Business immigration to the United States is frequently associated with the EB-5 investor visa program, which allows foreign investors to obtain a Green Card by investing at least $1 million (or $500,000 in highly unemployed or rural areas) in U.S. commercial enterprises linked with regional centers approved by USCIS. While the EB-5 investor visa might be the most desirable way for some businesspeople to immigrate to the U.S., it might not be the most suitable route for others because of the large amount of investment requirement and the financial risks associated with it. Fortunately, business immigration is not limited to the EB-5 investor visa alone, and the U.S. immigration regulations contemplate other options for those who want to obtain a Green Card through business, but are not able or willing to take such significant financial risks. These alternative options are set forth under different titles within the immigration regulations and are frequently overlooked when businesspeople outside the U.S. seek to obtain a Green Card through investment.
U.S. immigration law offers five different types of employment-based immigration, which are divided into categories called “preference categories.” Most of these categories require a U.S. employers’ petition and Labor Certificate. Therefore, I will discuss here only those that can be obtained through self-petition and which are the most relevant to the present topic.
The first preference EB-1 category allows a person to obtain a Green Card by demonstrating his or her extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, athletics, or in business. The petitioner’s exceptional talent must be demonstrated through extensive documentation and the standard to meet this requirement is quite high. On the other hand, unlike when dealing with other business-related petitions, the petitioner is not required to have a U.S. employer and obtain a Labor Certificate. There is no investment requirement, either. Moreover, if the petitioner is willing to invest money in a U.S. business, he or she will not be limited to only those commercial enterprises that are associated with regional centers approved by USCIS.
National Interest Waiver
One of the sub-categories of the second preference EB-2 category also allows immigration by self-petitioning without an employer and a Labor Certificate. By applying for an immigrant visa or adjustment of status under this sub-category, an alien is requesting that the Labor Certification be waived because it is in the interest of the United States. That is why this sub-category is referred to as “National Interest Waiver.” National interest waivers are usually granted to those who have exceptional ability and whose employment in the United States would greatly benefit the nation. In order to meet the requirements of the National Interest Waiver, the applicant must show that the business he or she will be conducting will serve the national interest to a substantially greater degree than would an available U.S. worker having the same minimum qualifications.
L-1A Intracompany Transferee Executive or Manager
Under the L-1 nonimmigrant visa classification, a U.S. employer can transfer an executive or manager from one of its affiliated foreign offices to one of its offices in the United States. This classification also enables a foreign company which does not have a U.S. office to send an executive or manager to the United States with the purpose of opening one. The initial period of stay for transferees is three years and for those opening a new office is one year. An L-1A visa holder can also request an extension, which may be granted in increments of up to an additional two years, until the employee has reached the maximum limit of seven years. Within this seven-year period, the L-1 visa holder can self-petition under the EB-1 preference category and become a Green Card holder. And, again, there is no defined investment amount in order to do so.
E-1 trade and E-2 investor visas
Lastly, it is worth mentioning the E-1 and E-2 non-immigrant visa categories. These visa categories do not pave a path to a Green Card, but they can be renewed indefinitely as long as their holder is still conducting business in the U.S. For an E-1 visa, instead of investing money in a commercial enterprise, a petitioner is required to be engaged in international trade. In order to obtain an E-2 visa, one needs to invest in a commercial enterprise located in the U.S., but unlike for the EB-5 investor visa, the law does not specify the amount of investment required. These visa classifications are discussed in more detail on my website at the following link.
In conclusion, I should indicate that no matter which of the above-discussed visa categories one might choose, the application process will require extensive documentation to meet the established requirements. Frequently, apart from an immigration lawyer, other professionals such as international tax specialists, real estate consultants, etc. are involved in the process. Therefore, diligent and far-in-advance planning are necessary in order to avoid application denials or other ramifications.
Should you have any questions or if you would like to schedule a consultation, please contact me by submitting the form or by calling me at (917) 426-8227 or (248) 979-5390. I accept clients from across the U.S. and around the world.