly employed. The employer must demonstrate its financial ability to compensate the worker.

Duration

Applicants may be granted up to 15 months in Q status. After they complete the exchange program, they are required to spend one year outside the United States before they can apply for participation in the Q program again.

If you have questions about the Q-1 visa, please contact us.

R-1 Religious Worker

Are you a minister, or a religious worker in a religious vocation or occupation? You may qualify for an R-1 visa…

Requirements:

The petitioning church in the U.S. must be a non-profit religious denomination recognized under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

  • Ministers must be ordained or otherwise duly authorized by the religious denomination to perform ministerial duties and be a member of an affiliated religious denomination abroad
  • Religious professionals must show that a BS/BA degree is required for entry into the field and that the alien possesses such a degree. The regulations do not permit an equivalency to a degree based on a combination of experience and education.
  • Other religious workers, such as liturgical workers, religious instructors, counselors, cantors, catechists, workers in religious hospitals or heath care facilities, missionaries, religious translators or broadcasters. Specifically excluded are janitors, clerks, fund raisers or persons involved solely in solicitation of donations.
  • For all classifications, the alien beneficiary must be or have been a member of an affiliated religious organization abroad for at least two years
  • Affiliated organization includes closely related, inter-denominational churches

Duration

  • Maximum stay is five years

Dependent Family Members

Dependents (spouses and unmarried children under 21 years) of R-1 workers are entitled to dependent R-2 status. Dependents may engage in full-time study but are not authorized to work in the U.S.

If you have questions about the R visa, please contact us.

TN Visas

Are you a Canadian or Mexican national with a job offer in the U.S. for a professional position? You may qualify for a TN visa…

TN classification is available to Canadian and Mexican citizens pursuant to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Under NAFTA, Canadian and Mexican citizens may temporarily enter the U.S. to engage in business activities at a professional level. To qualify for TN status, a candidate must intend to enter the U.S. to work in a profession designated on Schedule A of NAFTA. For information on TN status and qualifying professions, click here.

Educational and experience requirements for TN professions vary, but many qualifying TN professions require completion of a Bachelor’s or Licenciatura Degree. Generally, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) will expect a TN candidate to possess a degree related to the professional field. In addition, if a degree is required and the candidate’s degree was gained at an educational institution outside of North America, the degree must be evaluated by a credentials evaluation service as the equivalent to a U.S. degree.

Unlike H-1B or L-1 classifications, TN workers are required to maintain a foreign residence and may not have the intention of seeking permanent residence in the U.S. It is therefore very important for TN workers to maintain ties to Canada or Mexico during their employment in the U.S., such as real property, leases, bank accounts, credit cards, etc., and be able to provide documentation of these ties if required.

TN classification requires an employer sponsor and permits employment only with the petitioning company. It is possible for an individual to hold TN status with more than one employer, but separate approval for each TN employment is needed.

TN application procedures for Canadian and Mexican citizens differ. Canadians may apply for TN-1 status at any Class A port of entry (includes air, sea, and land ports). Typically, Canadian citizens flying to the U.S. from Canada will apply for TN-1 status at a Pre-Flight Inspection Station at a Canadian international airport, before leaving Canada.

Currently, Mexican applicants for TN-2 status must pursue a more standard visa issuance process. U.S. employers of Mexican citizens must petition USCIS for TN-2 classification approval. The TN-2 process requires the employer to comply with Labor Condition Application procedures, much like the process for H-1B status. Also, Mexican applicants must obtain a TN-2 visa from a U.S. embassy or consulate prior to entering the U.S.

Initial TN-2 petitions for Mexican citizens, and TN extension petitions for both Mexicans and Canadians, can be filed with a request for premium processing, which guarantees a response from USCIS within 15 days upon payment of an additional $1225 fee and allows immigration counsel or the petitioner to make direct contact with USCIS concerning the case. Regular processing usually takes several months, although the time frame depends on the current processing times for each USCIS Service Center.

TN Duration

TN status may be approved in up to three-year increments, but can arguably be renewed indefinitely (also in up to three-year increments) after initial entry. One advantage of the TN category is that, unlike the H-1B visa category, the TN has no annual limits per fiscal year. Furthermore, unlike the H-1B or L-1 nonimmigrant visa categories, there is no set overall limit on the number of years a Canadian or Mexican citizen may remain in the U.S. in TN status.

Dependent Family Members

Dependents (spouses and unmarried children under 21 years) of TN workers are entitled to TD status. Dependents in TD status are not authorized to work in the U.S.

If you have questions about the TN visa, please contact us.