Our office focuses on U.S. immigration law including non-immigrant visas, especially work visas, and green cards (permanent residence) based on a job or a family relationship. Our clients include major public universities, small to medium-size companies, families and individuals. At the end of the road we happily wave the flag as many of our clients successfully obtain citizenship.
We have a particular focus on employment based green card cases in the highest preference categories including individuals with Extraordinary Abilities, Outstanding Professors and Researchers, and National Interest Waiver candidates whose research is so vital to U.S. interests that they can self-petition with no required test of the labor market. We also work with students especially around OPT issues as well as researchers and scholars regarding J-1 waivers.
What follows is an outline and summary of the major types of visas we work with.
Employment-based Immigration Law
Non-immigrant Visas: E3, H, L, O, P and TN Work Visas
As a citizen of Australia you might be entitled to apply for the exclusive E-3 Work Visa, which has a cap of 10,500 per year. The E-3 visa is similar in many respects to the H-1B visa, the professional specialty occupation temporary non-immigrant visa. It was created by an Act of the United States Congress as a result of the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA), although it is not formally a part of the AUSFTA. The legislation creating the E-3 visa was signed into law by U.S. President George W. Bush on May 11, 2005…Learn more about E-3 visas for Australians.
If the position you wish to fill as an employer is either a professional position or a position in a specialty occupation, normally (with certain exceptions) defined as requiring the type of specialized knowledge associated with the attainment of the minimum of the equivalent of a U.S. Bachelor’s degree or higher, then the H-1B visa might be the right choice for you. Note that Citizens of Chile and Singapore are subject to different H-1 rules.
Despite the annual cap on H-1B work visa issuance each year and the mandated October 1st start-date, we have successfully optimized favorable strategies that allow a qualified individual a pathway to H-1B employment without regard to the cap. For example if an individual is employed by a cap-exempt organization and takes on concurrent cap-subject employment, as long as the worker continues to be employed for the cap-exempt organization, she is exempt from the cap…Learn more about H-1B Professional occupations.
In this uncertain economic climate it is becoming more difficult to launch a new branch or subsidiary of an overseas company. We have worked successfully to establish new qualifying organizations for L-1 work visa
The L non-immigrant visa category is a very useful tool for international companies needing to bring foreign employees to the United States. If your company is related to a foreign company located overseas in one of several specified types of qualifying business relationships; if your company is a “qualifying organization”; if you have worked abroad for the overseas company for a continuous period of one year in the preceding three years in a “managerial”, “executive” or “specialized knowledge” capacity and are coming to the U.S. to perform in one of those capacities; and if you are qualified for the position, then the L-1 visa option might be a good option for transferring you and your family to the U.S…Learn more about Intra-company transfers and L-1 visas
If you have “extraordinary ability” in the sciences, education, business, athletics or the arts or “extraordinary achievement” in the motion picture or television industry, you may be able to qualify for the O-1 visa.
To qualify, you must be coming to the U.S. to work in your area of extraordinary ability or achievement. There is currently no annual cap on O visas…Learn more about O-1 Extraordinary Ability Visas.
The P-1 classification may be appropriate if you are coming to the U.S. temporarily to perform at a specific athletic competition as an athlete, individually or as part of a group or team, at an internationally recognized level of performance…Learn more about P-1 Athletes and Entertainers.
NAFTA is the North American Free Trade Agreement. It creates special economic and trade relationships for the United States, Canada and Mexico. The nonimmigrant NAFTA Professional (TN) visa allows citizens of Canada and Mexico, as NAFTA professionals to work in the United States… Learn more about TN Visas for Non-immigrant professionals of Canada and Mexico.
The TN NAFTA work visa for Canadian and Mexican professionals has recently become more favorable by now allowing for visa status in three-year increments instead of one year increments. This gives both employers and employees more certainty and eases the administrative burden of annual renewing of the visa.
Immigration Law now provides a priority system for granting permanent residence to foreign-born nationals based on employment skills. Annually, 140,000 immigrant visas are available for principal foreign-born nationals who qualify under five employment-based (“EB”) preference categories…Learn more about employment-based green cards.
We view “Extraordinary Ability” to be reserved for those at the very top of their field with an impressive record of publications, original contributions to the field, and proof of a significant impact on the field beyond that of colleagues. This is a petition based on the individual’s record, regardless of the field in which he/she is a star. Since this is a category for scientists as well as artists we have represented clients in both areas. We recently obtained lawful permanent residence for a self-employed digital audio composer and producer under this category as well as a theoretical physicist based in a university…Learn more about NIW, EB-1, Outstanding Researchers and Professionals.
Economic conditions in the U.S. have renewed calls for a shift in U.S. immigration policy to create a more hospitable environment for immigrant entrepreneurs. In August, 2011, the Department of Homeland Security announced several initiatives to promote start-up enterprises and spur job creation. We regularly update and comment on issues affecting immigrant entrepreneurs at our blogsite.
E work visas, or treaty work visas, allow foreign born individuals to come to the United States for the purpose of establishing a business to either carry out international trade or to invest in and run a viable business. You must be a national of a country which has entered into a trader or investor treaty with the United States. Qualifying individuals and entities do not have to maintain ties to their home country (except for the U.K.), may engage in self-employment, and may renew the visa to remain in the United States indefinitely. The E category contains two subcategories, one for trade visas (E-1) and the other for investor visas (E-2). If you wish to explore the E visa you should first determine which treaty your country has with the U.S. in order to know which visa type should be pursued. In the case of countries with treaties allowing for both types of E visas, the decision as to which visa to apply for becomes a business decision…Learn more about business start-ups including E-1 and E-2 Visas
USCIS has recently updated existing FAQs to clarify that an H-1B beneficiary who is the sole owner of the petitioning company may establish a valid employer-employee relationship for the purposes of qualifying for an H-1B non-immigrant visa – which is used by U.S. businesses to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields, such as science, engineering, and computer programming…Learn more about H-1B work visas.
Green cards for Entrepreneurs: EB-2 for Advanced degree Professionals and Individuals of Exceptional Ability
The EB-2 visa classification includes foreign workers with advanced degrees and individuals of exceptional ability in the arts, sciences, or business. Generally, an EB-2 visa petition requires a job offer and a Department of Labor certification. These requirements can be waived under existing law if the petitioner demonstrates that approval of the EB-2 visa petition would be in the national interest of the United States.
USCIS has published a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) document on its website clarifying that entrepreneurs may obtain an employment-based second preference (EB-2) immigrant visa if they satisfy the existing requirements, and also may qualify for a National Interest Waiver under the EB-2 immigrant visa category if they can demonstrate that their business endeavors will be in the interest of the United States. USCIS will complement these FAQs with internal training on the unique characteristics of entrepreneurial enterprises and startup companies and incorporate input from the upcoming stakeholder engagements.
USCIS is enhancing the EB-5 immigrant investor program by transforming the intake and review process. In May, 2011, USCIS proposed fundamental enhancements to streamline the EB-5 process which include: extending the availability of premium processing for certain EB-5 applications and petitions, implementing direct lines of communication between the applicants and USCIS, and providing applicants with the opportunity for an interview before a USCIS panel of experts to resolve outstanding issues in an application.
I-9 Compliance and the Worksite
The Immigration Reform and Control Act made all U.S. employers responsible to verify the employment eligibility and identity of all employees hired to work in the United States after November 6, 1986. To implement the law, employers are required to complete Employment Eligibility Verification forms (Form I-9) for all employees, including U.S. citizens. Our office assists San Francisco Bay Area employers to conduct internal audits of their I-9 processes and procedures in advance of ICE visits…Learn more about I-9 Compliance.
Family-based Immigration Law
Marriage and Family Green Cards
We represent individuals and families by filing carefully documented immigration and naturalization applications with the appropriate government agencies and preparing visa applications to U.S. embassies and consulates overseas.
The first step toward citizenship is to qualify for lawful permanent residence in the U.S. There are many pathways to lawful permanent residence, a close family relationship such as a spouse or a child to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
When applying for a green card based on a close family relationship, considerations of international travel, as well as issues involving unlawful presence or unauthorized employment must all be taken into account. In addition, each of the potential grounds for inadmissibility to lawful permanent resident or green card status must be carefully reviewed before any petitions or applications are filed. Learn more about family-based green cards.
Once lawful permanent residence is acquired, we counsel clients closely on how to maintain the green card with respect to international visits overseas and the filing of U.S. tax returns. After the requisite number of years of U.S. residence and physical presence, and provided the lawful permanent resident can demonstrate good moral character and support of the laws and constitution of the U.S. he/she can apply for U.S. citizenship.
To qualify for citizenship requires satisfying an English language and Civics test as well as passing the mandatory interview. Once approved at the interview, the individual is sworn in at an oath ceremony and receives a Certificate of Naturalization. We counsel, assist, and represent clients through every step of the process including advising clients how to obtain a U.S. passport overnight.
You can read more about the many advantages of obtaining U.S. Citizenship at our blog, theVISAGeek.com.
If your fiancé(e) is not a citizen of the United States and you plan to marry in the United States, then you must file a petition with USCIS on behalf of your fiancé(e) to bring your fiancée into the U.S. After the petition is approved, your fiancé(e) must obtain a visa issued at a U.S. Embassy or consulate abroad. The marriage must take place within 90 days of your fiancé(e) entering the United States. If the marriage does not take place within 90 days or your fiancé(e) marries someone other than you, your fiancé(e) will be required to leave the United States. Until the marriage takes place, your fiancé(e) is considered a nonimmigrant. A nonimmigrant is a foreign national seeking to temporarily enter the United States for a specific purpose. A fiancé(e) may not obtain an extension of the 90-day original nonimmigrant admission…Learn more about K-1 Fiancé Visas.
The spouse or child of a U.S. citizen can now be admitted to the United States to complete processing for permanent residence while in the United States. Those admitted in this new category have permission for employment while they await processing of their case to permanent resident status…Learn more about K-3 and K-4 Non-immigrant Visas for the Spouse or Child of a U.S. Citizen.
If you are coming to the United States to pursue full-time academic or vocational studies you would usually be admitted in one of two non-immigrant categories: The F-1 category includes academic students in colleges, universities, seminaries, conservatories, academic high schools, other academic institutions, and in language training. The M-1 category includes vocational students…Learn more about F-1 Academic and M-1 Vocational Student Visas.
There are two non-immigrant visa categories for persons to participate in exchange visitor programs in the United States. The “J” visa is for educational and cultural exchange programs designated by the U.S. Department of State, Exchange Visitor Program and Designation Staff; the “Q” visa is for international cultural exchange programs designated by USCIS. The J-1 visa is issued by universities for students, scholars and researchers. Private industry can take advantage of the J-1 visa for trainees and interns, and the J-1 visa is an appropriate visa if you want to come to the U.S. as an au pair…Learn more about J-1 Exchange Visitor Visas.
Many scholars, researchers, students or trainees on J-1 visas find that they must contend with a 2-year home residence requirement that no longer fits their plans. The 2-year home residence requirement is normally attached to the J-1 or J-2 visa (for spouses and children) status either because the individual’s skills are on the individual’s home country skills list or because he/she has accepted U.S. or foreign government funds. We often see cases where a 2-year home residence requirement has been imposed in error…Learn more about J-1 Waivers. In addition, we maintain timely updates on this important issue at our blogsite.
U.S. to U.K. Visas
We support the special needs of individuals who need to travel from the U.S. to the U.K. for extended personal stays and who are migrating to the U.K. for settlement as spouses or fiancés or other close family members. We assist in the preparation of the application packet, and locate a visa service that provides a short turn-around at the appropriate British Consulate General…Learn more about U.S. to U.K. Visas.