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L-1 (Intra-company transferee visas)
L-1 visas are available for those who have worked abroad for one year within the preceding three years in an executive, managerial, or specialized knowledge capacity and who are being transferred temporarily to the United States to work in an executive, managerial, or specialized knowledge capacity for a related business entity. Special provisions apply to personnel being sent to the U.S. to open a new office. The company must be doing business in the U.S. and at least one other country for the duration of their stay in the U.S. This visa allows executives and managers to work in the United States for up to 7 years. Person’s with specialized knowledge can work up to five years.
The size of the foreign and U.S. companies is not important. Any foreign company can open an office in the United States and transfer in employees. It only needs to show that there are funds available to support the salary of the person who is being transferred and that the foreign operation will continue while the transferred employee is in the United States. There is no investment necessary. Indeed, our office has helped many small foreign companies to set up an U.S. corporation and begin their operations in the United States. However, it is important to note that there are special provisions, which apply where the U.S. corporation is new. It is extremely important to consult with us prior to deciding on this type of visa.
The L-1 visa is highly advantageous. There is a provision of law, which allows L-1 visa holders who are executives or managers to apply for permanent residence. Moreover, L-1 visa holders can apply for permanent residence on any basis without violating the terms and conditions of their visas because an L-1 visa holder may intend to immigrate.
L visa holders can apply for permanent residence without violating the terms and conditions of their visas. Immigrant intent is not an issue for L-1 visas.
L-2 visas are available for spouses and children of L-1 visa holders.
The chief advantage to the L classification is that an alien in L-1A status (managerial or executive) may qualify as a “priority worker,” and may pursue a permanent residence in the United States without going through the onerous labor certification process.
The alien must show that he or she held a managerial or executive position with the qualifying organization for at least one of the three preceding years. The benefit is given to upper level managers and not to first line supervisors.
After being employed by the qualifying organization under the L-1 visa, an application may be filed for a permanent residence as a “Priority Worker.” The “Priority Worker” preference category receives 40,000 immigrant visa numbers each fiscal year. Of the 40,000 immigrant visa numbers allocated for this preference for the last fiscal year, only 5,000 were used. This means that there is no wait for visa availability.
E Visas: Treaty Trader and Investor
E visas are for foreigners entering the U.S. to engage in trade or investment services or activities. These visas can only be granted if the U.S. has a treaty with the alien’s country, the country grants reciprocal treatment to U.S. citizens, or the alien’s country has signed a multilateral treaty of which the U.S. has signed. Below is a listing of countries, which have multilateral treaties with the United States.
Unlike most other nonimmigrant visas, aliens with E visas do not need to prove they only intend to stay in the U.S. for the time period specified on the visa, or prove they still have a residence in their home country.
There are two types of E visas: E-1 (trader) and E-2 (investor).
E-1 “Treaty Trader” visas
E-1 visas are for aliens involved in the exchange, purchase or sale of goods/services or merchandise. Services include technology transfer, architecture and engineering services, management consulting or accounting. The trade in goods and services should be substantial, as defined by the INS, in terms of value, volume or a large number of small transactions. The trade must also meet the following criteria:
- The trade being done must be principally with the treaty country.
- More than 50% of the total volume of international trade being done must be between the U.S. and the treaty country.
- The amount of trade must be sufficient to ensure a continuous flow of international trade between the U.S. and the treaty country.
- Trade can be binding contracts that call for the future exchange of items.
Income derived from the value of numerous transactions that is sufficient to support the trades and his/her family is a favorable factor.
E-2 “Treaty Investor” visas
E-2 visas are for owners and investors in businesses in the United States. The E-2 is a non-immigrant visa that may be granted for investments of less than $500,000. Aliens may hold this visa for an indefinite period of time and after their investment is worth more then $500,000 they may be eligible for an immigrant visa, i.e. green card through investment. The E-2 visa is also available to certain employees of the investors.
An investment must meet several criteria in order to qualify for an E-2 visa. These criteria include:
- Showing that “substantial” investment or funds are available and committed to the investment;
- The investment must be in an active business as opposed to passive investment such as purchasing a home;
- At least 50% of the business must be owned by an alien from a country which has a treaty with the United States;
- The investment must create enough profit to provide a living for more than just the alien and his/her family.
It is often useful to show that the investment will create new jobs although this is not necessary.
There is no minimum amount of investment necessary to obtain an E-2 visa, and whether an amount will be considered “substantial” depends on the type of business involved, the number of jobs created the alien’s personal assets, etc. In one reported case, a $15000 investment was approved. However, in most cases this will not be enough. We recommend that the investment be at least $100,000. Loans, as long as they are not secured by assets owned by the business if the alien is investing in, are counted towards the investment as are non-cash assets (i.e., inventory, intellectual property, real estate). Given the variety of factors that are considered in determining whether an investment is “substantial”, it is recommended you contact us prior to pursuing this path.
Employees of E-2 companies may be granted E-2 visas if they are or will be engaged in duties that are executive, managerial, or supervisory in character. If employed in a minor capacity, the employee may be granted E-2 visa if he or she has special qualifications that make the services to be rendered essential to the enterprise.
The spouse and children (unmarried and under 21) of E-1 or E-2 visa holders are entitled to the same E-1 or E-2 classification as the principal.
Countries which have Signed Treaties for E-1 and E-2 visas
The following countries allow both E-1 and E-2 visas :
- China (Taiwan)
- Costa Rica
- Serbia – Montenegro
- United Kingdom
Treaties conferring only E-1 treaty-trader status exist with the following countries:
Treaties conferring only E-2 treaty-investor status exist with the following countries:
- Czech Republic
- Slovak Republic
- Sri Lanka
- Trinidad & Tobago
(EB-5) Green Card through Investment:
This requires the investor to show the he has made an investment of at least $500,000 to $1 million and that he has hired 10 U.S. workers. The visa is issued to the investor, his spouse, and unmarried children of 21 years or less.