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Here are some of the questions our clients ask most often. Don’t see yours here? Contact us and we’ll look into it right away.
What are the options for professionals to come work in the United States?
There are numerous ways to work lawfully in one’s profession in the United States and the one that is appropriate for you or your company’s employees will depend on you or your company’s specific circumstances.
Options for those who wish to enter the country on a temporary visa, not seeking to become a citizen or permanent resident include:
- Those in student status can obtain work authorization while studying or upon obtaining their degree for Curricular or Optional Practice Training.
- The H-1B visa is a popular visa category for individuals who have obtained at least a bachelor’s degree who are being offered employment in their field.
- The L-1A and L-1B category is appropriate for individuals who have worked in a foreign-based company for at least one out of the last three years in an Executive, Managerial or Specialized Knowledge position, if their prospective U.S. employer is a branch, parent, subsidiary, affiliate of or in a joint venture with the foreign employer.
- An individual may also open his/her own business and apply for an E-1 or E-2 visa, or may work for an E-1 or E-2 treaty trader or treaty investor with citizenship from the same country.
Immigrant (green card) options include:
- EB-1: for persons with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics, outstanding professors or researchers, multinational managers or executives.
- EB-2: For members of a profession requiring an advanced degree, persons with exceptional ability in the sciences, arts or business, or persons seeking a national interest waiver.
- EB-3: For skilled workers (i.e. for jobs requiring at least 2 years training or experience), professionals with bachelor’s degrees related to the field in which they are seeking employment in the U.S., or unskilled workers (i.e. for jobs requiring less than 2 years of training or experience).
- EB-5: For persons who invested or are actively in the process of investing at least $1,000,000 USD (or $500,000 USD in targeted employment areas) in a new commercial enterprise, which will create at least 10 full-time positions for U.S. workers.
How can I start a business in the U.S.?
Despite common belief, there is no requirement to be a U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident to register a business in the United States. The immigration implications related to starting a business in the U.S. relate to whether the owner can lawfully operate his/her business. As for nonimmigrant (temporary visa) options, if you are from a country with which the U.S. has treaties for trade and commerce, you may apply for E-1 treaty trader or E-2 treaty investor visas to operate your businesses.
An owner of a foreign entity may also transfer to the United States temporarily on an L-1A visa to establish a new office related to the foreign entity. An investor with either $1,000,000 USD (or $500,000 for targeted employment areas) may be eligible for an EB-5 investor immigrant (green card) visa. In certain industries, self-petitioning for a green card as an alien of extraordinary ability or with a national interest waiver may be a way to obtain status as a lawful permanent resident, and as a green card holder, a person is eligible to work for any employer (including himself). An investor may also qualify for a green card as a multinational manager or executive.
How can I get a green card through my spouse or sponsor my spouse for a green card?
A U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident may sponsor his or her spouse for a green card.
If a U.S. Citizen is sponsoring his or her spouse, the foreign national spouse will fall into the Immediate Relative category, for which there is no backlog. The only waiting period is the processing time through USCIS or the National Visa Center and U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
For Immediate Relatives who are in the United States, time spent in the United States after the expiration of an authorized period of stay and time working without authorization is forgiven.
If a Permanent Resident is filing for his/her spouse, the foreign national spouse will be in the F2A category, for which there is presently a two-year backlog, meaning that the foreign national will have to wait for about two years before a green card or immigrant visa will be available. If in the United States, spouses of Permanent Residents must remain in status, as lapses are not automatically forgiven. A Form I-601A Provisional Waiver may be available if the spouse of a Permanent Resident falls out of status while awaiting a green card. But that will require first obtaining approval of the waiver, then traveling to a Consulate or Embassy abroad to be interviewed regarding an immigrant visa. Unauthorized work is also problematic for spouses of Permanent Residents.
In certain circumstances, an applicant for an immigrant visa or green card may require a waiver (request for forgiveness). Eligibility for a Waiver is based on establishing that a qualifying relative U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident Spouse, Parent (or in the instance of inadmissibility for a crime, also a U.S. Citizen son or daughter) would suffer extreme hardship if the applicant were unable to obtain a green card. Common reasons for the need for a waiver are: having obtained or tried to obtain an immigration benefit by fraud or a willful misrepresentation of a material fact; having committed a crime of moral turpitude; having accrued unlawful presence for remaining in the United States beyond one’s authorized stay then departing the United States; or for a prior removal or deportation. Additionally, persons who entered the United States without inspection (crossed the border) or who were crewmembers on a boat or aircraft may be ineligible to apply for a green card in the United States and may need to first be approved for a Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver, and consular process their visas abroad at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
Can I get a green card if I was abused by my spouse?
Yes, if a person married in good faith (i.e. for love and/or to start a family), is the spouse of a U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident (green-card holder) spouse, was legally free to marry and believed the abusive spouse was free to marry (meaning any other prior marriages were terminated through divorce, annulment or death of a former spouse), resided with their spouse in the U.S. and the person’s spouse subjected him or her to abuse or extreme cruelty, he or she may be eligible to apply for a green card on his or her own through the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). VAWA applies equally to men and women, and in both heterosexual and same-sex marriages.
People who have been abused by non-residents within the U.S. may also qualify for immigration benefits.
- Persons who are the abused spouses of A (government officials), E-3 (Australian degreed professionals), G (diplomats) and H-1B (degreed professionals) may be eligible for work authorization in the United States.
- People who have been abused by non-residents in other visa categories or who are undocumented, may qualify for a U Visa. It is necessary for the U visa to demonstrate the victim was cooperative with law enforcement (e.g. filed a police report, responded to inquiries about the crime), as a law enforcement official must sign off on a certification regarding the cooperation in order for the victim to be eligible for immigration benefits. The U visa is subject to numerical quotas and there are only 20,000 new U visas available per year, so it often takes up to four years for adjudication. However, if the U visa is ultimately approved, after three years in U visa status, the victim may become eligible to apply for a green card.
What can I do if I am afraid to return to my home country?
Persons who are afraid to return to their home country may be eligible for asylum if they fear they would be persecuted or tortured due to their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group (such as LGBTQ individuals), or a political opinion.