How do you choose the RIGHT business visa to live and work in the United States? Well, it depends on how you answer a number of questions about your goals, education and work history. A quick survey of the available visas is the place to start, so let’s look today at the L-1, E-2, EB-5, B1, H1B (Other visas are available, including the J, P, O, Q, and TN etc., but these will be reviewed at another time.)
The L visa is one of the most useful tools available to international companies who need to bring qualified foreign employees to the United States. Let’s say that a company located abroad establishes a company (meeting certain ownership requirements) in the United States, with the intent to continue operating the company abroad. The L visa allows a worker at the foreign company to relocate to the office in the United States after having worked abroad for the company for at least one year prior to being granted L-1 visa status.
If the foreign worker is married, he or she can bring their spouse and their spouse can work without restriction. Better yet, the worker can have the dual intent of working here with a temporary visa, while intending to eventually apply for permanent residence.
Contrast this with an E visa, which requires a treaty to exist between the United States and the foreign country under whose treaty the E status is sought. A list of treaty countries may be found at:
For the person with money to invest, the E2 is a way to live and work in the United States for an indefinite period of time. There is no set amount for the investment. However, must be a “substantial amount of capital” that generates “more than enough income to provide a minimal living for the treaty investor and his or her family.”
Many attorneys suggest a minimum of $100,000, depending on the country from which the worker will be coming from, and the nature of the business. Obviously, some businesses require more capital than others to start and operate successfully. The investor’s spouse may apply for employment authorization.
The L1 and E2 visas require active involvement in the business. For the person that is looking for a passive investment, and has plenty of money to invest, the EB5 visa offers the most benefits. Although there are other options, this visa gives you an opportunity to invest in certain qualified investments or a regional center with high unemployment rates. The minimum investment is $500,000.
A petition is filed and upon approval, you can apply for permanent residence if you are in the United States. If you are abroad, the U.S. Embassy in your home country will notify you when it is time to prepare documents for the visa interview. After two years, you will need to file for removal of conditions on your permanent green card. Your green card should then be renewed every ten years, unless you have become a US citizen.
The advantages of the EB5 program are:
1) The visa is a direct route to permanent residence for you, your spouse and children under the age of 21;
2) You have the freedom to live, work and retire anywhere in the United States;
3) You can apply for US citizenship after 5 years of permanent residency; and
4) Children may attend college/university at U.S resident tuition rates.
Now, for the person who simply does not have that kind of money to invest, and only has the goal of being in the United States for a short time and for specific business purposes, the B1 visa may be more applicable.
For example, a B-1 visa can be used for such activities as forming a corporation, opening bank accounts, attending conferences and meetings, and even signing contracts to get ready to conduct business. However, a B-1 visa holder cannot work and receive compensation in the U.S. If a holder of a B-1 visa does work in the US, s/he will be in violation of the terms of the visa.
An H1B visa, though not typically considered a business visa in the proper sense, can be used by a U.S. company to hire a specialty worker, that is one who has a bachelors degree or its equivalent. The potential employee’s degree must have some nexus with the position being offered and the position must be one that would typically require a bachelors degree. If successful, the employee and his or her spouse and children may all remain in the US for 3 years with the option to renew for another 3 years. Spouse are eligible to obtain employment authorization. The H1B employee must be paid the prevailing wage for a similar position in your area.
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