Articles Posted in Business Immigration

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last-nook-1-1250984smallA new agreement aims to make sure that labor rights are protected for employees in the U.S., specifically for foreign nationals. The U.S. Justice Department and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the United Mexican States recently established a formal partnership to protect migrant workers from discrimination based on citizenship, immigrant status and national origin.

Partnership against Discrimination in the Workplace

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and Mexican Ambassador Carlos Sada signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) last week, which formalizes the process for immigrant workers to have their discrimination complaints considered by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

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1034792_canadian_flag.jpgAs an immigration lawyer who often represents Canadian citizens, it is important to keep up with changes for the TN category — one of the most used visas for Canadian citizens. A few new filing options for TN status is of particular interest to my Canadian clients:

Since October 1st, 2012, USCIS began accepting applications seeking TN classification for Canadian citizens who are outside of the United States. Previously, USCIS only accepted Form I-129 in connection with extension or change of status to TN nonimmigrant. Canadians seeking to file initial applications for TN status had to make them in person at a U.S. Customs Pre-Border Protection (CBP) pre-flight inspection station, land border, or airport. Canadians now have the option of applying at a port of entry or by having their sponsoring employer file ahead of time with a USCIS service center.

Due to the unpredictability and inconsistencies sometimes faced at the border, many TN applicants are now choosing to file ahead of time. This change allows for better planning and predictability for TN applicants.

As a reminder, Immigration Officers will routinely limit the validity of the TN visa to the expiration date of the Canadian citizen’s passport. For this reason, particularly if the employer is requesting a period of admission of three years, it is important to have a valid passport with an expiration date that covers the period requested.

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Although politicians are eager to institute reforms in immigration policy that will generate good will in the form of votes from immigrant communities, some policy changes should also be aimed at stimulating the economy. As an immigration attorney in Texas, I am often asked by local students on limited visas why the U.S. government places what seem to be significant limitations for them to establish new companies in the United States. These new companies are the backbone of innovation in a variety of industries and would create a large number of new jobs.

A recent article by two MIT professors, Bill Aulet and Matt Marx address this issue. As teachers at the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, they encounter dozens of students each year from foreign countries. Many of these students are eager to found new companies in the U.S. that would expand or innovate existing technologies and positively impact American industries, but the present immigration policy does not allow them to engage in entrepreneurial activity.

For students on a student visa, the only options after graduation are to go abroad and find opportunities to establish companies in more welcoming countries like Canada, Singapore or Australia, or to remain in the United States on a H-1B visa which allows them to become an employee at an existing company.

This perceived, unwelcoming attitude from the federal government is based on the government’s clamping down on all avenues of ingress into the country. This is, of course, a response to the horrifying attacks on the World Trade Center and there are legitimate security concerns in limiting wholesale immigration into the country. Unfortunately, this has led to many potential immigrants feeling like they are being interrogated for past or potential crimes through the immigration process.

There are some consequences to the economy that cannot be ignored. Global competition for talented professionals with the resources to create successful companies is intense and America’s restrictive immigration policies are driving these highly desirable entrepreneurs to other countries. This is stifling economic growth at a time when job creation is sorely needed. Almost 25 percent of the highest growth U.S. companies were initially begun by an immigrant.

The federal government and President Obama have recognized the need to retain and attract foreign-born entrepreneurs. Recently, the Entrepreneur Pathways program was announced by Alejandro Mayorkas, Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. This program provides visa options and the necessary procedures to obtain them to prospective entrepreneurs. The White House is also asking immigration experts to collaborate with Congressional and business leaders to develop immigration proposals that would improve processes for foreign-born entrepreneurial activity.

As an experienced immigration attorney, I am excited to see the United States government take positive steps towards welcoming the best and brightest from other countries. With the recent elections suggesting that immigrant communities will continue to play important roles in American society, it is not a surprise that economic considerations should also provide stimulus for immigration reform.

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As an immigration attorney, I am often asked “What are some of the most expeditious ways to gain entry to the country?” If you possess certain professional skills and have an employer waiting to hire you in the United States, one of the easiest ways to enter the country is to obtain a TN Visa. In 1988, when Congress passed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), they established the TN Visa to allow entry of certain types of professionals who have a job already lined up in the country. This visa is available to Canadian and Mexican citizens who have been trained as medical professionals, researchers, financial experts, or other high demand professionals.

In order to obtain a TN Visa, you must have an offer of employment from a business or organization in the United States. You must also have a Bachelor’s Degree or educational credentials requisite for the stated profession. You must present the letter of offered employment to immigration officials at the U.S. border along with documentation of educational degree, professional license or employment records demonstrating you are a qualified professional. You must also present a passport or birth certificate proving you are a citizen of Canada or Mexico.

As a TN visa attorney, I can vouch for the numerous advantages to utilizing the TN Visa. The visa provides temporary legal status for up to three years and extends to your spouse and any minor children. Your immediate family members are allowed to reside with you during your time in the U.S., however, they are not permitted to find employment unless they also qualify for a TN Visa or some type of work permit. Furthermore, the TN Visa can be renewed multiple times with no maximum number of years. You do not need to leave the country and re-enter to renew this visa; as long as your employer sponsors you, you may remain in the country.

The TN Visa can be acquired very quickly because it does not require official sponsorship from the Canadian or Mexican government. Unlike other visas, for Canadians, the TN Visa may be obtained at the border as long as proper documentation is provided. There is no cap on the number of Canadians who may receive a TN Visa, however, the number of Mexicans is limited. The TN status also confers a non-residency designation upon you, so you may not be required to pay state or federal taxes on income received.

There are some important considerations to make when choosing the TN Visa. TN status is considered a temporary status by the U.S. government, so you may be asked to show that you intend to leave once the visa expires. If you wish to change your status to legal residency through a green card, you must first obtain a visa other than TN.

Finally, if you apply for a TN Visa, you are strongly advised to seek legal assistance. The paperwork is not overly arduous, but it requires attention to detail and specific knowledge of immigration laws that are best handled by a trained legal professional.

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good investor 2-594.jpgThe purpose of this post is to provide general answers to common questions I receive about the E visa as an Austin immigration lawyer.

What is an E-2 visa and how can it help me develop a business in the United States?

The E category is especially useful for managers, business owners, and employees who need to remain in the United States for extended periods of time to oversee, supervise, or work in a business that represents a major investment in the United States. Most people know about the EB-5 investor program, where a potential investor can invest a million dollars or in some instances a half a million dollars and obtain permanent residency. What many people do not know is that you do not need a million dollars or even a half a million dollars to get a visa that allows you to work and live in the United States. The E-2 visa can be used by investors who want to remain the United States for purposes of overseeing that investment. An E visa lawyer that help you determine what E visa is right for you.

What is the difference between the E-1 visa and the E-2 visa?

The E-1 visa is typically for purposes of conducting trade between the United States and a foreign country. The E-2 visa is for overseeing investment in the United States.

Can anyone apply for an E-1 or an E-2?

No. The E visa is only available if a Treaty of Commerce and Navigation or a Bilateral Investment Treaty is in existence between the United States and the foreign State (except for Australia and Sweden, which are covered without a treaty). The U.S. Department of State publishes a list of treaty counties and what categories they qualify for.

How much money do I need to invest to qualify for an E-2 visa?

It depends on the type of business you are investing in. There have been cases won with as little as a $50,000 investment, although most businesses invest an average of $100,000. The investor is required to make a commitment of funds that represents an actual, active investment. Passive investments do not count. Meet with an E visa immigration lawyer to get more details on active versus passive investment.

Is the E-1 or E-2 visa a path to citizenship?

No. The E visa does not lead to permanent residence. However, the E visa can be renewed almost indefinitely. Typically, the initial period of stay granted for E visas is 2 years.

I am already in the United States on a different visa. Can I change my status to E-2?

Yes. This is possible for certain people. However, people who have entered the United States using the Visa Waiver program, will not be able to change status within the United States to E-1 or E-2. They are however able to pursue the E status from the U.S. embassy in their home country.

I do not have a business set up in the United States, I do not have an LLC or a Corporation, but I am interested in the E visa. Can you help me set up my business?

The Lyttle Law Firm, PLLC partners up with another firm in Austin that will help you set up an LLC or any business structure of your choosing. They can also help you with drafting of by-laws, to get a Tax ID number, and even to draft a business plan. This is an advantage because both the immigration attorney and the business attorney must work together and share information to pursue the E visa.

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