Immigrant Visa

Visas for Business Visitors (B-1)

B-1 business visitor visas are for a short duration of business purpose. The B-1 Business Visitor requirements are:

1. The petitioner has no intention of abandoning their residence abroad
2. The petitioner is visiting the US temporarily for business.

Entry is granted for upto six months, but most B-1 admissions are approved for just the period necessary to conduct business and are normally no longer than 3 months.

The required documents for an application for a B-1 business visitor visa are:

1. A detailed company letter explaining the reasons for the trip,
2. The itinerary for the trip and the fact that the company is paying all of the expenses to be incurred during the trip.
3. Extensive supporting documentation showing the activities, which will take place during the trip, travel documentation and information on the B-1 visitor's employer.

The B-2 Tourist Visa

The appropriate visa category for a tourist is the B-2 visa (the B-2 actually covers tourists, visits to relatives or friends, visits for health reasons, participation in conferences, prospective F-1 students, participation in incidental or short courses of study and participation in amateur arts and entertainment events).

Unlike most other nonimmigrant visas, application is made at a US consulate and no INS approval is necessary. Also, the applicant's spouse and children must independently qualify for the B-2.

In order to qualify for a tourist visa, an individual must meet the following requirements necessary to show nonimmigrant intent:

1. The alien is coming to the US for a specific period of time.
2. The alien will not be engaging in work and will be engaged solely in legitimate activities relating to pleasure.
3. The alien will maintain a residence which he or she has no intention of abandoning during the period of the alien's stay in the US.

For a tourist to show nonimmigrant intent and demonstrate compliance with the above tests, the key issues are financial arrangements for the trip, specificity of trip plans, ties to the alien's home country and ties to the US.

E-1 Treaty Trader Visas

E-1 Treaty Trader Visa is for persons entering the U.S. to carry on substantial trade, including trade in services or trade in technology, principally between the US and the foreign country of which he or she is a national.

The U.S. and the trader's home country must have a ratified bilateral trade treaty. At least 50% of the ownership of the trading firm must be in the nationals of the visa applicant's home country. Owners, managers, executives, or "essential" positions are eligible for E-1 Treaty Trader Visas if they are nationals of the treaty country.

Some of the most important requirements for an E-1 visa include the following:

1. The trading company must be "trading" , which is intended to develop international commercial trade between the US and the treaty country.
2. Trade between the foreign company and the US must already exist. The visa applicant should be prepared to document existing and past contractual trade relationships.
3. The trading company must be engaged in "substantial" trade with the US. The visa applicant must show numerous transactions over time and a significant monetary value of business.
4. There is no statutory minimum amount of trade, but the visa applicant should at least be able to show the volume of trade is enough to support the business as well as the visa applicant and his or her family.
5. Over 50 percent of the total volume of trade must be between the US and the treaty country.

Visas may not be issued for more than five years, but they may be renewed continuously without a limit on stay in E-1 status. Spouses and children of E-1s are entitled to visas as well.

E-2 Treaty Investor Visas

E-2 Treaty Investor Visa is for persons entering the US "solely to develop and direct the operations of an enterprise in which he has invested, or is actively in the process of investing, a substantial amount of capital." Employees of the enterprise who are working in management, executive or "essential" positions are also eligible for the visa if the ownership breakdown meets the above test.

Some of the most important requirements for an E-2 visa include the following:

1. The investment is active, not passive.
2. The investment must be substantial.
3. The investment cannot be marginal. The State Department will look at whether the investment will generate more funds than just enough for the owner to make a living and whether the investment will create jobs.
4. The E-2 visa applicant must have an intent to depart the US upon expiration of the visa. Unlike other nonimmigrant visa categories.
5. The investor must manage the business and exercise a controlling interest in the business.

Visas may not be issued for more than five years, but they may be renewed continuously without a limit on stay in E-2 status. Spouses and children of E-2s are entitled to visas as well. There are no restrictions on family members pursuing studies while in E-2 status.

Visas for Students (F-1)

This visa is designed for students from elementary school to postdoctoral studies. To qualify in student status, an applicant must meet a number of criteria: the applicant can show he or she is a bona fide student coming to the US to pursue a full course of studies.

1. A full course of studies means the following:
- Postgraduate studies
- Undergraduate studies - normally 12 semester hours per term
- Post-secondary non-vocational - 12 semester hours
- Primary or academic high school
3. the institution where the student will enroll has been approved by the US government
4. the applicant must be proficient in English or first enroll in an English language program in the US
5. the applicant must intend to leave the US upon completing his or her studies.
6. the applicant must demonstrate adequate financial support.

First, the student must receive an I-20A-B Form from his or her school. The student then proceed with processing at a US consulate (if the student is outside the US) or apply for a change of status with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (if the student is already in the US legally in another non-immigrant status).

A student's spouse and children may be able to accompany the student on an F-2 visa.
Students are permitted to work under very limited circumstances. Part-time employment on campus is relatively easy to obtain, but is limited to just 20 hours per week. Curricular Practical Training is available if an internship or work requirement is a required part of a student's curriculum. Optional pre- and post-graduation practical training are also available to the student for a total period of twelve months. Practical training is not available to students in language training programs and the student will not be given a new twelve month practical training period if the student goes on to pursue a higher degree. 

Visas for Professionals (H-1B)

The H-1B visa allows workers in specialty occupations – areas that normally require a college degree – to work in the US for up to a total of six years. The Employer needs to prove:

1. The position offered is in a specialty occupation
2. The employee has the appropriate credentials for the job,
3. The H-1B worker is being paid the prevailing wage for the work being performed
4. Employment of a foreign worker is not harming conditions for US workers.

1. The employer’s need
The documents evidencing stability of the business, such as tax returns and payroll records are required.

2. The nature of the position
Demonstrating that a position is in a specialty occupation is quite easy with some jobs, such as lawyers, accountants, engineers and professors. In cases where the specialty nature of the position is not evident, many types of evidence may be used. Trade and association publications may be presented. Petitioners may also procure affidavits from authorities in the field. Such an affidavit would be especially useful if written by someone who has personally observed the workplace and the position’s role in it. One of the best types of evidence is the employer’s own hiring practice in hiring for the position.

3. The alien’s qualifications
To qualify as a specialty occupation, the position must require at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent. The applicant can also demonstrate through work experience or a combination of education and experience that they have the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree. Under INS rules, three years of work experience is equal to one year in college.

CHANGING EMPLOYMENT AND ADDING EMPLOYERS

H-1B employees must apply for a change of status from one employer to another. The application process is fairly similar to applying for a brand new H-1B except that the process can be completed in the US without a trip abroad to a US consulate. The INS and State Department make it clear that as long as the visa remains unexpired, the applicant remains in H-1B classification even if H1B worker changes the employer.

J-1 Exchange Visitor Visas:

Visas for Physicians, Business Trainees, Professors and Other Educational and Cultural Exchange Visitors.

The J-1 non-immigrant visa category was created to promote educational and cultural exchange activities between the United States and other countries. The J-1 exchange visitor is:

1. An alien having a residence abroad, which he has no intention of abandoning,
2. Who is a bona fide student, scholar, trainee, teacher, professor, research assistant, specialist, or leader in a field of specialized knowledge;
3. who is coming temporarily to the United States as a participant in a program designated by the USIA, for the purpose of teaching, instructing, lecturing, studying, observing, conducting research, consulting, demonstrating special skills, or receiving training.

The following types of individuals are eligible to apply for J visas:

- Students
- Short-Term Scholars, Research Scholars, and Professors
- Trainees in USIA approved training program
- Teachers
- Professors and Research Scholars
- Experts and Specialists
- Physicians
- Visitors participating in a USIA sponsored program for people-to-people exchanges
- Government Visitors
- Camp Counselors (upto 4 months of stay in U.S.)
- Special Education Exchange Visitors


THE TWO-YEAR HOME COUNTRY PHYSICAL PRESENCE REQUIREMENT

A person admitted in J-1 status may be subject to a two-year foreign (home country) residence requirement before being eligible to apply for a change within the US to a non-immigrant visa, any change to permanent residence, or any change to an H or L non-immigrant visa.

Visas for Intracompany Transfers (L-1 Visas)

L-1 Intracompany Transfer Visas are for employees coming to work in the US for an employer that is related to a company the applicant worked for prior to entering the US. There is a matching permanent residency category that makes getting a green card relatively quick and pain-free.

L-1 application has the following requirements:

the applicant must have continuously been employed abroad for one year of the last three for a parent, affiliate, or subsidiary of a US employer.
the foreign firm and the US firm must have common majority ownership, or, where there is less than majority ownership, common control by the same person or entity.
the applicant must be coming as a manager, executive or specialized knowledge employee.

L-1A: Executives and managers may stay in L-1 status for up to seven years.
L-1B: Specialized knowledge employees may stay in the US for up to five years.


Persons coming to open up a new office in the US will only be granted a one-year stay in the US.

The EB-1 Multinational Manager/Executive category for employment-based green cards closely resembles the L-1A visa category. The green card requires a showing of all of the same evidence. The main additional requirement is that the US operation be in existence for at least a year. The category is very popular because applicants can avoid the onerous labor certification process.

Visas for Foreign Nationals of Extraordinary Ability (O-1 Visas)

The O-1 visa is designed for highly talented or recognized individuals. The category is open to artists, athletes, scientists, educators, entertainers and business people. O-2 visas are available for certain aliens accompanying O-1 aliens in the arts or athletics. The O-3 visa is for dependents of O-1 and O-2 visa holders.

O-1 applicants in the arts, athletics, education or the sciences must show extraordinary ability, demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim.

O-1 applicants cannot petition for themselves. O-1 is not permitted to be in the US longer than the period of the "event" described in the application. The INS will also only grant up to three years stay initially with an unlimited number of one-year extensions. Beneficiaries can enter the US up to ten days in advance of the approved activity and stay for ten days afterwards. 

Visas for Artists, Athletes and Entertainers (P-1)

The P-1 visa category is available to entertainment groups and athletes who have achieved national or international recognition as outstanding in their discipline and who are coming temporarily to the United States to perform at a specific athletic competition, or to perform with, or as an integral and essential part of the performance of, an entertainment group. Individual artists and entertainers must apply for a visa under other categories such as the O-1 or the H-2B.

P-1 athletes must be coming to perform at a specific athletic competition and P-1 entertainment groups may be admitted for the period of time necessary to complete the performance of an event. Support staff can be included in the P-1 petition as long as the persons perform support services which cannot be readily performed by a US worker and which are essential to the principal alien's performance.

Finally, P visas are considered dual intent. That means that while a P nonimmigrant must seek to enter the US temporarily and must show a residence abroad they do not intend to abandon, they can pursue permanent residency without violating the terms of the visa.

Visas for Religious Worker (R-1 Visa)

The R-1 visa is for a religious worker to be employed by a nonprofit religious organization in the United States. The religious worker, who must have been a member of a recognized religious denomination for the two years immediately preceding the time of application, must be coming to work for that religious organization in the U.S.

In addition, the religious worker must show that he is coming to the United States for one of the following purposes:

To carry on the vocation of a minister of that religious denomination.

To work in a professional capacity in a religious vocation or occupation. A professional position is one that requires, at a minimum, a bachelor's degree;

To work in a religious vocation or occupation. A religious occupation should relate to a traditional religious function. Examples include liturgical workers, religious instructors, religious counselors, cantors, catechists, and religious broadcasters

The visa is initially issued for a period of three years and may be extended for an additional two years. After the nonimmigrant has remained in the United States for five years, he must leave the U.S. for at least one year before he can apply again for R-1 status.

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