Business Visas

 

business-usa-bannerBusiness VisasThe United States has a variety of business programs, including L-1, E-2 and EB-5.  

 

L-1 is good for people who have a significant business abroad, where they have 10 or more official employees. It is intended for them to come and either (a) buy a business in the U.S.; or (b) to start a new one.  In order to be eligible for an L-1 Visa, the Intracompany Transferee must have already worked for a foreign company that has a subsidiary, parent, affiliate, or branch in the U.S. Specifically, the L-1 Beneficiary must have been employed outside of the United States for the corporation, subsidiary, or affiliate on a full-time basis for at least one year (continuous) out of the most recent three years in order to qualify. 

 

E-2 visa is good for almost anyone who is coming to the U.S. and is either (a) buying or (b) starting a new business. There is no requirement to have anything abroad; the only requirements are (a) it is a REAL business that produces income (not one apartment to rent out); and (b) investment of about $100K (or more), which can be in kind (equipment, inventory) or in cash. Note that when purchasing an existing business (or a franchise), the purchase price is the investment amount. 

 

EB-5 can be used for people to start their own business, but mostly it is used for people who want a Green Card, but don’t want to start or operate their own business. In EB-5, the basic requirements are that you have to invest $500,000 and create 10 full-time jobs. Although investors can do this on their own, most choose to have an investment center to handle such details. 

 

Below is a summary of each visa: 

 

L-1 

 

work-visaL1Transferring Ukrainian employees to the U.S. can have major benefits for an American company.  In certain fields, such as IT sector, the Silicon Valley employers wish to relocate their Ukrainian managers, executives and/or talented subcontractors to their headquarters in Palo Alto.  Or it could be a Ukrainian company sending one its top employees to the U.S. to establish an office in Miami.  Whenever this business need arises, the Ukrainian employee must obtain an L visa. 

 

L-1A usually starts as a visa, which can become a Green Card. The success (whether you will be able to get the Green Card) depends on the success of your business. If you do not have a large staff within two years, you will not get the Green Card. On the other hand, if your business is operational and has approximately 10 or more employees, you are likely to approved for a Green Card. 

 

Certain requirements exist regarding the Ukrainian employee’s role.  Specifically, L-1A is meant strictly for executives or managers, not the hired help. An executive is someone who oversees the business and makes strategic decisions. A manager is someone who operates a department or the business, but actually manages the employees. Example: there is an owner of the hotel, and then there is the manager (or few managers) that oversee the operations. 

 

Employees entering the U.S. to open a new office can initially stay in the country under an L-1(a) visa for up to one (1) year, while qualified employees transferring to an existing US affiliate can initially stay for up to three (3) years. 

 

The requirements for L-1 are the following:

 

1. Business abroad is active and real (tax returns, chart of all employees, copies of their diplomas, payment records, photos of the office, etc.)
2. Applicant must have worked for the business (in addition to being an owner) for at least 1 year prior to arriving to U.S.
3. Applicant must decide whether he/she is an executive or a manager.
4. Two businesses (Ukrainian and American) must be affiliated. For purposes of immigration, it means either:
 
a. Two businesses must have the same owners in approximately the same percentages (e.g., if three partners owns 33% of the Ukrainian business, the same partners must own the same percentage in the U.S. company); or
b. One of the companies must be a subsidiary of the other.

 

In order to receive the first L-l visa, which is issued for 1 year, we have to show that the business abroad exists and prepare a business plan for the U.S. company. The U.S. business does not have to be fully operational, only rent an office, open a bank account, and submit a business plan for approval. However, we have to renew this in 1 year (for a 2-year period), and by that time you should have 3-4 employees, so you should get to work as soon as you get the visa (hire staff, etc.) in order to show 1 year later that the business can support an executive or manager. The next renewal, after 2 years expires, is for 3 years.

 

Most people on an L-1 visa want to get a Green Card.  To do so, they can apply at any time, but first they will need a staff of 10+ professional employees (with diplomas/degrees or supervisors, not lower-level staff) with a salary of about $35K or above.  That is very hard to accomplish.

 

In conclusion, to get L-l, you will need a functioning company abroad and full-time employees in the U.S. (for a Green Card, we need 10 or more employees in the U.S.)  If you plan to have a group of people (two or more), then the U.S. company must be proportionately bigger.  Instead of having 10 employees, which 1 manager can handle, the U.S. authorities will require more employees. In other words, the more applicants, the bigger the operation.

 

The spouses of the L-l visa holders get L-2 visas (for spouses and children), as well as the work permit, which they can use to work anywhere in the U.S., including your own company. This way, your wife can be a financial administrator, company director, etc., which increases the employee count of your company.

 

In practical terms, getting a Green Card through L-1 visa is extremely difficult.  Just imagine: you’re a new business in a foreign country, where you don’t know the language, local business practices, and no local contacts. It takes many years to create a company that employs 10 professionals on a full time basis.

 

One way to overcome this challenge is to purchase an existing business from someone who wants to retire, who has the clients, cash flow and employees. It reduces your risk of losing money while increasing your investment portfolio. Note, however, that a profitable business will not come cheap (starting at $500,000). Some people buy companies for $150,000 - $200,000, and attempt to build it up to 10 employees, but they often spend $600,000 or more trying to increase that business.

 

So the practical advice is that you’re always better off if you buy an existing operation (franchising?) and you should be prepared to pay for it. Alternatively, you will start on this track, and several months later you will need an extension, so you are going to hire people and pay them salaries out of your pocket just to obtain that extension. Many people get their Green Cards through L visas, but they end up losing a lot of money to subsidize their businesses.  That is why EB-5 is the easiest option (where you get your money back after 5 years).

 

Also, for L visas, the business in Ukraine has to continue working once you’re approved for extension and for the Green Card; you cannot come to America without an affiliate business abroad.  Remember: L is an intra-company transferee program, so if you do not have a foreign company, you do not qualify.

 

To learn more about legal and practical aspects of obtaining L-1A visas, please contact us anytime.  We will help you understand the U.S. policies and requirements for obtaining an L visa, as well as prepare and file your visa application correctly.

 

E-2

 

e2visaE2Note that E-2 is a non-immigrant visa, so it does NOT lead to a Green Card, no matter how many times you re-new it. However, the spouse also gets an E-2 visa and a work permit in the U.S. (an opportunity for a career with a U.S. company that may lead to a Green Card through the work program). As such, E-2 is an excellent gateway to America.

  

The requirements for the E-2 visa are as follows:

  

An investor has to (a) invest “in the vicinity” of $100,000 in cash or in kind (inventory or equipment); (b) own at least 50% of the business; (c) real and viable business (renting one apartment is NOT a business, but twenty apartments – maybe).

  

The business has to be “more than marginal,” (i.e., 1-2 employees or sufficient income to support the investor). Example of “more than marginal” business: your import-ехport business that needs no employees, but makes more than $200K/year (example: export used U.S. cars/trucks to Ukraine).

  

As a rule, anyone who wants to open any kind of business can use the E-2 visa.  The downside is that the E-2 visa is issued for 3 months, but the stay in the U.S. is for 2 years. Procedurally, the applicant must enter the U.S. within 3 months after issuance of E-2 visa, and they can stay in the U.S. and run their business for the next 2 years, but if the applicant wants to travel outside of the U.S., their visa will expire and they will need to go to U.S. Consulate abroad and renew the visa.

  

This visa works well for people who want to come over and stay in the U.S. for at least two years, and who are not as affluent. However, this visa is inconvenient for those who need to travel abroad on a regular basis, because of the consular visits (though E-2 visas are easily issued upon presentation of U.S. business documents, bank account statements, etc.) This visa is also problematic for families with older children, who will lose their E-2 visas as soon as they turn 21 years of age, and will have to leave the U.S. or employ other legal options to extend their stay (e.g., student visas).

  

This is a great entry for those who have nothing to go back to, or cannot enter through other business visas. 

  

EB-5

  

IIA-webinaEB5This is the fastest and easiest visa to obtain a Green Card and, after 5 years, a U.S. passport.  The Immigrant Investor Program, also known as EB-5, is available to foreign citizens who have invested, or are in the process of investing, at least $1 million in a new commercial enterprise employing at least ten full-time U.S. workers for at least five years.  Individuals who invest in a “targeted employment area” are only required to invest a minimum of $500,000.

  

Advantages of the EB-5 visa: 

 

  • Permanent residence for your entire family with one investment
  • Husband, wife and all unmarried children under 21 receive Green Cards
  • Choose to live anywhere in US
  • Funds may come from any legal foreign or US source
  • Take any job, run or start any business, even retire
  • Any nationality may apply
  • No English language requirement
  • No business or special training required
  • Same privileges as a US citizen
  • Free public school education
  • Same University fees as a US citizen
  • Access to Medicare after 5 years
  • Wider job market for your children in the future
  • Ability to sponsor Green Cards for relatives
  • Citizenship after five years

  

Requirements of the EB-5 Visa: 

 

  • Minimum investment of $500,000
  • Medical check
  • Filing fees to the USCIS (included in administrative costs)
  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage certificate
  • Police record check
  • No previous US immigration violations
  • Detailed documentation for source of funds

 

 Questions & Answers

 

c614aa27dapermanent resident Green CardWho may apply for EB-5?

Anyone with sufficient investment funds.  Investors in EB-5 need not have a particular background or any experience, nor English language skills. However, their funds must be legally obtained.

 

How long does it take for an EB-5 applicant to get a Green Card?

Usually, it takes about one to one and a half years for an EB-5 applicant to get a conditional green card.  It takes about six months to receive approval for an I-526 petition. Petitioners living in the United States should then expect to wait another six months for approval of their adjustment of status, but this can sometimes take longer if the background check does not clear in a timely manner. Petitioners living abroad at the time of application should apply for an immigration visa through an American consulate office, a process which also takes approximately six months. After approval of the immigrant visa through consular processing, the investors and their families receive conditional green cards within a few weeks or months of arrival into the United States.

  

What is a "conditional" Green Card?

A conditional Green Card is a temporary Green Card valid for two years. An EB-5 investor first receives a conditional card before he/she is able to receive a green card without conditions. When the investor successfully applies for a removal of conditions, the investor and his immediate family members are given a permanent Green Card.

  

How do I start the process?

Just contact us to set up an appointment.

 

Does the Child Status Protection Act apply to the EB-5 program?

Generally, yes. According to USCIS, your child needs to be unmarried and under age 21 at the time the I-526 is filed.