We live in the age of globalization. Very often people can offer the benefits of their business ventures or professional services to a much wider range of customers/clients than their domestic markets. U.S. market is one of the most lucrative in the world, both because of the growth opportunities it offers to the companies and because of the buying power of its consumers. For these reasons many foreign companies, entrepreneurs and professionals are looking to the United States as a dream place to establish their business presence.
U.S. Immigration laws are very favorable to the people who are eager and ready to use their resources, knowledge, skills and abilities for the development of the country’s economy. The companies who seek to bring foreign employees to the United States most commonly use the following visa categories – B-1 (or a visa waiver program for some qualified individuals), H1-B, E, O, P, TN and L. After initially obtaining a temporary non-immigrant visa in one of those categories, if a foreign national has the right combination of skills, education, work experience and is otherwise eligible, later he/she may be able to obtain a permanent resident status (otherwise known as Green Card) in the United States.
Let’s review what these visas are.
B-1 visa – business visitor’s visa. This visa enables a business traveler to visit and stay in the United States for a short period of time (usually up to six months) with possibility to extend his/her stay for the same consecutive periods of time.
Visa Waiver Program – substitution for B-1 visa for the citizens of most European countries, Japan and certain other countries that may be qualified to enter the United States for a period of 90 days without applying and receiving a B-1 visa.
H1-B visa – available to individuals coming to the United States to be employed by a U.S. based company in specialty occupation or profession. H-1B visas are issued for an initial period of three-years and may be extended for additional three years, for a maximum consecutive period of six years. The holders of H-1B visas may be eligible to apply for a permanent residence in the United States provided their employers attest that they need the services of those aliens for a longer period than just a few years.
E visas – United States has treaties with many foreign countries, providing that in order to promote the trade activities between two countries if a U.S. company conducts “substantial” trade with a particular foreign country it can employ and bring to the United States the executives, managers and other individuals who hold essential skills from that foreign country under E-1 visa category. E visas are generally issued in increments of up to five years. They can be reissued indefinitely as long as the investment or trade and nationality requirements for eligibility continue to be met.
There is an EB-5 immigrant category for foreign investors that allows them to be self-sponsored. This category is reserved for individuals, who wish to reside permanently in the United States with the intent of creating or developing a business enterprise in the U.S. The required amount of investment per each individual investor is $1 million or $500,000 (if the investment is made in a targeted employment area) in a new commercial enterprise that employs at least 10 full-time U.S. workers or in an existing commercial enterprise, which needs this investment for further development and creation of 10 additional employment positions for U.S. workers.
O-1 visas – are available to aliens with exceptional ability in science, arts, education, athletics or business. An O-1 petition may be approved for an initial period of three years, and extensions may be granted in one-year increments. Aliens with exceptional ability usually need employment sponsorship for immigration purposes. Aliens with extraordinary ability, however, do not need an employment sponsorship and can be self-sponsored.
P visas – are available for internationally recognized athletes or entertainers. They allow artists and athletes to come to the United States temporarily to perform in their professional capacity, individually or as a part of the group, under a reciprocal exchange program between an organization in the United States and an organization in another country.
TN or NAFTA visa – permits citizens of Canada and Mexico to work in the United States in certain specialty occupations that are listed in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Sec. 214 (e)(2) (some examples are lawyers, accountants, engineers and many others). TN visas are granted for three years for the initial period of stay and may be extended in three-year increments indefinitely.
L-1 visas - intracompany transferee visa. The L-1 classification enables a foreign company to transfer its employees from one of its foreign offices to its office in the U.S. if such office already exists, or to send an employee to the U.S. to establish a new office for the company. L visas are issued for an initial period either for one or three years and can be extended thereafter for up to seven years.
Employment and business immigration laws provide great opportunity for the foreign entrepreneurs and professionals to come to the United States for a long period of time or to immigrate here permanently.
Ekaterina Mouratova is a founder of The Law Firm of Ekaterina Mouratova, PLLC. She focuses her practice on business and corporate law, intellectual property and immigration law. Ekaterina successfully represents domestic and international clients in all aspects of their business and legal climates.
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Category: Startup Advice