Immigration to the United States
It is inevitable that those traveling to the United States, who are not citizens or nationals of the United States, will be exposed to U.S. immigration law in some form or fashion. U.S. immigration law has set rules and regulations that apply to these travelers and all travelers will need to meet certain requirements in order to be allowed into the United States. These requirements vary depending on the purpose of the visit and the intent of the traveler. The failure to both meet and maintain these requirements could lead to serious immigration, criminal and/or civil consequences.
In general terms, the U.S. immigration system can be grouped into two main categories: Family-Based Immigration and Employment-Based Immigration. Family-Based Immigration refers to those individuals seeking permanent residence (green card) through a family member. Only certain family members are eligible for this type of immigration and the eligibility changes depending on whether the sponsor is a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident. Employment-Based Immigration refers to those individuals seeking permanent residence through a job or temporary permission to work in the United States. There are several ways to initially qualify for Employment-Based Immigration, each with its own sub-requirements: 1) have a U.S.-based company that wants to hire the individual, 2) have your own business and be self-employed, or 3) invest into a U.S. business.
Why Hire an Experienced Immigration Attorney? “In our global economy, the ability to move across international borders has never been more important to professionals and their employers— and the role of immigration lawyers has never been more important to global mobility”.
An immigration attorney’s work does not complete once visas and government authorizations are obtained. As soon as a foreign national enters the U.S., they (along with employers and family members) are confronted with important compliance responsibilities that must be met. Such obligations may, for instance, include registration with tax authorities, social insurance authorities, local police enforcement, to report obligations before government agencies. Any failure to fully comply with the compliance responsibilities can result in not only fines, but penalties, and restrictions being placed on an individual’s future travel or on an employer’s ability to sponsor additional foreign nationals in the future. It is for this reason that seeking the advice of an experienced immigration attorney is crucial throughout an individual’s overseas stay in the U.S.
While it may be tempting to attempt to navigate the U.S. immigration law system on one’s own independently, the guidance of an immigration attorney is particularly critical in the Business-based immigration context, where careful precision and knowledge of the intricate details of immigration law are highly critical. The United States, similarly to most other countries, places stringent restrictions on the ability of non-citizens of the U.S. to work in the country, in an effort to safeguard its U.S. citizen workforce. A company in the U.S. seeking to hire a foreign national, for instance, must receive authorization from not only immigration authorities but from the Department of Labor authorities as well—an extremely complex process which requires the sure hand of an immigration attorney experienced in practicing before all the relevant government agencies.
Immigration Services at AIA
Non-Immigrant and Immigrant Visa Services
AIA is a boutique, full-service immigration law firm whose knowledgeable immigration attorneys offer expertise in preparing and filing immigrant and non-immigrant visa applications and petitions across virtually all visa categories. AIA proudly distinguishes itself from other immigration law firms by its ability to handle client’s immigration matters quickly and efficiently, while conceiving innovative immigration solutions for its clients when standard immigration strategies are insufficient.
Perhaps you are a multinational organization seeking assistance to mobilize its global workforce. Perhaps you are a U.S. corporation seeking to employ a foreign national. Perhaps you are a foreign national seeking to make an investment in the U.S., or perhaps you are a foreign national seeking to visit the U.S. or study here. Whatever the reason may be, AIA offers the necessary knowledge, experience, and commitment to thinking outside of the box to effectively navigate the U.S. immigration laws in order to best meet your needs.
Non Immigrant Visas
If you are a foreign national seeking to come to the U.S. temporarily as a visitor in order to conduct business (e.g., to secure funding or office space, to negotiate a contract, or to attend business meetings necessary to open a new business in the U.S.), you may qualify for a B-1 visa.
Authorized period of stay in the U.S.: Initially up to six (6) months, however extensions are possible to extend this period.
If you are a foreign national seeking to study in the United States, you may be eligible for an F-1 visa. If (1) you are an F-1 student in the U.S. who is not a student in an English language training program, and (2) you are seeking to begin a business which is directly connected to your major area of study, you may be eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT).
Authorized period of stay in the U.S.: An F-1 student may be authorized for a maximum twelve (12 months) of OPT, and becomes eligible for another 12 months of OPT when he or she seeks another post-secondary degree at a higher degree level. An F-1 student holding a qualifying Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM) degree may apply for a 17-month extension of his or her post-completion OPT.
If (1) you are seeking to work for a business you start in the U.S., (2) it is typically requisite in the occupation to have a bachelor’s degree or higher within a related field of study, and (3) you hold at minimum a bachelor’s degree (or the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree) in a field related to the position, then you may qualify for an H-1B visa.
Authorized period of stay in the U.S.: Up to three (3) years initially, however extensions (in increments of 3 years) may be possible. Six (6) years is the typical maximum period of authorized stay, however extensions beyond six (6) years may sometimes be possible.
If you can demonstrate (1) that you have sustained national or international acclaim and recognition in your field of expertise, (2) that you have extraordinary ability in either the arts, the sciences, business, education, or athletics, and (3) you are coming to the U.S. temporarily to continue work in your field of extraordinary ability, you may qualify for an O-1A visa.
♣ Extraordinary ability in science, education, business or athletics fields is defined as “a level of expertise indicating that the person is one of the small percentage who has risen to the very top of their field of endeavor”. Extraordinary ability in the arts field is defined as “a high level of achievement in the field of the arts evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered to the extent that a person described as prominent is renowned, leading, or well-known in the field of arts.”
Authorized period of stay in the U.S.: Up to three (3) years, however extensions or renewals (in 1 year increments), as needed to complete or as needed to further the event or activity, may be possible.
If you (1) are a national of a treaty country (defined as a country the U.S. maintains a treaty of navigation and commerce with, with a list of such treaty countries listed on the U.S. Department of State website), or are a national of a country designated by Congress as eligible for participation in the E-2 nonimmigrant visa program, and (2) you invest a substantial amount of capital in a new or already pre-existing U.S. business, you may qualify for an E-2 visa.
Authorized period of stay in the U.S.: Up to two (2) years, however extensions or renewals (in 2 year increments) are possible.
If you (1) are an executive, manager, or a worker with specialized knowledge, (2) who has been employed abroad, (3) for a qualifying organization (a foreign organization with either an affiliate, parent, subsidiary or branch relationship with the U.S. organization), (4) for at least one continuous year, within the last three (3) years before filing an L-1 petition (or in some instances, your admission to the U.S.), and (5) the U.S. organization seeks to have you transferred temporarily to the U.S. to work as an executive, manager, or a worker with specialized knowledge, then you may qualify for an L-1 visa as an “intracompany transferee”.
Authorized period of stay in the U.S.: Up to three (3) years, or one (1) year if the U.S. organization is a new office, however extensions (in a maximum of 2 year increments) are possible. The maximum authorized period of stay is 7 years for managers and executives, and 5 years for specialized knowledge workers.
If you can demonstrate (1) sustained national or international acclaim and recognition in your field of expertise, (2) that you are an individual with extraordinary ability in the arts, the sciences, business, education, or athletics, or are an outstanding professor or researcher, or are a multinational manager or executive, and (3) you are coming to the U.S. to continue work in your field of extraordinary ability, you may qualify for an EB-1 visa. If you seek to pursue an EB-1 visa as an individual with extraordinary ability, you may self-petition as an offer of employment is not required for this EB-1 sub-category classification.
EB-2 visas are bifurcated into two sub-categories: (1) individuals with exceptional ability in the sciences, arts or business, and (2) professionals holding advanced degrees. Labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor is required for EB-2s, along with a job offer from an employer, unless you seek a waiver of the labor certification requirement due to national interest (a national interest waiver).
If: (1) you hold, at minimum, a U.S. bachelor’s degree (or the foreign equivalent of a U.S. bachelor’s degree) and a minimum of five (5) years of progressive work experience in the field after having obtained your bachelor’s degree; or (2) you are a professional holding a U.S. master’s degree or higher, known as “an advanced degree” (or the foreign equivalent of a U.S. master’s degree or higher), you may qualify for an EB-2 advanced degree professional visa.
If you have exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business (with “exceptional ability” defined as having a degree of expertise significantly above that ordinarily encountered in the sciences, arts, or business), you have qualify for an EB-2 exceptional ability visa.