Which US Visa is Best for You?
Welcome to 2015!
This is the beginning of a weekly blog talking about a US immigration law issue that is on my mind. I will aim to get a posting out each week usually on Monday.
One of the most commonly asked questions I get from those who call my office: What is the best visa for me? The answer to this question depends on a lot of factors. To say any less would most likely be irresponsible and would result in the wrong advice.
When I’m asked this question I usually respond with a question usually is: What do you want to do in the US?
What you are going to do in the US determines the type of visa you will need to have to enter the US. The next issue is how long do you want to be there. If you want to work temporarily in the US you will need to consider the various temporary or, non-immigrant visas some of the most common ones are discussed on my web site. If you wish to stay permanently in the US, you need to look at the the most common employment-based immigrant visas available.
Working in the US
If you want to work in the US, you must have a job offer from a US employer. Even if you have a job offer, whether you will qualify for a US visa depends on the job’s requirements and your qualifications. The US wants to attract the brightest and the best educated to the US as well as bring in those who are skilled to fill labor shortages. For this reason if you have a bachelor’s degree or higher in a specialized field or if you are working in a position that is in high demand in the US, then there may be a US visa for you, assuming you have a US employer.
So say you have a job offer from a US employer for a job that requires a bachelor’s degree or higher. The next question is if there is a US visa available to you. Most likely the temporary H-1B Professional Worker visa would be appropriate but there are a very limited number of these visas available and employers who wish to sponsor a person for an H-1B for the first time will be subject to the annual cap of 60,000 H-1B visas and 20,000 H-1B visas for those with US master’s degrees or higher. There is, in effect, a lottery for H-1B visas which I discussed earlier on my blog.
If your employer wishes to transfer you to the US and you have been working with the company for at least one year as a manager, executive or someone with specialized knowledge of the company you may qualify for the L-1 Intra-Company Transferee visa or even possibly the E Treaty Trader or Treaty Investor visa. The L-1 and E visas are also temporary visas. Whether or not you would qualify for either of these visas will depend on many factors relating to you and your company and advice on this can only be given after a thorough discuss of all the issues involved including but not limited to the timing and costs.
Self-Employment & Investing in the US
I get a lot of questions from those who are self-employed. Again, if you are self-employed you must have authorization to work in the US if you are engaging in continuous day-to-day productive employment that is taking the place of a US worker. The law relating to this can be complex and we would need to sit down and discuss what exactly you are doing in the US so I could provide advice to you on the best US visa status for you to travel under to the US.
If you wish to invest in a US business and you have the right nationality, you may qualify for the E-2 Treaty Investor visa. The requirements for this type of visa are discussed in detail on this web site.
Are you Extraordinary?
The US is a great country and wants to attract the best of the best to the US. One option is the O-1 Visa for those with extraordinary ability or achievement in their field. See my web site for the basic requirements of the O-1 visa at this link.
Temporary or Permanent?
In relative terms, it is much quicker to get a temporary US visa than a permanent visa (aka the “green card”). Therefore, when I first meet with potential clients, I mainly discuss temporary visa options first and then discuss options to become a permanent resident afterwards.
If you have a job offer from your current or a US employer or wish to invest in a business in the US, you can schedule a time to meet with me to discuss this further. I am unable to provide advice on how to find a job in the US. Please call my office at +44 (0)20 7092 6830 or if you’re in the US, +1 (312) 361-0581 to briefly chat with me or one of my staff and to book a time to meet.