Counseling Indviduals and Companies of all International Backgrounds with Immigration Matters to Living and Working in the United States

Nonimmigrant Visas
Visa Waiver Program
As of January 12, 2009, a valid ESTA approval is required for all Visa Waiver Program (VWP) travelers to travel to the United States. The Department of Homeland Security’s Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is a free, automated system used to determine the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States under the VWP. It collects the same information as the paper I-94W form that VWP travelers fill out en route to the United States. ESTA applications may be submitted at any time prior to travel. An ESTA authorization generally will be valid for up to two years. Authorizations will be valid for multiple entries into the United States. DHS recommends that travelers submit an ESTA application as soon as they begin making travel plans.

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) enables nationals of participating countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business (visitor B visa purposes only) for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. The program was established to eliminate unnecessary barriers to travel, stimulating the tourism industry, and permitting the Department of State to focus consular resources in other areas. VWP eligible travelers may apply for a visa, if they prefer to do so.

Business or Pleasure Visitors (B-1/B-2)
Generally, individuals who wish to enter the United States quickly and for brief periods of time for business, pleasure or medical purposes must first obtain a visa, such as a nonimmigrant visa for temporary stay. The visitor visa is a nonimmigrant visa for persons desiring to enter the United States temporarily for business (B-1) or for pleasure or medical treatment (B-2).

The presumption in the INA is that every visitor visa applicant is an intending immigrant. Therefore, applicants for visitor visas must overcome this presumption by demonstrating that:

  • The purpose of their trip is to enter the U.S. for business, pleasure, or medical treatment;
  • They plan to remain for a specific, limited period; and
  • They have a residence outside the U.S. as well as other binding ties which will insure their return abroad at the end of the visit.

B-1 and B-2 visitors cannot engage in active employment in the United States. Funding for the trip and stay of the B-1 and B-2 visitors cannot derive from employment inside the U.S.

Treaty Traders and Treaty Investors (E-1/E-2)
The United States has entered into reciprocal treaties with countries which permit foreign nationals to obtain E-1 and/or E-2 visas in order to develop and direct businesses in the United States. A foreign national may apply for an E-1 or E-2 visa directly at a U.S. consulate, or may apply for change of status in the United States to E-1 or E-2 status. An E-1 visa is for an E-1 Treaty Trader, and an En-2 visa is for an E-2 Treaty Investor.

Some basic requirements for obtaining an E-1 Treaty Trader visa are the following:

  • There must be a qualifying treaty with the country of the beneficiary's nationality.
  • The beneficiary and the company must possess the nationality of the treaty country.
  • The activities of the business must constitute "trade".
  • The trade must be "substantial".
  • The trade must be principally (at least 50%) between the United States and the treaty country.

Some basic requirements for obtaining an E-2 Treaty Investor visa are the following:

  • There must be a qualifying treaty with the country of the beneficiary's nationality.
  • The beneficiary and the company must possess the nationality of the treaty country.
  • There must be an investment, or the active process of investing, in a business that must be a real and operating commercial enterprise.
  • The investment must be "substantial" and more than a marginal one solely for earning a living.

Specialty Occupation Professionals (H-1B)
The H-1B visa is available to college-educated professionals. A few of the basic requirements for H-1B status are:

  • A job offer in a "specialty occupation," which generally means that the position requires a college degree or equivalent.
  • The employee meets the requirements of the "specialty occupation," which generally means that the employee possesses a college degree, a foreign equivalent, or a combination of education and experience equivalent to a college degree.
  • A Labor Condition Application (LCA) approved by the Department of Labor.

An H-1B petition may be valid initially for up to three years, and may be extended for another three years. Extension beyond six years is permitted in certain circumstances for foreign nationals applying for permanent resident status.

Intracompany Transferees (L-1A/L-1B)
Executives, managers, and specialized knowledge employees of multinational organizations are eligible for L-1 visas. Executives and managers may be admitted for up to seven years with L-1A status, and specialized knowledge workers for five years with L-1B status. The regulations permit only a one-year L-1 visa for a foreign national employed by a new company doing business less than one year in the United States, but the new company may apply for a three year extension at the end of the one-year L-1 status.

Few Basic requirements for an L-1 visa are as follows:

  • The employee must have one year of continuous employment experience abroad within the three years preceding the application;
  • The employment abroad must have been with a parent, branch, affiliate, or subsidiary of an existing or new U.S. entity;
  • The employment abroad and in the U.S. must be in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity.

Temporary Religious Workers (R-1)
The religious worker visa category is for foreign nationals coming to the United States to work in a religious capacity.

A few of the requirements for the R-1 Visa are the following:

  • Applicant must be a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide nonprofit religious organization in the United States.
  • The religious denomination and its affiliate, if applicable, are exempt from taxation, or the religious denomination qualifies for tax-exempt status.
  • The applicant has been a member of the denomination for two years immediately preceding the filing of the application.