Lame-Duck Congress Ignores Chance For EB-5 Reforms

The EB-5 immigrant investor visa program bolsters the U.S. economy through capital investment and job creation. Each year, up to 10,000 EB-5 visas are offered to international investors who place a minimum of $500,000 into development projects or into other investments that create at least ten full-time jobs for U.S. workers. The investor and his or her qualifying family members will receive green cards after two years, provided that the ten or more jobs have been created and that all other EB-5 requirements have been met.

EB-5 visa applications nearly tripled from 2013 through 2015, but the visa’s popularity has also exposed what critics say are serious flaws with the way the EB-5 investor visa program operates. Just before leaving Washington for the holidays, the last Congress renewed the EB-5 visa program for another four-and-a-half months as part of a year-end spending bill. Despite the controversies that surround the program, no reforms were made in 2016. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, one of the lawmakers who believe the program needs reform, said, “After another year, we have yet another missed opportunity.”

The EB-5 program – and the several controversies associated with it – will now be inherited by a new President and a new Congress. The EB-5 program was initially established during the first Bush Administration to encourage international investors to place considerable amounts of capital into new U.S.-based business ventures. In the years since, Congress has enhanced the EB-5 program’s appeal to foreign investors in a number of ways, including a less precise definition of job creation and a lower minimum investment amount.

WHAT IS THE APPROVAL RATE FOR EB-5 APPLICATIONS?

International investors have responded with rising interest in the EB-5 program, and the approval rate for the EB-5 visa is about 90 percent. The EB-5 offers international investors a path to U.S. citizenship if they invest at least $1 million in most instances, although a half-million dollar investment is the minimum that’s required if the investment is in an economically-depressed region.

A Government Accountability Office report published in September 2016 says that the Department of Homeland Security is currently addressing several potential fraud risks in the EB-5 program. And despite the President-elect’s well-known opposition to undocumented immigration, some advocates of the EB-5 are even expecting the program to flourish under the new Trump Administration.

“His strong stance [is] against illegal immigration,” said former New York Governor George Pataki at a recent investment conference in China. “And EB-5 is a legal immigration program. He understands the need for capital, the need for investment.” The executive director of the U.S. Immigration Fund, Charles Gargano, also believes that the EB-5 program will thrive because of Mr. Trump’s own experience as an investor. “Under President-elect Trump, a developer himself, he will magnify the need for a program like this,” Gargano explained to the same conference in Shanghai in November.

HOW SOON ARE EB-5 REFORMS LIKELY TO HAPPEN?

Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is in charge of a Jersey City complex that has purportedly leveraged $50 million in EB-5 funds as a portion of its financing. And despite broad agreement that the EB-5 visa program needs reform, drastic change isn’t likely under the new administration and new Congress, according to David North, a spokesperson at the Center for Immigration Studies. “I don’t think the program’s going to get killed,” North adds.

Advocates of the EB-5 program say that more than $11 billion in investments and more than 220,000 U.S. jobs will vanish if the EB-5 visa program is eliminated. Peter D. Joseph, the executive director of the EB-5 trade group Invest in the USA, says, “We’re working for important reforms that improve rigorous vetting of projects and investors, so that the program can continue investing in communities and providing quality American jobs.”

The previous Congress made no changes to the EB-5 program in 2015 and 2016. A number of reform proposals were offered, but in the end the program was renewed without change. For now, to obtain an EB-5 visa, a foreign investor must put at least $1 million into a new U.S. business that creates ten or more full-time U.S.-based jobs, or the investor must put at least $500,000 into a “Targeted Employment Area.” An applicant must also prove that his or her investment dollars were received legally and legitimately. This requirement helps to ensure that the EB-5 program is not dealing with money laundered by crime networks or terrorists.

WHAT ARE EB-5 REGIONAL CENTERS?

Most EB-5 international investors work with the EB-5 Regional Center Program. Regional centers are private-sector groups that pool investment funds to develop resorts, hotels, retail centers, and other major projects. From 2005 through 2013, the EB-5 investor visa program brought more than $5 billion into the United States. Foreign investors can best take advantage of the EB-5 program by working from the start with an Ohio immigration attorney who routinely helps investors dealing with immigration issues. There is an annual cap – only 10,000 EB-5 visas are offered annually – so investors should initiate the application process as early as possible.

Anyone with any questions or concerns regarding the EB-5 investment visa or any immigration matter should speak as soon as possible to an experienced U.S. immigration lawyer. If you are an international investor considering a business investment in the United States, let an experienced Ohio immigration attorney work on your behalf. You can arrange for a consultation by email or by calling from anywhere in the world. The economy is rising strong once more in the United States, and excellent investment opportunities are found in every one of the fifty states.

All qualified international investors may petition for an EB-5 visa. The EB-5 visa does not require a sponsor or a labor certification. Through the EB-5 investor visa program, the U.S. allows international investors to invest in U.S.-based businesses and to live here with their immediate families. As the conditions of the EB-5 visa are satisfied, investors and their families qualify to receive green cards. Learn more about the EB-5 visa and other options for investors by speaking with an Ohio immigration attorney. The EB-5 visa is an excellent path to lawful permanent residency in the United States for the willing and able international investor.

Who Qualifies For EB-5 Investor Visas?

International investors who are seeking a great investment opportunity should speak to an experienced U.S. immigration lawyer about the EB-5 investor visa program. International investors who are not familiar with the EB-5 immigrant investor program may appreciate a brief summary regarding what the EB-5 visa is, who qualifies, and why it’s important. The Immigration Act of 1990 creates five employment-based immigration categories. As the fifth employment-based immigration category, the immigrant investor program is designated “EB-5.”

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Like many nations, the United States seeks international investors who can create jobs and boost the national economy. The EB-5 immigrant investor visa allows those investors to become lawful permanent residents immediately upon entering the United States. Investors applying for the EB-5 visa must invest between $500,000 and $1 million in a U.S.-based business, take an active role in the business, and create at least ten full-time jobs. Only 10,000 EB-5 visas are made available each year, so if more than 10,000 investors apply for the visa in a single year, some of them may be placed on a waiting list.

The EB-5 investor visa is one of the most difficult immigrant visas to obtain. Investors must meet not only the eligibility requirements established for all immigrants to the United States, but the investment itself must also be approved. It’s best to work from the very beginning with a U.S.-based immigration lawyer located near your investment site – a Michigan or Ohio immigration attorney, for instance.

WHY DO EB-5 VISA APPLICANTS NEED AN ATTORNEY?

If you apply to obtain an EB-5 visa on your own, and you are unsuccessful, you may damage your chances of success in the future. And because you are expected to make the investment first and then subsequently apply for the visa and green card, you could be putting your money at risk if you make an investment or apply for a visa without first seeking an immigration attorney’s advice. EB-5 green cards expire in two years. That’s the amount of time an EB-5 investment has to create the necessary ten or more full-time jobs. If it hasn’t, or if an investor fails in some other way to maintain EB-5 eligibility, the green card is canceled.

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As long as an investor has the money to invest, and as long as the investment is in a for-profit business, the investor is not required to have any particular business training or experience. An investor who receives a green card must actually reside in the U.S. upon receiving it. The investor’s spouse and unmarried children under age 21 receive derivative green cards provided they meet all other immigration eligibility requirements.

An EB-5 investor can lose his or her visa and green card by living outside of the United States, committing a crime in the United States, or even by failing to report a change of address. A conviction for a crime or the violation of any terms of the visa makes a visa holder deportable. However, if an international investor retains a green card for five years and lives in the U.S. continuously during that time (which includes the first two years as a conditional resident), an investor can apply for naturalized U.S. citizenship.

WHAT INVESTMENTS QUALIFY FOR THE EB-5 PROGRAM?

EB-5 visas may be obtained with several types of investment. Most EB-5 applicants invest in an EB-5 “regional center,” a group that operates a business created by EB-5 investments. EB-5 regional centers are attractive because investors do not have to create their own businesses, and the minimum investment is only $500,000 rather than the $1 million minima that is otherwise required.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) designates and approves regional centers, which are designed to meet USCIS requirements for the initial, conditional EB-5 visa. Investors must take care to select a regional center that will actually deliver on its promises to meet USCIS requirements – not all can or do. An immigration lawyer in the U.S. – a Michigan or Ohio immigration attorney, for example –  can help you make the right EB-5 investment choice.

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Investors can also obtain an EB-5 visa by directly investing in their own businesses. The minimum requirement is a $1 million investment to create a new business in the United States or to expand or restructure an existing U.S.-based business. In certain designated rural settings and in other designated locations in the U.S. where unemployment is high, the investment minimum is $500,000.

WHAT ARE EB-5 APPLICANTS REQUIRED TO PROVE?

EB-5 investors are required to prove to USCIS that their investment money is theirs and that it was legally obtained. Investors will need to provide evidence such as pay records, tax records, and/or inheritance documents. Within two years, the business receiving the investment must create at least ten full-time jobs requiring at least 35 hours a week. Jobs held at the business by the investor or by his or her spouse or children do not count toward the ten-job requirement.

It’s also important for investors to understand that EB-5 investments require the investor’s active participation in either a management role or a decision-making role. Passive investments such as land speculation typically do not qualify for the EB-5 program. If an investor works with a regional center that is a limited partnership (most regional centers are), USCIS considers that to be sufficient participation. A direct EB-5 investment must create a new business, purchase a business that was established since November 29, 1990, or buy a business and restructure or reorganize it so that a new business entity is the result.

EB-5 is the only immigration category that allows international investors entry into the U.S. as automatic legal permanent residents. Even though the EB-5 program started slowly after the Immigration Act of 1990 became law, in recent years, international investors have expressed rising interest. In 2014, for example, EB-5 investments totaled approximately $2.6 billion and created more than 16,000 full-time jobs in the United States.

For those with the resources, the EB-5 investor visa is probably the best path to lawful permanent residency and naturalized U.S. citizenship. If you seek to become a lawful permanent U.S. resident, and if you have the ability to invest in a U.S.-based business, the EB-5 investor visa program may be right for you. Every visa and every immigration procedure takes time, so interested investors should speak with a U.S. immigration lawyer promptly to begin the process.

What are The Best Practices For U.S. Business Visa Interviews?

Several options for immigration are available for business visitors to the United States. There are five categories of “EB” visas (employment-based visas) for immigrants eligible to work in the United States as permanent residents, and employer sponsorship is sometimes required for those visas. Temporary, non-immigrant visas are also offered to those who want or need to work in the United States for a specified and brief amount of time. In most cases, healthcare workers, scholars, professionals, athletes, artists, investors, and business persons will qualify for a temporary non-immigrant visa.

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The Visa Waiver Program allows business visitors from 38 nations to visit the United States for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa, but if you are not entering the United States under the Visa Waiver Program, you will have to be interviewed for your visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. After you have applied for your visa, the National Visa Center will notify you regarding the date, time, and location of your interview.

You and any family member who is also applying for a visa to accompany you to the United States must schedule and complete a medical examination, along with any required vaccinations, before your visa interview date. Your interviewer will want to determine that you are a genuine and legitimate business visitor, that you are eligible for the visa, and that you do not intend to violate any of the terms of your visa. Be prepared to provide information during the interview regarding:

  • your company or business, its history, and its current prospects
  • your reasons and plans for visiting the United States
  • evidence of your plans, appointments, and meetings, especially letters or emails inviting you (If you plan to invest in the United States or buy U.S. products, this is in your favor.)
  • your strong ties to your home, community, family, and property, and your intention to return at the end of your authorized stay in the United States
  • your reservations and round-trip travel tickets
  • your resources to cover your expenses while traveling and staying temporarily in the United States

Be prepared and confident when you interview for a business visa. If you are even the least bit hesitant or nervous, the interviewer may think you are hiding something or being dishonest. Your interviewer will have a great deal of discretion regarding your business visa, but your interviewer will also probably have only a few brief moments to “size you up” and make a decision regarding your visa petition.

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If you speak English, interview in English and do not ask for an interpreter. Many business people are experts in their business, but they may not know English. If you don’t, you will need to request an interpreter. However, if you can communicate in English, it is in your favor, because English is still the predominant language in the U.S. business community. Almost no one speaks English perfectly, and no one expects you to speak it perfectly, either.

Nevertheless, you should be able to communicate clearly with your interviewer regarding your age, education, experience, your relationship with the company that is sending you to the United States, your employment with them, your marital status, and details about your children. You should be ready to provide the proof for all of these matters to the extent that it is possible. It is difficult to say precisely what documents will be required from you, as every visa petitioner’s circumstances are different. Of course, any fraud or misrepresentation while petitioning or interviewing for a visa could make you permanently ineligible for a nonimmigrant visa.

Applicants should dress formally for the visa interview, but they should also dress appropriately for their professional status. Maintain eye contact with your interviewer throughout the interview. Do not show any signs of nervousness such as tapping your fingers or tapping your foot. If you are going to the United States on behalf of your company, and if you can, wear your company’s ID to the interview in a visible manner.

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Do not wear inappropriate clothing or excessive makeup or jewelry to the visa interview. If others who work for your company have traveled to the United States on a business visa, it may be a good idea to ask them first about the kinds of questions they were asked and the documents they were asked to produce. Their situation may be comparable to yours, and your colleagues may be able to give you a clear idea of what to expect. Listed here are some of the questions you may expect to be asked:

  • Why do you wish to go to the United States?
  • When will you be traveling, and how long do you intend to remain in the U.S.?
  • How much will your visit cost, and who is paying for it?
  • What does your company do, and what is your role there?
  • Where will you go in the U.S., and whom will you meet?
  • How will this visit benefit you and/or your employer?
  • Who is going to accompany you to the U.S.?
  • Have you been to the United States before?
  • Can you prove that you will return at the end of your period of authorized stay?

After you have entered the United States on a temporary, nonimmigrant business visa, consult with an experienced immigration attorney before you do anything like starting a business, opening a bank account, investing, or purchasing life insurance. Those are all actions that indicate that someone may be planning to remain in the United States, so you will need an immigration attorney’s help and advice to avoid the suspicions of immigration authorities.

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If you are coming to the U.S. on business, a good immigration lawyer can answer your questions, address your concerns, help you with your visa petition, and discuss your visa interview. Today, of course, you can speak to an immigration attorney by phone or email from anywhere in the world. A good immigration lawyer will also defend your rights and help you achieve your goals. Still, the only person who can prepare you for a visa interview is you. Full preparation for the visa interview is essential if you want or need to do business in the United States.

Infographic – The Wait To Come To America

Applying for permanent residence in the United States can be quite the complicated process and each year the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) limits the number of visas available. These limits currently stand at 226,000 for family-sponsored visas and 140,000 for employment-related authorizations. Also, each month, the government announces wait times for visa applications, which vary based on the type of visa sought, the number of visas available, and the applicant’s current citizenship. Additionally, the wait could be even longer if you come from countries deemed “oversubscribed,” such as the Philippines, Mexico, India, and China. For more information and legal assistance on immigration-related issues, speak with an experienced immigration attorney.

The Wait to Come to America

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Where Do H-1B Visas Go?

In January 2010, the senior executives at Molina Healthcare, located in Long Beach, California, conducted a staff meeting. Dozens of people in Molina’s IT department would have to be laid off, the executives announced, because the company had done so poorly in the preceding quarter. What the laid-off employees did not suspect at the time was that on the day before the staff meeting, the U.S. Department of Labor had approved applications for forty temporary workers from India to replace them at Molina Healthcare. The laid-off workers, all U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents, earned an average of $75,000 a year plus benefits. Their replacements would earn $50,000 a year with no benefits.

Big companies have been just as guilty of abusing temporary worker visas as smaller companies. In October 2014, 250 IT employees at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts in Florida were told that they would be laid off. Layoffs, of course, are not uncommon, but what made this layoff newsworthy was the sense that the workers had been insulted. They were told that in order to receive their severance pay, they would be obligated to train their own replacements – IT workers from India entering the United States with H-1B visas.

In response, two former Disney tech employees filed federal lawsuits against the company in January 2016, accusing Disney of conspiring to replace the workers with less costly foreign employees using H-1B visas. The lawsuits were filed in federal court in the Middle District of Florida by Leo Perrero and Dena Moore, who were among 250 Disney tech workers laid off in October 2014. The lawsuits seek class-action status.

Separately, more than twenty of the laid-off Disney workers have also filed complaints with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC). Those complaints remain under EEOC review. The complaints allege employment discrimination by Disney based on nationality, race and age. The incident at Disney also launched another round of contentious debates about the use – and some would charge, the abuse – of H-1B visas. For international workers with a college degree and specialized skills in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math), the H-1B is a temporary, nonimmigrant visa that is good for three years and renewable for a second three years.

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WHY THE CONTROVERSY?

Two competing, conflicting narratives confuse the H-1B visa debate and to some extent the entire question of immigration in the United States. One narrative tells us that immigrants are taking jobs from U.S. workers, and it emphasizes stories like the incidents at Molina and Disney. The other narrative says that attracting talented workers in science, math, engineering, and technology is essential for U.S. economic success and growth in the years ahead. Currently, Congress caps the number of available H-1B visas at 65,000 a year (and another 20,000 for post-graduate degree-holders in STEM fields). Google’s Eric Schmidt, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, and Microsoft’s Bill Gates are all strong advocates of increasing the number of available H-1B visas as a means of increasing U.S. technical and commercial ingenuity and strength.

The question many are asking about H-1B visas is simply this: Do international workers in the H-1B visa program fill a genuine gap in the labor force, or is the H-1B program being abused by some U.S. corporations simply as a way to save a few dollars at the expense of U.S. workers? Even the most expert economic researchers disagree. A report by the Economic Policy Institute alleges that some U.S. companies exploit the H-1B program merely to cut their labor costs. The Brookings Institution, however, has figures showing that the international workers who hold H-1B visas are actually making more than their comparably-talented American counterparts in similar positions. The H-1B visa program was designed so that U.S. companies could fill gaps in the work force with specialized employees they cannot find in the United States, but some companies apparently try to take advantage of the H-1B program’s technicalities and loopholes.

In fact, one corporation has already been fined for engaging in visa fraud. Infosys paid the government a $34 million penalty in 2013. Exploiting the H-1B visa program to boost the corporate bottom line is something we can all understand, but that is not what H-1B visas are for, and the government is now taking measures to ensure that the program remains fair to U.S.-based workers like those laid off by Disney and Molina. A large number of workers flooding into the United States and displacing U.S.-based workers is not what Congress intended when the H-1B visa program was established, so in 2015, the Department of Labor announced that it is beefing up its enforcement efforts and will be investigating companies that may be taking unfair advantage of the H-1B visa program.

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WHO GETS THE VISAS?

Where do H-1B visas actually go? One-fifth of all H-1B petitions approved in 2012 went to just four companies: Cognizant Technology Solutions, Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys, and Wipro. The latter three are among India’s biggest outsourcing giants. Cognizant, based in New Jersey, emerged out of a partnership between Dun & Bradstreet and an Indian firm. Many U.S. companies – Walmart and 7-Eleven, for example – hire these outsourcing firms for their IT needs. When Molina Healthcare fired its IT staff, for example, it did not apply to the government for H-1B workers to replace them. Instead, Molina got its new employees through Cognizant. And Infosys isn’t the only outsourcing company that has been investigated and targeted for legal action. In 2013, Tata Consultancy Services paid $29 million to settle a class-action lawsuit brought by Indian workers who were being forced by the company to hand over their U.S. income tax refunds.

Of course, when the H-1B visa program was invented by Congress back in 1990, no one thought that Indian outsourcing firms would be the biggest participants and beneficiaries. Does any of this mean that a typical small or midsize U.S.-based business cannot benefit from the H-1B visa program? Not at all. Even with the annual visa cap still set at 65,000, the government is working harder now than ever to ensure that the awarding of visas is conducted fairly and that no U.S.-based employer has an advantage over any other employer in the H-1B competition. Employers across the nation are already preparing for this year’s April 1 filing date, but if you haven’t started preparing, it’s probably too late to begin for this year, although it’s never too early to start preparing for next year’s H-1B filing period. The qualifications for H-1B visas are quite strict, and as you already know, the demand far exceeds the supply for these visas.

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WHERE CAN EMPLOYERS FIND HELP?

If you are an employer in the United States, a good immigration lawyer can help your company meet all of the requirements for obtaining H-1B visas, provide you with precise, comprehensive information, and help you avoid the mistakes and misunderstandings that keep many employers from obtaining the H-1B visas they need. In other words, an experienced immigration attorney can put employers in the best possible position to obtain H-1B visas and can probably also help employers identify appropriate visa alternatives to the H-1B. Employers who need H-1B visas should arrange to speak at once with an experienced Ohio immigration attorney.

Work authorization through the H-1B program is strictly limited to employment offered by a sponsoring U.S.-based employer. H-1B regulations do not compel a visa holder to remain with the sponsoring employer for a specific length of time, provided that a new qualifying employer agrees to sponsor the employee for another H-1B visa. And while a handful of companies still receive quite a large number of H-1B visas, there’s nothing preventing your company from obtaining H-1B visas if the other immigration and employment requirements are met.

U.S.-based companies applying for H-1B visas must prove they are “real” companies by showing the government documents like tax returns, a tax ID number, or financial statements. An H-1B visa petition will be rejected without adequate accompanying documentation. The application may also be denied if the job that’s being offered is not a “specialty” occupation. A good immigration lawyer can tell employers exactly what will be required.

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U.S.-based companies that hire foreign national employees with H-1B visas should understand from the start that they will have to comply with scores of sometimes confusing immigration laws and related employment regulations. Several federal government agencies may inspect and scrutinize your records and operations to verify your compliance. Investigations of employers are routine, and those investigations may be initiated by USCIS or by the U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or the U.S. State Department.

Admittedly, U.S. immigration laws are antiquated, exceedingly complicated, and sometimes just plain impossible to understand. If you are a U.S. employer who is interested in hiring temporary international workers, obtain the legal help you need right away from an experienced Ohio immigration attorney. You may not make this year’s April 1 H-1B deadline, but you can prepare for next year and learn about your other options and the alternatives to the H-1B visa. Employers, hiring managers, and international workers may speak to an experienced Ohio immigration attorney by phone or by e-mail to have your questions answered or to begin the complicated visa petition process.

April 1 For H-1B Petitions

It’s a deadline that’s approaching fast. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) receives H-1B visa petitions each year beginning on April 1, and with only 65,000 H-1B visas available, April 1 is the date that those applications must be received by USCIS. Across the U.S., employers are right now determining their H-1B needs for fiscal 2017 and retaining immigration lawyers to ensure that their H-1B visa petitions are on deadline, accurate, and complete.

By using H-1B visas, many employers based in the United States hire international workers for “specialty occupations” that require highly specialized knowledge. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 defines a “specialty occupation” as work requiring specialized knowledge and a bachelor’s degree – or its equivalent – or a postgraduate degree. International workers who may qualify for H-1B visas include but are not limited to engineers, programmers, mathematicians, and research scientists in fields such as robotics and biotechnology. The demand for qualified employees in those fields far exceeds the number of available H-1B visas, so when U.S.-based businesses apply for H-1B visas, they need the advice, insights, and services that only an experienced immigration attorney can offer.

HIGH DEMAND, FIERCE COMPETITION

For the employers who need H-1B visas – and for those who want to learn about H-1B visas – the first thing to know is that the competition for these visas is fierce. For more than a decade, the annual cap on H-1B visas has been 65,000, while another 20,000 H-1B visas are set aside for use exclusively by workers with postgraduate degrees earned from U.S. colleges and universities. Because the demand for H-1B visas surpasses the supply by more than a 3-to-1 ratio, USCIS has now put a “lottery” system in place for the distribution of H-1B visas. In 2015, 233,000 H-1B visa applications were received by USCIS in the first week of April. The deadline for 2016 is looming, so U.S. employers and their immigration attorneys need to begin preparing H-1B visa petitions and gathering the other necessary documents as quickly as possible.

The truth is that H-1B visas are tough – but not impossible – for companies to acquire. U.S.-based employers should engage an experienced immigration attorney to help your company meet the necessary deadlines, to provide precise and comprehensive information, and to help you avoid the errors, missteps, and confusion that keep too many businesses from obtaining the H-1B visas they genuinely need. In other words, an experienced immigration attorney can help position you for the approval of your H-1B visa applications, and if your petition is not chosen in the H-1B lottery, your immigration lawyer can help you find other acceptable visa options. With April 1 approaching, employers from anywhere in the U.S. can and should arrange at once to consult with an experienced Ohio immigration lawyer.

H-1B visas are provided only to international employees through sponsoring U.S.-based employers. If all other criteria are satisfied, an H-1B work visa is in effect for three years and may be renewed for a second three-year period. Visa holders are not obligated to remain with their first sponsoring employer for the entire three or six years, so long as a new, qualifying U.S. employer sponsors the worker as an H-1B employee.

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WHICH COMPANIES? WHICH WORKERS?

Employers should not make the mistake of thinking that H-1B visas only go to companies like Facebook, Google, and Microsoft. Businesses in all parts of the United States apply for and obtain H-1B visas every year. H-1B visa holders enrich not only their neighborhoods but also the nation as a whole by helping businesses create more prospects for new jobs, growth, innovation, and prosperity. International workers who are chosen to receive H-1B visas in April will have those visas in hand in October for the beginning of fiscal 2017. Right now, employers need to determine which international employment candidates are in need of H-1B sponsorship. Some job candidates may be working already in the United States with temporary work visas. Workers who may require H-1B sponsorship include:

  • Recent international graduates and current international students in Curriculum Practical Training (CPT) or Optional Practical Training (OPT) who will require employer sponsorship when the OPT or CPT expires
  • Those already holding H-1B visas and working for a cap-exempt employer (a college, a university, a non-profit, or a governmental research agency) who seek work with a cap-subject employer
  • Candidates with other nonimmigrant work visas who require a change to H-1B status

When an H-1B worker leaves a sponsored position or is terminated, the sponsoring business must notify USCIS as quickly as possible to have the H-1B petition canceled, because the business must pay the worker’s wages while the petition remains in effect. If the employer fires the sponsored employee, the employer must pay for transportation back to the employee’s last place of residence outside of the United States. Sponsoring businesses are not obligated for the return costs for an H-1B employee’s accompanying family members.

ABOUT DISCRIMINATION

U.S. companies hiring international workers must avoid accusations of discrimination. The advice and insights of a good immigration lawyer can help businesses avoid any discrimination allegations. Employers also face possible liability if they show any discriminatory favoritism regarding pay decisions, layoffs, promotions, benefits, or disciplinary actions. The Immigration and Nationality Act forbids discrimination by companies with more than four employees, and the 1964 Civil Rights Act outlaws discrimination based on national origin by businesses with fifteen or more employees.

Employers need to be fully prepared with the help of a good Ohio immigration lawyer when they petition USCIS for H-1B visas. Inadequate documentation will lead to the automatic denial of the visa petition. An H-1B application may be rejected if the sponsoring company does not appear to be a legitimate, real, active U.S.-based business with the ability to hire and compensate an H-1B employee. Employers must present tax returns, financial statements, tax identification numbers, and sometimes more. An H-1B petition may also be denied if the employment offered does not meet the definition of a “specialty occupation.”

Petitioning for any visa is an extremely complicated procedure. For H-1B visas, sponsoring employers must provide a precisely-detailed description of the employment being offered and the work location. If the visa application says that the employee will work at a client’s location, USCIS will want to determine if the employee will actually be working for the sponsoring company – or actually for that company’s client. The sponsor may be asked to produce a contract agreement and/or other evidence that only the sponsor will be the actual employer of an employee working at a client’s job site. Lack of documentation or specificity can result in the quick denial of a visa petition. However, an experienced immigration attorney knows exactly what information and documents will be needed.

H-4 VISAS FOR DEPENDENTS

In most cases, international workers approved for H-1B visas may bring their spouses and dependent children to the United States. Provided they meet all other immigration requirements, spouses and dependent children of H-1B visa holders qualify for H-4 visas to accompany an H-1B employee to the U.S. Since 2015, some H-4 spouses of H-1B visa holders seeking lawful permanent resident status now qualify for work authorization in the United States. Eligible spouses must file Form I-765 (the Application for Employment Authorization) to acquire the Employment Authorization Document (or “EAD,” Form I-766). Upon obtaining an EAD, an H-4 spouse may accept employment in the U.S.

U.S. businesses that employ international workers should know from the start that they must comply with an assortment federal (and sometimes also state and local) immigration and employment laws, rules, and regulations. Several government agencies will have the right to examine your employment files, your job site or sites, and in fact your entire business operation to check on your compliance. USCIS, the Department of Labor, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (or “ICE”), and the U.S. State Department regularly conduct employer compliance investigations. The government is serious about enforcement, so let an experienced immigration lawyer confirm that your own business is compliant or show you what needs to be changed.

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THE HELP EMPLOYERS NEED

If an employer is cited or investigated for non-compliance, a good immigration attorney can recommend the best legal strategy and the changes necessary to avoid further trouble in the future. If your company is investigated, cited, or currently appealing an unfavorable ruling or finding from a court or a government agency, your company will require the knowledge and services of a savvy and experienced immigration lawyer.

In the United States, no field of law is more complicated or confusing than immigration law. Moreover, immigration regulations and laws are constantly changing and evolving, so employers will want to place their immigration needs and concerns in the hands of an attorney who focuses exclusively on immigration matters. If you own, manage, or do the hiring for a U.S.-based company that hires international workers, you can obtain help right away from an experienced Ohio immigration attorney. Owners, hiring managers, and international workers themselves can contact an experienced immigration lawyer to have your immigration concerns addressed, your visa questions answered, or to initiate the H-1B visa application procedure. Do not wait. The April 1 H-1B deadline is almost here, so start preparing – and make the call – as quickly as possible.

The EB-5 Investor Visa

If you are a knowledgeable international investor, and if you have been seeking to put your resources to work in the United States, you probably already know that attractive investment opportunities are abundant in every region of the country. Through the EB-5 investor visa program, the United States government permits international investors to enter, live, and work in the U.S. with their families if their investment is expected to boost the U.S. economy. In return for their investment, international investors and their immediate families are issued visas, and as the terms of the EB-5 program are met, international investors and their families quickly become eligible to acquire green cards.

The EB-5 investor visa significantly differs from the E-2 investor visa. The EB-5 establishes a path to lawful permanent residency while the E-2 visa is strictly a non-immigrant visa. All qualified international investors may apply for the EB-5 visa, while only investors from “treaty partner nations” (nations with which the U.S. maintains a treaty of commerce) may apply for the E-2 visa. The basic requirements of the EB-5 investor visa program are outlined and discussed below, but international investors can and should address their specific questions and concerns regarding the EB-5 investor visa program to a good immigration lawyer in the United States. From anywhere in the world, you can arrange to speak with an experienced Ohio immigration attorney, learn more about the EB-5 investor visa program, have your questions answered and concerns addressed, and begin the process of applying for an EB-5 investor visa.

A BOOST TO THE ECONOMY

It’s taken years for most international investors to find out about the EB-5 program and its benefits. In 2003, thirteen years after the program was established, only 65 EB-5 visas were issued to international investors. But in 2008, when banks started refusing to lend in response to the recession, the EB-5 program offered developers substantial and immediately available investment capital. Today the EB-5 investor visa program brings approximately $1.8 billion into the U.S. annually.

The Immigration Act of 1990 specifically created the EB-5 investor visa program to permit the entry into the United States of qualified international investors as lawful permanent residents. The EB-5 visa is offered to those who have invested or are investing at least $1 million in a U.S.-based commercial enterprise that will create ten or more full-time U.S.-based jobs. In a designated high-unemployment region – what the EB-5 program calls a “Targeted Employment Area” or “TEA” – the minimum investment is only $500,000. The EB-5 investor visa program was created to boost the U.S. economy through the infusion of capital and the creation of jobs by offering international investors the benefits of lawful permanent residence in the United States.

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A BENEFIT TO EVERYONE

When the EB-5 program was first implemented in 1990, international investors were required to create a wholly new business enterprise in the United States. The rules have been amended since that time. Today, provided that a sufficient number of new jobs are created, EB-5 investments may also be made into already-established U.S.-based businesses. Most EB-5 program participants invest through the EB-5 Regional Center Program. Regional centers are private-sector groups that pool investor funds to develop resorts, hotels, and similar projects.

Investments made through the EB-5 program are a benefit to everyone. For example, international EB-5 investors are helping to bring prosperity back to one of San Francisco’s most impoverished neighborhoods. The 775-acre, $8 billion “Shipyards” project in San Francisco’s Candlestick Point and Hunters Point neighborhoods was delayed for years by insufficient funding. The Shipyards project is now set to build 12,000 new homes, office buildings, a retail center, and hundreds of acres of parks. Other plans include community health facilities, an arts center, and refurbished studio space at reasonable rates for the neighborhood’s many artists. David Satterfield, speaking for Lennar Urban, the developer of Shipyards, told China Daily that “The U.S. financial crisis from 2007 to 2010 slowed the project and EB-5 money has helped get it re-started.” In Miami, EB-5 investors have helped to construct university buildings, restaurants, and a number of other successful enterprises. Other projects that have received EB-5 Regional Center funding include the Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project in Manhattan, the City Point Project in Brooklyn, and the SLS Las Vegas Hotel & Casino.

From the years 2005 through 2013, the EB-5 investor visa program generated more than $5 billion in direct investment into the United States. The program gives investors from around the world the opportunity to live and work in the United States with their families and to pursue the American Dream. It gives developers and business owners in the United States a way to obtain the investment funds they need to launch new enterprises and bring sluggish businesses and entire communities back to life. Workers in the U.S. get more jobs and job opportunities. Everybody wins. A return rate of about eight percent is typical, but what many international investors care about far more is the ability to live and work in the United States and to acquire visas and eventually green cards for their spouses and their dependent minor children.

TARGETED EMPLOYMENT AREAS

For the international investors who participate in the EB-5 investor visa program, placing an investment in a designated Targeted Employment Area or TEA reduces the minimum investment amount to $500,000. An EB-5 investment must be set in a rural region or in a location with a high unemployment rate in order to receive the TEA designation, and not in what the U.S. Office of Management and Budget classifies as a “metropolitan statistical area.” What that means is that a rural area project cannot be located adjacent to a municipality with a population of 20,000 or above. To qualify as a Targeted Employment Area or TEA, the location must have an unemployment rate of at least 150 percent of the national U.S. average.

To acquire a TEA designation, an EB-5 investor visa candidate must offer documentation proving the project is set a rural area or a high unemployment area. Several forms of evidence are accepted. Let an experienced U.S. immigration attorney help you compile that evidence and provide you with other important insights and advice. Nineteen U.S. states make available a list of TEAs that have already been identified and designated, but you are not limited to those states or regions. TEA designations are also still approved on an individual basis.

Obtaining an EB-5 visa and finding the investment opportunity that’s right for you can take some time and determination, but international investors in the EB-5 investor visa program have learned that the rewards are very much worth their efforts and patience. An experienced immigration lawyer in the United States can help qualified international investors acquire EB-5 visas, help them to locate ideal investment opportunities, and address any of an international investor’s other questions or concerns. When an international investor’s EB-5 visa petition is approved, the investor and his or her dependents are granted conditional permanent residence valid for two years. Within the ninety-day period before the conditional permanent residence expires, the investor must submit evidence documenting that the full required investment has been made and that ten jobs have been maintained, created, or will be created within a reasonable period of time.

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CHANGES MAY BE COMING

At the end of a year of uncertainty, Congress in December extended the life of the EB-5 investor visa program – with no changes – through September 2016 as part of the omnibus spending bill. Congress came close several times in 2015 to making changes in the EB-5 program, and several suggestions were offered, but at the end of the year, the EB-5 program was renewed “as is.” Lawmakers now have until September 2016 to consider a number of proposals, including but not limited to:

  • increasing the available number of EB-5 visas, now capped at 10,000 per year
  • amending the definition of a Targeted Employment Area
  • increasing the minimum investment amount from $500,000 to $800,000
  • establishing stiffer penalties for non-compliance with any terms of the EB-5 program

The number and variety of EB-5-related ideas and proposals that surfaced in 2015 proves how important the EB-5 investor visa program is to the U.S. and the U.S. economy. International investors can best take advantage of the EB-5 visa program and the many great investment opportunities in the United States by working from the start alongside an experienced U.S. immigration lawyer who routinely helps investors and other business professionals dealing with immigration issues.

International investors should also understand that it may take some time to obtain an EB-5 visa. With only 10,000 EB-5 visas available each year, it’s imperative to initiate the application process as early as possible. The program reached capacity for the first time in August 2014 when the State Department stopped issuing EB-5 visas until the beginning of the next fiscal year, October 2014. The EB-5 visa is a superlative path to lawful permanent residency in the United States for those international investors with the will, the resources, and the vision to pursue it. Obtain legal immigration advice that you can trust, and learn more about the EB-5 investor visa program – or begin the application process now – by consulting with an experienced Ohio immigration attorney.

Temporary Visas For Journalists And Performers

If you want to enter the United States temporarily for employment, the precise work you perform and the precise nature of your employer’s business will determine which visa is right for you. If you are a working international journalist or performer – or if you work with a journalist or a performer in a support capacity – have your immigration concerns addressed and obtain the sound legal advice you need by consulting a seasoned, trustworthy Ohio immigration lawyer. If you are planning to enter and work in the United States, make the call now. If you qualify, you should have no trouble obtaining a visa, but visas do take time, so you’ll want to avoid any mistakes or misunderstandings that could delay the process. Let an immigration attorney help.

If you are a print, television, internet, or radio journalist entering the United States exclusively to gather news, and you have no intention to remain in the country, you’ll need to apply for an “I” visa. It’s issued to reporters, editors, directors, producers, technicians, and photojournalists. The I visa allows you to work in the U.S. for only a specified employer; free-lance work is not allowed. An I visa has an expiration date and does not provide a path to a green card or to U.S. citizenship.

If you are entering the United States to work in film or television as an actor, director, or producer, you’ll need to apply for an O-1 visa. Applicants must have a U.S. employer or sponsor and demonstrate a record of “extraordinary” achievement such as awards, award nominations, and a history of successful film or television endeavors. Television and film crew members who assist O-1 visa recipients may be provided with the O-2 visa.

If you perform as an individual or as part of a group, you’ll need to apply for the P-1 temporary visa. The P-2 visa is for those who accompany the P-1 visa holder and assist with that performer’s work. You’ll need a legal employment contract to acquire any one of these visas, along with some preparation, patience, and the advice and services of an experienced immigration attorney. If you are a foreign-national journalist or performer, or if you are the employer, obtain the advice and legal services you need and speak right away with an experienced Ohio immigration lawyer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Honesty Is Still The Best Policy

If an immigrant marries a U.S. citizen only to get a green card, or if a foreign national in the United States claims falsely to be a U.S. citizen, either of those deceptions can result in the permanent denial of immigration benefits. If you want to obtain a visa, a green card, or naturalized U.S. citizenship, the best way is to have the guidance of a trustworthy immigration attorney here in the U.S. There’s never a need for deception. An experienced Columbus immigration lawyer can usually help you reach your goals in the United States.

When a U.S. citizen takes money to marry a foreign national – or does it “as a favor” – it’s marriage fraud. “Mail-order” marriages are fraudulent if obtaining a green card is one party’s only reason for marrying. Tricking a U.S. citizen into marriage – and making that person think the marriage will be “for real” – is also marriage fraud. A marriage performed solely for the purpose of dodging immigration laws constitutes the crime of marriage fraud. You can serve up to five years in a federal prison and be fined up to $250,000 if you are convicted of marriage fraud. Both foreign nationals and U.S. citizens may be prosecuted for fraudulent marriages.

If you are not a United States citizen, it’s never a wise idea to claim that you are. It won’t help you obtain a car loan, rent an apartment, or land a job. You’ll be caught, possibly deported, and probably charged with criminal fraud. If you are not a U.S. citizen, you cannot claim citizenship to get a loan, a home, a passport, or anything else. When you complete an I-9 employment form, you must tell the truth. Deception can’t help you, but an experienced Columbus immigration lawyer usually can. Obtain the sound legal advice and guidance you need to reach your goals in the U.S. by contacting an experienced Columbus immigration lawyer as quickly as possible.

 

 

 

 

 

The Supreme Court Will Decide

The Obama Administration will ask the Supreme Court to uphold the president’s plan to defer deportation for millions of immigrants. In November, the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a federal judge’s injunction against the plan. The president has issued executive orders to protect from deportation parents whose children are citizens or legal permanent residents along with immigrants who were brought to the United States as minor children by their parents. Twenty-six states challenged the plan in court. The appeals court panel – by a two-to-one vote – agreed with the lower court judge and blocked the implementation of the executive orders. Representing the Obama Administration, the U.S. Justice Department will take the case to the nation’s highest court.

Part of the executive action included the expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, protecting immigrants from deportation if they were brought to the U.S. as children. The other part, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, would extend deportation protections to parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have already been in the country since at least 2010. Justice Department spokesman Patrick Rodenbush told the Associated Press that the department “remains committed to taking steps that will resolve the immigration litigation as quickly as possible” so that the Department of Homeland Security can prioritize “the removal of the worst offenders, not people who have long ties to the United States and who are raising American children.”

Unfortunately, “as quickly as possible” may not be quickly enough for many immigrants. In 2013, the government conducted 438,421 deportations, and thousands more remain at risk. If you are an immigrant and you need sound legal advice regarding any immigration matter, speak at once with an experienced Ohio immigration attorney. If you need information about deferred action, acquiring a work visa, or about deportation proceedings, call right away. If a deportation is currently pending against you or someone you love, you need help and advice at once. Contact an experienced Ohio immigration attorney immediately for the legal advice you can trust and the legal representation you need.