All posts by LAW OFFICES OF CHENG, CHO & YEE

E-2 Visas Provide a Path to Entrepreneurship

A business table with enterprises, E-2 visas

An E-2 visa makes it possible for entrepreneurs to open businesses in the United States even if they don’t have US citizenship. This makes it one of the most advantageous visas offered to foreign nationals. Over the past 5 years, the US Department of State has issued more than 41,000 E-2 visas. The number of visas issued has increased 112% since 1996. Since there is no limit on the number of E-2 visas in the United States, it is a visa that can be applied for at any time by a Chicago immigration lawyer without worrying about lotteries or caps.

Eligibility Requirements

The E-2 visa process requires applicants to meet strict standards that demonstrate their ability to finance, open, and operate an enterprise in the United States. The applicant does not have to have sole ownership of the business, merely 50% or more.

There is no minimum investment required, and some investments of less than $100,000 may be approved. In fact, many applicants apply when they can show investments of between $100,000 and $200,000. In addition to proving the financial ability to purchase, open, and operate the business, individuals must be able to show the net number of jobs the business will generate.

Processing & Duration of Visa

The E-2 visa can be issued for periods of 2, or 5 years. In most cases, it takes 2-4 weeks to process the application prepared by a Chicago immigration lawyer. However, this can be longer depending on the consular post, the need for additional documents, etc. Individuals may renew their visas at the end of these periods provided they are still operating the business and the business generates enough revenue to support the investor and their family. Children of E-2 visa holders may remain in the US until they are 21, at which time they will need to apply for another visa status.

Permanent Residence

The E-2 visa does not provide a path to permanent residency for the business owner or their family, however, E-2 holders can apply for an EB-5 visa down the road. This requires an investment of $1 million, or $500,000 if the investment is made within a rural area, or in an area with high unemployment.

Currently, the minor children (under 21 years of age) of E-2 and EB-5 visa holders can apply for student visas when they’re ready to enter college, however, they don’t qualify for in-state tuition. However, there are legislative proposals that would change this that are worth paying attention to.

Green Card Blues

A green card, immigration

The grass is always greener on the other side, and for many individuals born outside of the United States, the other side is gaining permanent resident status in the U.S., and being able to legally live and work toward their dreams in America.  The ticket to eventual citizenship is a green card.  Unfortunately, this goal is not simple to obtain, but there are advantages in knowing what to expect.

Qualifications

There are a number of ways that an individual may qualify for a green card.  Some of the most common avenues are:

  • Through immediate family members who are already legal permanent residents or citizens of the U.S.
  • Sponsorship from an employer
  • Business entrepreneurs with at least $500,000 to invest in U.S. businesses
  • Asylum or refuges who are escaping persecution

Application

The rules and procedures for obtaining a green card are complex.  Not only are the immigration laws difficult to understand, they include many exceptions, and are frequently inconsistent.   There is a great deal of paperwork to fill out and prepare during the application process.  The instructions must be strictly followed when completing the forms, and there are specific fees required when the application is submitted.  If there are errors in the paperwork, immigration authorities may return the application for correction, but this often includes delays, and in some cases, denials if the application is not returned in a timely manner.  To be successful, applicants must meet all deadlines, supply all required documentation, and attend an interview for their green card.

Inadmissibility Issues

Individuals that may be qualified in other areas to obtain a green card may be denied by the immigration authorities.  There is a lengthy list of grounds of inadmissibility that cause applications to be denied.  The most common grounds of inadmissibility include:

  1. Immigration Violations

Any person who has committed fraud to get a visa, entered illegally, or helped smuggle aliens across the border will have their application denied.  This may be a permanent condition.

  1. Drug Use or Drug Trafficking

Drug trafficking, and drug use is cause for an application to be denied.  A conviction is not always required, as admission of drug abuse can be enough for rejection.

  1. Economic Grounds

Family or employment sponsors must file an Affidavit of Support guaranteeing to financially support the immigrant for a period of years.  The level of income and assets required by the Petitioner are updated annually, but must be enough to support the family and the immigrant at 125% above the poverty line.

End Of TPS Arrangements Less Than A Year Away For Some Foreign Nationals

the Statue of Liberty, immigration

As part of the Immigration Act of 1990, Congress created TPS, or temporary protected status, for foreign nationals who are unable to return home due to civil war, disaster, or other harmful circumstances. For thousands of foreign nationals currently in the United States, the TPS status of their home country is set to end within the next 12 months, making them susceptible to deportation.

TPS Status

Foreign nationals from countries that have been granted TPS status enjoy a myriad of benefits. Chief among the benefits is that they may not be removed from the United States, even if they arrived in the country illegally. An immigration lawyer in Chicago may also fight for employment authorization and travel permissions for residents with identified TPS status.

TPS status is only a temporary designation for foreign nationals, and is not a pathway to citizenship or permanent resident status; however, residents with TPS status can use their time to seek alternative methods to remain in the United States after the TPS arrangement ends.

Permanent Residency

Residents with TPS status typically apply for permanent residency in one of three ways.

Marriage To A US Citizen

One of the oldest ways to receive permanent resident status is to marry or become engaged to an American citizen. Spouses may file an immigrant visa petition on behalf of the non-citizen spouse, while engaged couples can file a fiancé/fiancée visa before the ceremony.

Employer Sponsored Visas

The employment authorization permitted under TPS status enables foreign residents to establish a relationship with employers who might be willing to sponsor an employment visa. There are five levels of employment based visas, EB-1 to EB-5, with the highest priority given to those who qualify for EB-1 visas.

Asylum

Residents from many countries that currently have TPS status may also qualify as asylum seekers. People who have experienced violence and discrimination from foreign groups due to race, religion, nationality, social status, or political stance may apply for asylum with Form I-589. An immigration lawyer in Chicago can help residents with TPS status complete the paperwork for a change to asylum seeker status.

Foreign nationals from countries like: Guinea, Haiti, Liberia, Nepal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen have less than a year to file the proper paperwork to request a change in status and seek permanent residency. Failure to do so may lead to deportation and further obstacles to immigration.

What Businesses and Workers Should Know about L1 Visas

A group of business people, L-1 Visas

L1 Visas are a United States work visa for people who work for companies based outside the United States that are expanding their business to the United States. They are also available to employees who work for companies with branches, subsidiaries, or other partner corporations in the US. The L-1A Visas are for executives and managers of these companies. The L-1B Visas are for employees with specialized knowledge. There are many requirements that must be met in order for a person or business to qualify for L-1 visas. There are also very specific legal definitions for “specialized knowledge”, “executive”, and “manager” that must be met to qualify. A Chicago immigration lawyer can help individuals file a timely application that includes all essential supporting documentation.

Advantages for businesses of Blanket L-1 Petitions

Sometimes large companies need to transfer many employees to the United States with the L-1A visa program. When that is the case, the company can file for an L-1 Blanket Petition. Obtaining Blanket L-1 approval reduces the processing time for employees because they do not have to prove eligibility for every employee’s individual visa application. Applicants are able to obtain the necessary L-1 stamp on their passport by taking the Blanket L-1 approval to the US consulate in their home country. The Blanket L-1 approval allows managers, executives, and employees with specialized knowledge to complete their application for an L-1A or L-1B at the US Consulate. This allows qualifying companies to transfer their eligible employees quickly to the United States when they are needed on short notice.

Qualifying for Blanket L-1 certification

Companies engaged in commercial trade or services that already have a location operating in the United States for a minimum of one year can file a Blanket L-1 Petition. The company must have at least three foreign or domestic branches. Additionally, the company must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • The company must have at least 1,000 employees working in the United States.
  • Annual revenue for the company and all subsidiaries must be at least $25 million.
  • The company must have at least 10 L-1 approvals in the previous 12 months.

Under NAFTA, Canadians can apply for their L-1 Visa at any port of entry rather than just at a United States immigration office. With proper documentation, it is possible for Canadian employees of qualifying companies to apply for and receive their L-1 Visa at a US border entry point.

Immigration Court Backlog Soars to All-Time High

An immigration court

A recent report by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University, the backlog of pending immigration cases in United States courts reached an all-time high in June of 2016, soaring to just over 500,000. Despite adding more judges to the system, the ratio of cases per judge is currently 1,819. On average, an immigration case takes nearly two years to make it to court. Cases involving unaccompanied minors and women with children are set to take priority, pushing many non-priority cases nearly five years down the road. While the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) plans to boost the number of judges even more- from 277 to 399, many immigrants will still face significant delays due to the sheer number of cases.

Unaccompanied minors and women with children have fueled much of the backlog in recent years. In fact, 15 percent of cases involve women with children and 14 percent are children who are unaccompanied. While the number of Mexican and Canadian nationals who are arrested remains relatively low, a shift in migration from other countries, mostly Central America, has added substantial weight to the immigration caseload. Unlike immigrants from Mexico and Canada, nationals from Central America cannot simply be turned away at the border. Many of these immigrants are fleeing from gang violence and poor economic conditions in their homeland and are seeking asylum in the United States.

According to TRAC, there are approximately 22,321 pending immigration court cases in Illinois, and the average case will take about 920 days to pass through the courts. Nearly half (10,405) of pending cases involve Mexican nationals. It is estimated that approximately 5,000 of these cases involve individuals from Central America.

With just 59 courts throughout the nation, a shortage of judges, language barriers and complicated immigration laws, it is no wonder that the influx of immigrants has caused the backlog to reach such astonishing levels throughout the U.S. Sadly, many immigrants who are simply wishing to build a safe life for themselves and their families are forced to endure long periods of suspense and fear of deportation during which they cannot work to provide for their children or make plans for their futures. With the number of judges who are becoming eligible to retire and the increase in the number of immigrants only expected to continue, many experts believe the backlog of immigration cases in United States courts is only going to get worse.