Immigration Through Business
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John Messing US Business Immigration Lawyer

In this era of multi-national corporations, cross-border transactions, and cultural and athletic exchanges, immigration law favors those with vision who trade with and invest in the United States. Messing Law Offices has gained extensive depth and experience as a team player in the many-faceted process of helping businesses and individual investors with the complex rules and requirements of international business law, civil law, structuring transactions, tax consequences and visa issuances. Our clients are international and we provide them with immigration attorney guidance and expertise to obtain their business-based visas in the context of the broader business needs and constraints.

Business Visitors

Because of the variety and creativity that can be applied to business visa needs, it is important to determine the purpose of the visa and the length of time for which it is needed. For example, a rather easily obtained visa is the business visitor or B-1 visa. The B-1 visa is suitable for shorter trips and for limited purposes such as to investigate certain types business opportunities. For countries that are not on the Visa Waiver Program, the B-1 visa generally requires a ten year visitor visa from the U.S. consulate of the country where the passport holder resides. The visa is affixed in the foreign passport. For Mexico, the border crossing card can be the basis for a B-1 entry. Canadians are not required to be issued visas, so a B-1 entry can be claimed by a Canadian at the border. Usually however the visa is for a very limited period, three months for a Visa Waiver Holder and not to exceed six months for visa holders, and can be renewed, but usually only for a limited number of times. The visa has a number of restrictions on what can be done while a business visitor to the United States, such as negotiating a lease or attending trade conventions, and is definitely not suited to job hunting. 

Trade and Investment Visas

The E category visas are useful examples of how business visa law works. A treaty trader or  investor from one of the many foreign countries with which the U.S. has signed trade or investor treaties may apply for a non-immigrant visa to conduct trade or make an investment. Please consult the list of US treaty trader and investment partners to determine if a particular country qualifies.

Qualified foreign nationals who will make a substantial investment or who are in the process of investing a substantial amount of money in the U.S. are eligible to apply as treaty investors (E-2). Investors may also apply to bring a spouse and dependent minor children, though working by a spouse requires additional immigration approvals for an employment authorization document.

While E-2 visas are usually granted at the consulate in the home country for an initial 5 year period, the authorization to remain in the country (called an I-94) is granted to the applicant by the Customs and Border Patrol at the port of entry. It usually is valid for two years only and can be renewed at the border upon a re-entry until the visa expires. This can lead to confusion and possible loss of status, as follows. If the holder of the visa fails to renew the I-94 at the conclusion of validity period, thinking that the 5 year visa protects him or her for the entire 5 year period, then the visa holder can fall out of status, which can automatically preclude further renewals from within the United States and may require obtaining a new visa from abroad before the 5 year period expires. If the period without status exceeds six months, then the visa holder will accrue unlawful presence, which can trigger removal proceedings if it comes to the attention of the authorities or preclude any visa whatever until the visa holder remains out of the U.S. for many years. Therefore it is important to consult an immigration lawyer such as Messing Law Offices to obtain and maintain the visa and work authorizations according to law

While the E-2 visa is a dual intent visa that does not preclude applying for permanent residency while living and working in the U.S. if the business continues to qualify, the E visas do not offer a path to permanent residency as certain other work related or investment visa categories do, such as the L visa or H-1B visa. If permanent residency is a consideration, it is possible to seek an immigrant investor visa (EB-5) at the outset, or under certain circumstances to convert an E-2 visa to an EB-5 immigrant visa, but such a step requires an understanding of the business and tax consequences. Permanent residents cannot live outside the United States for long periods, and should pay taxes in the U.S. in order to avoid a risk of losing the permanent residency through abandonment, but these restrictions are not always suitable for all classes of foreign investors or traders, in which case an E-2 visa may be preferable for practical and business reasons, even though permanent residency and naturalization may be thereby precluded.

Messing Law Offices (520) 512-5432 provides quality professional guidance, advice, and comprehensive strategy at reasonable rates to enable a fully informed decision.

Inter-company transfers

Qualifying existing business that already operate abroad can transfer appropriately high level employees who have worked for one year out of the past three to the United States in order to start U.S. operations or to staff existing ones. The visa category is L-1.

The L-1A visa category is principally for executives and managers. The L-1B visa includes certain specialized workers. Both types of L-1 visas allow a holder to apply for a green card while working in the United States on the visa, which itself is a considerable advantage not shared with most other visas, but the L-1A visa holder has the additional important advantage of not having also to apply for a labor certification in the permanent resident application process, which can be a significant savings in terms of time and expense.

Business visa planning considerations

Although the L-1 visa seems very different from the investor visa, in fact the two can be viewed as alternative solutions in an appropriate circumstance where a foreign business from a country with a treaty of trade and/or investment wants to open a US operation and (by way of example only) the chief executive officer has been working with the company for over one year of the past three. In this example, it could be possible for the CEO to apply for an L-1A and be on a fast track for a green card, or alternatively, assuming the company qualified, the CEO could apply for an E-2 or EB-5 visa, depending on the strategic business, investment, and personal benefits that were sought.

Employer Immigration Duties

Businesses with employees are required to verify the immigration employment status of all workers, whether citizens, permanent residents, or employment authorized. See Documentation Requirements upon hire and audits, and Verification by Computer.

Call Messing Law Offices (520) 512-5432 if you need help with a business visa problem or other concern.