USA Business & Investor Visa
US EB5 Immigrant Investor Program
This category allows international investors who invest a minimum of either $900,000 or $1,800,000 in a profit making US company to gain lawful permanent residence popularly known as a Green Card in the US. The amount of investment required depends on where the money will be invested. The vast majority of applications are made via the EB5 Immigration Investor Regional Center Program. They charge high fees. However, is more convenient for many investors.
EB5 Conditional permanent residence
In order to gain legal permanent residence in the US EB-5 applicants must first apply for conditional permanent residence, which lasts for 2 years. During this time the investor must meet the conditions outlined below in order to be granted full legal permanent residence.
New commercial enterprise
EB5 applicants’ investment must be directed towards ‘new commercial enterprises’, as defined by USCIS. This does not mean investors must set up a business from scratch, but the business receiving investment must meet certain conditions. These are:
- Having begun trading either on or after November 29th1990, OR
- Having been taken over and undergone extensive restructuring, OR
- Having gained either 40% net worth, or 40% more employees as a result of the EB-5 investment
In order to gain lawful permanent residence through the EB5 visa category investors must have created a minimum of 10 full-time US jobs within two years of entering the US.
Minimum investment: Targeted Employment Areas
EB-5 investors need to invest a minimum of $1,800,000 of investment outside of a Targeted Employment Area. However, If the location of the investment is deemed to be a Targeted Employment Area (TEA) that amount drops to $800,000. Targeted Employment Areas fall into 2 categories:
- Rural TEAs To be designated a rural TEA an area must be outside of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget’s designated metropolitan statistical areas (MSA). The exact definition of such areas is often unclear, but essentially the TEA they must not be near towns or cities with more than 50,000 residents. The second condition of an area being designated a rural TEA is that it must not be within the boundaries of any town with 20,000 residents or more.
- High unemployment TEAs High unemployment TEAs are areas with 20,000 or more residents with an unemployment rate of at least 1.5 times the US average.
The United States L1 visa is a non-immigrant visa which allows overseas companies to transfer employees under two types of L1 visa schemes. For L1 visa transfers of executives and managers including business owners for up to seven years there is the L1A visa, and for specialized knowledge employees the L1B visa allows entry for up to five years to a new or existing US office. To qualify for an L1 visa the employee, which can include business owners, must have worked for a subsidiary, parent, affiliate or branch office of the US company outside of the US for at least one year out of the last three years.
One of the benefits of the L1 visa is that there is no quota. Unlike in the case of the H1B visa category, an unlimited number of visas can be issued. However, unless the company is a very large company with blanket filing a considerable amount of documentation needs to be submitted for each L1 visa petition to the USCIS in duplicate. Indians and Chinese nationals are able to come under the L1 visa category. They are unable to come under the E2 visa and E1 visa which is limited only to certain nationalities.
Business owners can also apply for L1 Visa
This can be an excellent way for businesses including small businesses to expand into the US with a minimal investment. However, the business outside the US should continue trading even after the L1 visa holder has entered the US. Business owners who have worked for the business outside the US for one year in the last three years, wishing to set up a business in the US can apply without having to make a large investment of at least half a million dollars as required under the EB5 immigrant investor scheme.
L1 Visa and Employment Based EB1C Green Card
The requirements for employment based immigration (permanent residence) under the EB1C immigrant scheme are similar to the requirements for the L1A Executive and Manager visa category. Many overseas executives and managers including business owners come under the L1A visa scheme first and then apply at a later date for EB1C as an international manager or executive which is one of the best ways of gaining an employment based immigrant visa (green card).
As you need to show that you have worked for the business outside the US for at least one year in the last three years, you need to apply for the EB1C immigrant visa within two years of entry to the US on an L1 visa. The business needs to have been established in the US for at least one year before you can apply under this green card scheme.
Companies operating in the US can apply to the relevant USCIS service center for an L1 intracompany transfer visa to transfer someone to the US from their overseas operations. Employees in this category will, initially, be granted an L1 visa for up to three years. For a new office (that has been in operation for less than a year) the L1 visa is granted for one year.
There are two types of employee who may be sponsored for USA L1 visa:
L1A Executives and Managers
L1 Visa requirements for management and executive roles for these purposes is quite strict, and a detailed description of the duties attached to the position will be required. In particular, the executive or manager should have supervisory responsibility for professional staff and/or for a key function of the department or subdivision of the employer. Such personnel are issued an L1A visa, initially for a three year period extendible in two year increments to a maximum of seven years. For a new US office entry for an L1 visa is granted for one year.
- L1B Specialized Knowledge Staff
This category covers those with knowledge of the company’s products/services, research, systems, proprietary techniques, management, or procedures. This should be explained in some detail when applying for the L1 visa. Staff in this category are issued an L1B visa, initially for three years extendable to a maximum of five years.
On completing the maximum allowable period in L1 visa status, the employee must be employed outside the United States for a minimum of one year before a new application is made for L or H status.
However, because of the visa cap it is unlikely that an H-1B visa petition will be successful. The US employer petitions for the H-1B Visa in the US which has duration of up to 6 years.
Applying for a non-immigrant visa is generally quicker than applying for a US Green Card, therefore the H-1B visa is popular for companies wishing to bring in staff for long-term assignment in the US. However, because of the lack of available visas employers frequently have to look at applying for other visa categories such as the L-1B for specialized workers, L-1A for managers and executives, E-2 Treaty Investor visa, E-1 Treaty Trader visa, E-3 for Australians etc.
Please note that individuals cannot apply directly for an H-1B visa. Instead the employer must petition for entry of the employee.
H-1B Visa cap
H-1B visas are subject to an annual visa cap each financial year. US employers can begin applying for the H-1B visa six months before the actual start date of the visa. Employers can apply as soon as April 2, 2017 for the 2018 cap, but the beneficiary cannot start work until October 1, 2017.
Current immigration law allows for a total of 85,000 new H-1B visas to be made available each government fiscal year. This number includes 65,000 new H-1B visas available for overseas workers in specialty (professional) level occupations with at least a bachelor’s degree, with an additional 20,000 visas available for those specialty workers with an advanced degree from a US academic institution. In recent years the H-1B visa cap has been heavily oversubscribed near the beginning of April each year. USCIS then holds a lottery for the available H-1B visas available.
Eligibility: specialty occupation
The US H1-B visa is designed to be used for staff in specialty occupations. The job must meet one of the following criteria to qualify as a specialty occupation:
- Have a minimum entry requirement of a Bachelor’s or higher degree or its equivalent.
- The degree requirement for the job is common to the industry or the job is so complex or unique that it can be performed only by an individual with a degree.
- The employer normally requires a degree or its equivalent for the position.
- The nature of the specific duties is so specialized and complex that the knowledge required to perform the duties is usually associated with the attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree.
Eligibility: employee qualifications
For you to qualify to accept a job offer in a specialty occupation you must meet one of the following criteria:
- Have completed a US bachelor’s or higher degree required by the specific specialty occupation from an accredited college or university.
- Hold a foreign degree that is the equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s or higher degree in the specialty occupation.
- Hold an unrestricted state license, registration, or certification which authorizes you to fully practice the specialty occupation and be engaged in that specialty in the state of intended employment.
- Have education, training, or experience in the specialty that is equivalent to the completion of such a degree, and have recognition of expertise in the specialty through progressively responsible positions directly related to the specialty.
Positions that are not specialty occupations, or for which the candidate lacks the qualifications/experience for an H1B visa, may be filled using an H-2B visa. The L-1B visa a non-immigrant visa which allows companies operating both in the US and abroad to transfer certain classes of employee from its foreign operations to their US operations for up to five years. The employee must have worked for a subsidiary, parent, affiliate or branch office of your US Company outside of the US for at least one year out of the last three years.
Length of stay
The H-1B visa is initially granted for up to three years, but may then be extended to a maximum of six years.
Even though the H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa, it is one of the few US visa categories recognized as dual intent, meaning the H-1B visa holder can apply for and obtain a US Green Card while in the US on an H-1B visa. If you are still in the US on an H-1B visa and wish to remain in the US for more than six years, you can apply for permanent residency in the US to receive a Green Card. If you do not gain permanent residency prior to the expiration of your H-1B visa, then you must live outside the US for at least one year before reapplying for another H or L visa.
Family & Dependants
H-1B visa holders can bring their spouse and children under 21 years of age to the US under the H-4 Visa category as dependents. An H4 Visa holder is allowed to remain in the US as long as the H-1B visa holder remains in legal status. While, an H-4 visa holder is not eligible to work in the US unless able to come under a non, they may attend school, obtain a driver’s license and open a bank account while in the US.