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Greenwood Hanlon Kendrick
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    US Business Visas: B-1 Visa / B-1 in lieu of H-1B Visa

    B-1 business visitor visas and B-1 in lieu of H-1B work visas are available for temporary travel and may permit certain work assignments in the United States. The B visa is intended for foreign visitors wishing to travel to the United States temporarily, usually for no more than 6 months at a time, and who have no intent of abandoning their foreign residence. Do you wish to visit the United States temporarily for business (B-1) or pleasure (B-2)? The B visa category allows foreign nationals to gain entry to the United States for a limited duration under the following conditions:

    B-1 Business Visa / B-2 Visitors Visa:

    • The applicant has a residence in a foreign country, which they do not intend to abandon;
    • The applicant seeks entry to the United States for a limited duration;
    • The applicant seeks entry for limited, specified business or tourism purposes; and
    • If entering for business purposes, the applicant is prohibited from undertaking productive work, but is permitted to attend meetings, sign contracts, scout locations and engage in other enumerated activities under United States immigration law.

     

    Typically, though not exclusively, the B1/B2 visa category is intended for passport holders living in countries which do not participate in the US Visa Waiver Program. Citizens living in nations participating in the program can often bypass the B1/B2 category, and instead travel to the US as temporary visitors under ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization). Exceptions do apply, particularly if the traveler has previously been denied clearance and/or entry under ESTA, or has a criminal conviction that prohibits future travel to the US under ESTA. Applicants wishing to travel to the United States under the B1/B2 visitors visa category will be compelled to submit proof of permanent foreign residency along with a thorough outline of travel purposes and sufficient funds in order to be approved by the local US Embassy or Consulate.

    B-1 in lieu of H-1B: A separate business feature under the B visa umbrella is the B-1 in lieu of H-1B subcategory. In the absence of a US employer or sponsor, skilled professionals employed by a foreign company who would otherwise qualify for H-1B status may apply for a concessionary business visa that allows the applicant temporary access to the United States for the purpose of undertaking productive work on behalf their foreign employer at the location of a US client. The following criteria must be met for a successful B-1 in lieu of H-1B application:

    • Applicant is solely employed and remunerated by a foreign company;
    • Applicant will not receive any compensation, remuneration or expenses from a United States company or source;
    • Applicant holds a bachelors degree or equivalent experience in a related field;
    • Applicant seeks entry to the US for a limited duration; and
    • Upon the expiration of his or her I-94, applicant will depart the United States to continue employment duties for the foreign employer in applicant’s home country.


    B-1 in lieu of E-2 (Prospective Investor Visa)
    Another sub-category under the B visa umbrella is the B-1, temporarily, in lieu of E-2, which may be suitable for an investor seeking investment in the United States, including an investment that would qualify him or her for status as an E-2 investor. Such an investor is precluded from performing productive labor or from actively participating in the management of the business prior to being granted E-2 status. In both the B1/B2 and B-1 in lieu of H-1B/E2 categories, our lawyers are highly trained to facilitate travel to the United States and have a distinguished record of success in petitioning the US Government.  Contact us now for a free no obligation consultation.

    I Visa (Members of the Media and Press)

    I Visa applications for journalists are central to our media immigration practice.

    Echoing the spirit of the First Amendment, the ‘I Visa’ provides a path for foreign journalists to temporarily reside in the United States to solely report news back to a home audience.

    What are ‘I Visas’?

    An ‘I Visa’ is for the media traveling to the United States for work, specifically journalists, radio, and filmmakers whose activities are essential to their media organization, such as reporters, film crews, editors and persons in similar occupations who seek to enter the United States on work assignments.

    Do I need an ‘I Visa’?

    Representatives of the foreign media traveling on assignment to the United States require ‘I Visas’. They are not eligible to travel visa free under the Visa Waiver Program and ESTA or enter the United States on B-1 business visas. Those who attempt to do so may be denied admission to the United States by immigration authorities at the port of entry.

    If you are in any doubt as to whether you need an ‘I Visa’, call us now.

    What are the requirements for an ‘I Visa’?

    At a glance, ‘I Visa’ eligibility is based, among other things, on:

    • Being a bona fide representative of the foreign press, radio, film, or other foreign information media;
    • Having an office outside of the United States in a country whose government grants reciprocity for similar privileges to media representatives from the United States;
    • Seeking to enter the United States solely to engage in such a vocation.


    What documents do I need for an ‘I Visa’ application?

    GHK Attorneys provide bespoke advice and representation, including concise document requests lists to ensure all the necessary exhibits are included in an application, to support our legal brief, which we submit to the adjudicating Consular Officer at the US Embassy.

    Our firm is located by the US Embassy in London, for your convenience.

    How much time does it take to process an ‘I Visa’?

    It can range from days to weeks, depending on how complex the matter is, and how busy the consulate is. We suggest you start the process early, to avoid delaying your talent.

    How do I apply for an ‘I Visa’?

    You can apply through a US Embassy, such as the one located by our London office, as well as by hiring a US law firm, such as Greenwood Hanlon Kendrick to enter an appearance on behalf of your brand and talent.

    How do I renew my ‘I Visa’?

    The process to renew an ‘I Visa’ is the same as applying for one in the first instance, you must demonstrate that you continue to meet all of the ‘I Visa’ requirements. Our immigration lawyers can discuss renewal strategies, including extension of status applications, with you, to prevent unnecessary and costly delays to your media work and deadlines.

    How long does the ‘I Visa’ last?

    The maximum validity of any non-immigrant visa is 10 years, but may be limited to less than 10 years on the basis of reciprocity, as well as in cases with inadmissibility related issues. Typically ‘I Visas’ are issued for the requested duration of the work assignment, which of course varies from case to case.

    The maximum initial period of admission into the United States is for entire duration of the work assignment. Extensions of stay, in one year increments, may be granted as long as you continue in the same position or activity for which you were originally granted the ‘I Visa.’ Our attorneys can be retained to handle extension of status applications.

    Can I take my family with me?

    You may take your spouse and children (under the age of 21) with you, however they will need ‘I Dependent Visas’. Which will be issued for the duration of your ‘I Visa.’ Your ‘I Visa’ dependents may not work in the United States.

    Can we establish a news bureau office in the United States?

    Talk to our attorneys about the L-1A and E-2 visas, to establish a physical office in the United States.

    It is important to keep in mind that the ‘I Visa’ is not a suitable class of visa for foreign journalists seeking to replace or augment American journalists reporting on events to a domestic (American) audience. H and O visas may, however, be suitable classes of visa. Our attorneys can advise you as to the appropriate visa class.

    ‘I Visa’ Application Eligibility and Use

    Foreign journalists working for an overseas affiliate or branch of a United States media organization may meet ‘I Visa’ criteria if they seek to enter the United States to report on news events for a foreign audience and will continue to be paid by the foreign based office.

    Freelance Media

    Freelancers, holding credentials issued by a professional journalistic organization, and working under an employment contract on a news package to be used outside of the United States are eligible for an ‘I Visa’.

    Film / Television Production

    Bona fide broadcasters, distributors, producers and talent, who are essential to your media organization, and will be filming informational movies or television shows, based on news gathering sources in the United States, for broadcast outside of the United States, will on the face of it be eligible for ‘I Visa’ classification.

    In the experience of the attorneys at Greenwood Hanlon Kendrick, features and stories based on current events and sports are considered informational in nature, and as such are suitable I visa assignments. On the other hand, entertainment based events, such as reality shows, are not primarily informational, and as such will not meet I visa criteria. The Department of State typically does not consider documentaries involving staged recreations with actors as informational.

    Employees of Independent Production Companies

    I classification may be accorded not only to primary employees of foreign information media engaged in filming a news event or documentary, but also to the employees of independent production companies if the employees either:

    Employees of overseas independent production companies engaged in filming news events or documentaries may be accorded I visa classification if they hold credentials issued by a profession journalistic association.

    Why Greenwood Hanlon Kendrick (GHK Attorneys)?

    Greenwood Hanlon Kendrick is a US media immigration law firm, located by the US Embassy in London. We act for international media (broadcast, digital and print), journalists, reporters, television production companies, agents, talent, sponsors and rights owners, providing bespoke immigration advice, representation, and support.

    I would like to know more!

    Contact our media immigration attorneys now for a free no obligation assessment, and learn more information about the ‘I Visa’, as well as our media immigration services.

    E-1 Visa (Trader Visa)

    E-2 Visa (Investor Visa)

    An E2 visa is available to certain individuals and businesses investing in the US as treaty investors, who may start up or purchase a business in America. Greenwood Hanlon Kendrick act as immigration counsel for individual investors, as well as companies of all shapes and sizes, providing bespoke advice and strategy. Our attorneys also counsel EB-5 high net-worth investors.

    We are based internationally by the US Embassy in London, at 28 Grosvenor Street, to better serve our clients in Europe, while our New York City office is located at 200 Park Avenue, Suite 1700, to support and counsel our US based clients. Contact us now for more information, and see our recent feature in the Times of London, courtesy of Raconteur Media.

    In an effort to facilitate foreign investment and trade, the United States has entered into reciprocal agreements, called treaties, with certain countries, allowing individual investors and traders bearing the nationality of these countries, as well as foreign companies and their employees, owned by a majority of treaty nationals, to enter the United States to live and work pursuant to the terms of the treaty. The treaty terms vary depending on whether the person, partnership or company is a trader or investor. The US classifies traders under a category of visa called ‘E1‘, and investors under a category called ‘E2′. Please see our E3 visa page for the Australian ‘Specialty Occupation’ visa.

    E2 Visa Requirements

    At a glance, E2 visa eligibility is based, among other things, on:

    • A qualifying treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation (the United Kingdom is a party to such a treaty);
    • Individuals and/or businesses who possess the nationality of the treaty country;
    • An applicant who has irrevocably invested or is actively in the process of irrevocably investing in a US for-profit business;
    • The US business is a real and operating commercial enterprise;
    • The applicants investment is substantial, as defined by the industry, not by a dollar amount;
    • The investment is more than a marginal one solely for earning a living;
    • The intent of the treaty investor is to solely develop and direct the operations of the US business for a period authorized by the United States ;
    • The applicant, if an employee, is destined to an executive/supervisory position or possesses skills essential to the firms operations in the United States.

     

    The easiest way to understand the terms of the E2 visa are to consider them in the context of a number of business needs as often seen by the attorneys of Greenwood Hanlon Kendrick. Alternatively, you may contact one of our attorneys for a free no-obligation assessment of your particular circumstances.

    Individual Investors

    One way to think of the E2 visa is as an entrepreneurial visa, the term investor can be misleading to some individuals, who wrongly assume that it only applies to aloof millionaires enhancing their investment portfolios across the pond. Instead, the foundations and scope of the E2 visa are much more grounded, allowing entrepreneurs to build and grow small profitable businesses in the United States, reaching an American audience. At its core, the E2 visa allows for entrepreneurial individuals who possess the nationality of a treaty country to invest in a:

    • Start-up for-profit business in the United States, such as a corporation or limited liability company; or
    • Purchase a majority share or membership in an existing profitable business in the United States.

     

    Whether starting-up a for-profit business or purchasing an existing one, entrepreneurs often worry that their investment may not be substantial, and speculate on what amount of money will allow them to direct and develop their enterprise in the United States. It is important to understand two things here:

    1. Unlike the EB-5 visa, there is no bright line or dollar amount for the E2 visa. Substantial is instead considered in the context of the industry. The amount invested in the business must be proportionate to the value of the business; and
    2. The investment is not limited to cash. Goods, equipment, and intellectual property can be invested.

     

    The investment, whether cash or assets, must be legitimately under your control, irrevocably committed to the business, and as such at risk in a commercial sense. Uncommitted funds in a bank account are not considered an active investment. One can use loans secured against personal assets as an investment source, but not loans secured against the assets of the investment enterprise.

    E2 Visa Business Plans

    Writing a comprehensive E2 business plan, demonstrating your E2 investment is substantial and meets all of the requirements, often causes unnecessary anxiety. Seasoned investors, entrepreneurs, and business school graduates are used to writing business plans, but for very different audiences, and do not usually understand what a consular or immigration officer wants to see.

    At Greenwood Hanlon Kendrick, we offer an unrivaled service. A well prepared and compliant business plan can make all the difference to your case. See our E2 visa business plan preparation service for details.

    Nationality

    It is important to understand that the underpinning of an E visa is nationality. The attorneys at Greenwood Hanlon Kendrick can advise you whether your country has a qualifying treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation with the United States. In the event your country does not have a qualifying treaty, there may be alternatives to the E2 visa that you can discuss with one of our attorneys:

    • Do you hold citizenship in another country, which does have a treaty with the United States?
    • Are you eligible to citizenship in another country, which has a treaty with the United States?
    • Does your spouse hold citizenship in another country, which has a treaty with the United States?
    • Have you considered alternatives to the E2 visa? Such as, L-1A or EB-5, if appropriate.
    • Are you Australian?

     

    Companies / Employers

    Foreign companies, e.g. those not incorporated or organized in the United States, owned by a majority of treaty nationals, can apply for E2 Treaty Investor registration with a US Consulate, if among other things, the foreign parent company:

    • Has a branch or subsidiary in the United States, in which a substantial investment has been made over a period of time; or
    • Plans to establish (either start-up or take over) a branch or subsidiary in the United States, and makes a substantial investment in the US enterprise.

     

    Advantages

    The advantages of registering a United States company with E2 Treaty Investor status are numerous:

    • The US company may hire foreign employees, who have the same nationality as the treaty company’s parent, who are destined to fulfill executive, supervisory, or essential roles within the US company;
    • Treaty employees who meet the criteria are not subject to the burdensome process, time and costs associated with H-1B visas, such as visa caps and maximum time stay;
    • US Government filing fees for an E2 visa are a fraction of the cost compared to petition based visas, such as the L-1A, L-1B, or H-1B, as well as EB-5;
    • E2 Treaty Investor visas are typically issued for 5 years, and although nonimmigrant in nature, they can be renewed indefinitely, so long as the company maintains its E2 status. This is in stark contrast to the L-1A, L-1B and H-1B visas, which all have a limited lifetime use, and are issued for shorter period of time;
    • Companies are not forced to transition employees to permanent residents, which could allow employees to take up employment at US competitors with ease;

     

    The advantages of E2 status must, of course, be considered and weighed in the context of your company, and its long and short term objectives. For example, the L-1A Intracompany Transferees Visa is often favored by foreign businesses who are not owned by a majority of treaty nationals, or who wish to establish or send employees of any nationality to a branch or subsidiary in the United States, without having to make a substantial investment.

    E2 Employees

    Some companies opt to register a United States company with E2 status to send middle management or new asset employees with the appropriate nationality to the United States, while preferring to obtain L-1A Intracompany Transferee visas for senior management and executives, with the intention that they become permanent residents. Following an initial E2 registration with a US Embassy or Consulate, sending foreign employees, who have the same nationality as the treaty company’s parent, to the United States to fulfill executive, supervisory, or essential roles within the US company is a quick and inexpensive process, which our lawyers have extensive experience with.

    E2 Dependents

    The spouse and dependent children (those under 21 and unmarried) of an E2 visa holder (investor or an E2 employee) are permitted to travel on dependent E2 visas, and can be of any nationality. Moreover, E2 dependents are eligible to apply for unrestricted work authorization in the United States at any company. Children are also eligible to study at US institutions.

    E2 Renewals and Re-Registration

    E2 Treaty Investor visas, as well as E2 company registrations, are typically issued for 5 year periods, and although the E2 visa is nonimmigrant in nature, it can be renewed indefinitely, so long as the company maintains its E2 status. Planning a renewal strategy with an attorney ahead of time is key to avoiding delays, denials, and loss of business. Contact us now for more information.

    E2 Company Amendments (Expansions, Mergers, Acquisitions and Takeovers)

    Circumstances change, and it is important to ensure that when they do, you know how they effect your company’s E2 registration, E2 visas and employees. Our E2 visa lawyers provide immigration advice to existing E2 companies and visa holders, and can file amendments with US Consulates and USCIS, without interruption to your business. We advise on the immigration aspects of expansions in the United States, including compliance, mergers of affiliates, additions of subsidiaries, foreign parent takeovers, and the sale of E2 businesses in the US.

    E2 Visa Fees

    Our professional fees are fixed flat fees in lieu of an hourly charge.  We do not charge for emails, telephone calls, printing, photocopying, FedEx, or incidental charges, as some other law firms do.  Our professional fees are separate from US Government fees.

    US Government E2 visa fees are subject to change, but at present are as follows:

    • $205 USD – Machine Readable Visa (MRV) Fee;
    • $105 USD – Reciprocity Fee for United Kingdom citizens. N.B. reciprocity fees may be lower or higher for other nationalities. Our attorneys will advise you at the outset as to the associated fees.

     

    B1 in lieu of E2 (Prospective Investor Visa)

    Finally, prospective E2 investors, who wish to scout and secure business locations, undertake meetings, and sign contracts in the US, may consider, if not eligible to travel under the Visa Waiver Program, the B1 in lieu of E2 visa. This visa also allows applicants to change status from the B1 to E2 visa from within the US.

    O-1 and P-1 Visas (Artists/ Entertainers)

    O-1 and P-1 visas are available to individuals or groups with exceptional talent or extraordinary ability including musicians, artists, actors, and athletes.

    O-1 Visas:  Artists and Entertainers of Extraordinary Ability or Achievement

    The O-1 visa category is available to people who have (i) extraordinary ability in the fields of art, science, education, business, or athletics as demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim or (ii) a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry.  The key focus of the O-1 visa petition is to show that your degree of skill and recognition is exceptional and above the level ordinarily encountered in the field.

    Greenwood Hanlon Kendrick most often works with O-1 visa clients with extraordinary ability in the arts and entertainment industry, particularly musicians.  To establish that a person has extraordinary talent in the arts, the petition must provide evidence of:  (i) the person’s receipt of a major internationally recognized award, such as a Grammy or (ii) at least three of the following:

    1. Evidence that the alien has performed, and will perform, services as a lead or starring participant in productions or events, which have a distinguished reputation as evidenced by critical reviews, advertisements, publicity releases, publications contracts, or endorsements;

    2. Evidence that the alien has achieved national or international recognition for achievements evidenced by critical reviews or other published materials by or about the individual in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications;

    3. Evidence that the alien has performed, and will perform, in a lead, starring, or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation evidenced by articles in newspapers, trade journals, publications, or testimonials;

    4. Evidence that the alien has a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes as evidenced by such indicators as title, rating, standing in the field, box office receipts, motion pictures or television ratings, and other occupational achievements reported in trade journals, major newspapers, or other publications;

    5. Evidence that the alien has received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies, or other recognized experts in the field in which the alien is engaged. Such testimonials must be in a form which clearly indicates the author’s authority, expertise, and knowledge of the alien’s achievements;

    6. Evidence that the alien has either commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field, as evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence.

    The evidentiary standards for establishing extraordinary ability in science, education, business or athletics are similar to those listed above, however they are tailored to these particular fields.

    Who may file an O-1 petition? 

    An O-1 visa petition may only be filed by a United States employer, a United States agent, or a foreign employer through a United States agent.

    A United States agent may file a petition in cases involving workers who are traditionally self-employed or workers who use agents to arrange short-term employment on their behalf with numerous employers, and in cases where a foreign employer authorizes the agent to act on its behalf. A United States Agent may be: The actual employer of the beneficiary, the representative of both the employer and the beneficiary; or, a person or entity authorized by the employer to act for, or in place of, the employer as its agent.

    What Evidence Must be Included in the Petition? 

    Immigration Petitions for O-1 visa aliens should, among other things, be accompanied by the following:

    • The evidence specified in the particular section for the classification;
    • Copies of any written contracts between the petitioner and the alien beneficiary or, if there is no written contract, a summary of the terms of the oral agreement under which the alien will be employed;
    • An explanation of the nature of the events or activities, the beginning and ending dates for the events or activities, and a copy of any itinerary for the events or activities; and
    • A written advisory opinion(s) from the appropriate consulting entity or entities.


    How do I Satisfy the Written Advisory Opinion Requirement? 

    In addition to the petition, the employer must submit an advisory opinion from a peer group regarding the person’s eligibility for the visa.  The peer group can be a professional organization or associate of peers in the same field.  The advisory opinion should describe the person’s ability and achievements in the field, the duties to be performed and state whether the position requires the services of a person with extraordinary ability. In the event the beneficiary of extraordinary ability in the field of arts has previously held an O-1 visa and is seeking to enter the US within two years of a previous written advisory opinion, the need to provide a new written advisory opinion may be waived.

    The attorneys at Greenwood Hanlon Kendrick provide full counsel throughout the O-1 process, including in regards to the written advisory opinion.

    How Long will my O-1 Visa Last?

    If the petition is successful, the O-1 visa can be approved for a maximum of three years at a time. Beneficiaries may apply for unlimited extensions should they be able to provide additional evidence of upcoming events or employment. However, O-1 visas are not always approved for three years. When a person applies for an O-1 visa, the validity dates are set around the specific period of time that is required to perform or participate in a certain event or events. For example, if the beneficiary has only one short event or project in which he or she wishes to participate, then the USCIS will approve the O-1 visa to cover only this time period.

    What About my Essential Support Personnel?

    The O-2 visa category is designed to facilitate the admission of persons providing essential support to artists and athletes of extraordinary ability and aliens of extraordinary achievement.  Although a separate petition must be filed for a person seeking O-2 status, the classification does not allow the person to work separate and apart from the O-1 alien to whom he or she provides support.  To accompany an alien of extraordinary ability, the person must (i) assist in the performance of the O-1 alien (ii) be an integral part of the actual performance and (iii) have critical skills and experience with the O-1 alien which are not general in nature or possessed by a US worker.  To accompany an alien of extraordinary achievement, the person must have critical skills based on (i) a pre-existing longstanding working relationship with the O-1 alien or (ii) continuing and essential participation in a signification production that will take place in and outside the United States.  As with the O-1 category, the employer must submit an advisory opinion from a “peer group” regarding the person’s eligibility for the O-2 visa.

    Unlike the O-1 non-immigrant however, the O-2 visa applicant must satisfy the consular officer that he or she has a residence abroad and no intent to abandon that residence.

    What About my Dependents? 

    The beneficiary’s spouse and unmarried minor children are eligible to apply for dependent O-3 visas to accompany the beneficiary. Dependents may study in the United States, but are unable to accept employment.

    P-1 Visas:  Member of Internationally Recognized Entertainment Group

    Greenwood Hanlon Kendrick represent clients who are members of internationally recognized entertainment groups seeking to work temporarily in the United States under the P-1 category of visa.

    The P-1 visa is applicable to aliens entering the US to perform as an internationally recognized entertainment group, having a high level of achievement in a field evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered. The reputation of the group, not the individual achievements of its members or the acclaim of a particular production, is essential.

    An entertainment group consists of two or more persons who function as a unit.  The eligibility criteria for the P-1 visa category is very similar to the above listed O-1 criteria, with the following additions:

    • The group must have been together for at least one year
    • Three-fourths (75%) of the members must have been in the group for at least one year

    P-1 support personnel may also secure visas, however these will require separate petitions.

    The beneficiary’s spouse and unmarried minor children are eligible to apply for dependent P-4 visas to accompany the beneficiary. Dependents may study in the United States, but are unable to accept employment.

    What are the advantages to a P-1 vs. an O-1?

    The O-1 has a few distinct advantages over the P-1 visa.  For example, P-1 entertainers may not perform separate and apart from their group.  A member of a group wishing to perform on his/her own must obtain an O-1 visa to do so.  In addition the P-1 is usually issued for the duration needed for the employment itinerary, but with a maximum issue date of one year (as opposed to the 3 year maximum of the O-1 category).  Finally, a P-1 alien is required to demonstrate non-immigrant intent and to maintain a foreign residence.

    To find out if you qualify for the O-1 or P-1 visa category, Greenwood Hanlon Kendrick will provide a bespoke consultation and assessment before proceeding with your petition.

    H-1B Visa (Professional US Work Visa)

    H-1B visa classification is a route for foreign job applicants with a proffered position in the United States, within a specialty occupation, to temporarily relocate and work for a H-1B sponsor, accompanied by their dependent spouse and minor children.

    Sponsoring foreign job applicants for H-1B work authorization within a petitioning US company enables an employer to access a global pool of talent to compliment their American workforce, and as such is a very popular and over subscribed visa category. Indeed, because of this popularity and to protect American jobs, H-1B visas are subject to an annual numerical cap of 65,000 per fiscal year; October 1st to September 30th. H-1B visas become available on October 1st each year, and employers may file their H-1B petition six months prior to the start of the fiscal year: April 1st.

    The conditions and requirements of the H-1B visa classification are commonly confused by employers and prospective employees. At a glance, H-1B visa eligibility is based, among other things, on the following.

    Job applicants

    H-1B job applicants must:

    • Have completed a U.S., or foreign equivalent, bachelors or higher degree required by the specific specialty occupation from an accredited college/university; or
    • Have education, training, or progressively responsible 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; and if applicable
    • 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.


    The H-1B Job

    The proffered position in a specialty occupation is a job which requires one of the following:

    • A bachelors degree or its equivalent as the minimum entry requirement for the job; or
    • The degree requirement for the job is common to the industry or, the job is complex or unique and that it can only be performed by an individual with a degree; or
    • The employer normally requires a degree or its equivalent for the position; or
    • The nature of the specific duties are so specialized and complex that the knowledge required to perform them is usually associated with the attainment of a bachelors or higher degree.

    It is important to understand that relevant legislation does not set in stone a list of specialty occupations. Typical specialty occupations, as seen by the attorneys at Greenwood Hanlon Kendrick, are: accounting, architecture, computing, education, engineering, law, medicine, psychology et cetera. Contact our immigration attorneys today to discuss a specialty occupation.

    Employers

    The first thing for a US employer to consider when contemplating hiring a foreign employee is whether the H-1B category of visa is the most appropriate. Like all visa classifications the H-1B category of visa has its strengths and weaknesses.

    As mentioned above, the H-1B visa category is subject to an annual numerical cap of 65,000 visas, which become available from October 1 each year. Yearly visa availability quickly becomes exhausted, with applications flooding in six months in advance, leaving employers unable to sponsor prospective foreign employees.

    Alternatives to H-1B may include sending employees to the United States as E-1 or E-2 Employees, if the US enterprise is owned by a majority of nationals from a country with a qualifying treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation, and E registered, meeting the appropriate requirements. See E-1 Trader Visa and E-2 Investor Visa. As well, L-1A or B may be an appropriate alternative, depending on your circumstances.

    Should an employer decide on the H-1B route of sponsorship, the US sponsor must file a Labor Condition Application with the Department of Labor, defining the terms and conditions of the prospective employees contract, and the obligations of the petitioning sponsor. A US employer must attest to full compliance with all obligations set out in the application, including:

    • The employer will pay the foreign employee a wage which is no less than the wage paid to similarly qualified workers or, if greater, the prevailing wage for your position in the geographic area in which the foreign employee will be working;
    • The employer will provide working conditions that will not adversely affect other similarly employed workers. At the time of the Labor Condition Application there is no strike or lockout at the employer place of business. Notice of the filing of the Labor Condition Application with the Department of Labor has been given to the union bargaining representative or has been posted at the place of business.

    Non compliance with the Labor Condition Application can result in fines, bars on sponsoring foreign applicants, and other sanctions.

    The attorneys at Greenwood Hanlon Kendrick provide full counsel throughout the H-1B process, including in regards to the filing of the Labor Condition Application.

    As an overview, following approval from the Department of Labor, the sponsoring employer would need to file a H-1B petition to the US Government. Once the petition has been approved, the prospective employee would need to apply to a US Embassy for a H-1B visa, and travel to the United States to be admitted into the country under H-1B Classification for up to three years. This can be extended up to a maximum of six years. There are some exceptions to this rule, such as changing status to another category of non immigrant visa, or adjusting status to permanent residency, commonly referred to as a green card.

    As a H-1B sponsoring employer, you will be liable for all government filing fees, and the reasonable costs of the return transportation if you terminate your employee before the end of their period of authorized stay.

    See a recent article in The Register where one of the firm’s partners discusses H-1B Visas.

    As an alternative to the H-1B, certain multinationals may meet the nationality and ownership criteria of the E-1 and E-2 categories, and source employee visas through those classifications.

    L-1A Intra-Company Transferee Visa (Executive/Manager)

    An L-1A petition enables a US employer (including a newly formed US company) to transfer an executive or manager from one of its affiliated foreign offices to one of its offices in the United States. This classification also enables a foreign company which does not yet have an affiliated US office to send an executive or manager to the United States with the purpose of establishing one. The L-1A visa category can lead to permanent residency (a Green Card). For transferring specialist employees, please see our L-1B section.

    Greenwood Hanlon Kendrick act as immigration counsel for companies of all shapes and sizes across the world, providing bespoke advice and strategy. We are based internationally by the US Embassy in London to better serve our clients in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, as well those in Asia and Australasia. Contact us now for more information, and see our recent feature in the Times of London, courtesy of Raconteur Media.

    The following information describes some of the features and requirements of the L1 visa program.

    General Qualifications of the Employer and Employee

    To qualify for L-1 classification in this category, the employer must:

    • Have a qualifying relationship with a foreign company (parent company, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate, collectively referred to as qualifying organizations); and
    • Currently be, or will be, doing business as an employer in the United States and in at least one other country directly or through a qualifying organization for the duration of the beneficiarys stay in the United States as an L-1. While the business must be viable, there is no requirement that it be engaged in international trade.

    Doing business means the regular, systematic, and continuous provision of goods and/or services by a qualifying organization and does not include the mere presence of an agent or office of the qualifying organization in the United States and abroad.

    To qualify, the named employee must also:

    • Generally have been working for a qualifying organization abroad for one continuous year within the three years immediately preceding his or her admission to the United States; and
    • Be seeking to enter the United States to provide service in an executive or managerial capacity for a branch of the same employer or one of its qualifying organizations.

    Executive capacity generally refers to the employees ability to make decisions of wide latitude without much oversight.

    Managerial capacity generally refers to the ability of the employee to supervise and control the work of professional employees and to manage the organization, or a department, subdivision, function, or component of the organization. It may also refer to the employees ability to manage an essential function of the organization at a high level, without direct supervision of others.

    New Offices

    For foreign employers seeking to send an employee to the United States as an executive or manager to establish a new office, the employer must also show that:

    • The employer has secured sufficient physical premises to house the new office;
    • The employee has been employed as an executive or manager for one continuous year in the three years preceding the filing of the petition; and
    • The intended U.S. office will support an executive or managerial position within one year of the approval of the petition.


    L1 Visa “New Office” Business Plans

    Writing a comprehensive business plan, demonstrating your new office L1A visa petition and application meets all of the requirements, often causes unnecessary anxiety. Seasoned investors, entrepreneurs, and business school graduates are used to writing business plans, but for very different audiences, and do not usually understand what a consular or immigration officer wants to see.

    At Greenwood Hanlon Kendrick, we offer an unrivaled service. A well prepared and compliant business plan can make all the difference to your case. See our L1 visa business plan preparation service for details.

    Period of Stay

    Qualified employees entering the United States to establish a new office will be allowed a maximum initial stay of one year. All other qualified employees will be allowed a maximum initial stay of three years. For all L-1A employees, requests for extension of stay may be granted in increments of up to an additional two years, until the employee has reached the maximum limit of seven years.

    Family of L1 Visa Workers

    The transferring employee may be accompanied or followed by his or her spouse and unmarried children who are under 21 years of age. Such family members may seek admission in L-2 nonimmigrant classification and, if approved, generally will be granted the same period of stay as the employee. An L-2 dependent spouse has the right to apply for an Employment Authorization Document, allowing them to work legally in the United States.

    Blanket L Petitions and Blanket L Visas

    Certain organizations may establish the required intracompany relationship in advance of filing individual L-1 petitions by filing a blanket L petition. Eligibility for blanket L certification may be established if:

    The petitioner and each of the qualifying organizations are engaged in commercial trade or services;

    The petitioner has an office in the United States which has been doing business for one year or more;

    The petitioner has three or more domestic and foreign branches, subsidiaries, and affiliates; and

    The petitioner along with the other qualifying organizations meet one of the following criteria:

    Have obtained at least 10 L-1 approvals during the previous 12-month period;

    Have U.S. subsidiaries or affiliates with combined annual sales of at least $25 million; or

    Have a U.S. work force of at least 1,000 employees.

    The approval of a blanket L petition does not guarantee that an employee will be granted L-1A classification. It does, however, provide the employer with the flexibility to transfer eligible employees to the United States quickly and with short notice without having to file an individual petition with USCIS.

    Greenwood Hanlon Kendrick act as immigration counsel for companies of all shapes and sizes, and provides bespoke advice and strategy to meet your objectives. Contact us now for more information.

    As an alternative to the L-1A, certain multinationals may meet the nationality and ownership criteria of the E-1 and E-2 categories, and source employee visas through those classifications.

    L-1B Intra-Company Transferee (Specialists)

    L1B Intra-Company Transferee petitions and visas enable a company to expand business to the US and transfer its specialist employees. For information on transferring executives or managers, please see our L-1A section.

    Greenwood Hanlon Kendrick act as immigration counsel for companies of all shapes and sizes across the world, providing bespoke advice and strategy. We are based internationally by the US Embassy in London to better serve our clients in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, as well those in Asia and Australasia. Contact us now for more information.

    The L-1B nonimmigrant classification enables a US employer to transfer a professional employee with specialized knowledge relating to the organizations interests from one of its affiliated foreign offices to one of its offices in the United States. This classification also enables a foreign company which does not yet have an affiliated U.S. office to send a specialized knowledge employee to the United States to help establish one.

    General Qualifications of the Employer and Employee

    To qualify for L-1 classification in this category, the employer must:

    • Have a qualifying relationship with a foreign company (parent company, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate, collectively referred to as qualifying organizations); and
    • Currently be, or will be, doing business as an employer in the United States and in at least one other country directly or through a qualifying organization for the duration of the beneficiary’s stay in the United States as an L-1. While the business must be viable, there is no requirement that it be engaged in international trade.

    Doing business means the regular, systematic, and continuous provision of goods and/or services by a qualifying organization and does not include the mere presence of an agent or office of the qualifying organization in the United States and abroad.

    To qualify, the named employee must also:

    • Generally have been working for a qualifying organization abroad for one continuous year within the three years immediately preceding his or her admission to the United States; and
    • Be seeking to enter the United States to provide services in a specialized knowledge capacity to a branch of the same employer or one of its qualifying organizations.

    Specialized knowledge means either special knowledge possessed by an individual of the petitioning organizations product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management, or other interests and its application in international markets, or an advanced level of knowledge or expertise in the organizations processes and procedures.

    L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2004

    The L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2004 applies to all petitions filed on or after June 6, 2005, and is directed particularly to those filed on behalf of L-1B employees who will be stationed primarily at the worksite of an of an employer other than the petitioning employer or its affiliate, subsidiary, or parent. In order for the employee to qualify for L-1B classification in this situation, the petitioning employer must show that:

    • The employee will not be principally controlled or supervised by such an unaffiliated employer; and
    • The work being provided by the employee is not considered to be labor for hire by such an unaffiliated employer.


    New Offices

    For foreign employers seeking to send an employee with specialized knowledge to the United States to be employed in a qualifying new office, the employer must show that:

    • The employer has secured sufficient physical premises to house the new office ; and
    • The employer has the financial ability to compensate the employee and begin doing business in the United States.


    L1 Visa “New Office” Business Plans

    Writing a comprehensive business plan, demonstrating your new office L1B visa petition and application meets all of the requirements, often causes unnecessary anxiety. Seasoned investors, entrepreneurs, and business school graduates are used to writing business plans, but for very different audiences, and do not usually understand what a consular or immigration officer wants to see.

    At Greenwood Hanlon Kendrick, we offer an unrivaled service. A well prepared and compliant business plan can make all the difference to your case. See our L1 visa business plan preparation service for details.

    Period of Stay

    Qualified employees entering the United States to establish a new office will be allowed a maximum initial stay of one year. All other qualified employees will be allowed a maximum initial stay of three years. For all L-1B employees, requests for extension of stay may be granted in increments of up to an additional two years, until the employee has reached the maximum limit of five years.

    Family of L-1 Workers

    The transferring employee may be accompanied or followed by his or her spouse and unmarried children who are under 21 years of age. Such family members may seek admission in L-2 nonimmigrant classification and, if approved, generally will be granted the same period of stay as the employee.

    Blanket Petitions

    Certain organizations may establish the required intracompany relationship in advance of filing individual L-1 petitions by filing a blanket petition. Eligibility for blanket L certification may be established if:

    The petitioner and each of the qualifying organizations are engaged in commercial trade or services;

    The petitioner has an office in the United States which has been doing business for one year or more;

    The petitioner has three or more domestic and foreign branches, subsidiaries, and affiliates; and

    The petitioner along with the other qualifying organizations, collectively, meet one of the following criteria:

    Have obtained at least 10 L-1 approvals during the previous 12-month period;

    Have U.S. subsidiaries or affiliates with combined annual sales of at least $25 million; or

    Have a U.S. work force of at least 1,000 employees.

    In order to qualify under the blanket petitioning process, the employee having specialized knowledge must also be a professional.

    Greenwood Hanlon Kendrick act as immigration counsel for companies of all shapes and sizes, and provides bespoke advice and strategy to meet your objectives.

    As an alternative to the L-1B, certain multinationals may meet the nationality and ownership criteria of the E-1 and E-2 categories, and source employee visas through those classifications.

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