Articles Posted in Business

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The E-2 treaty investor visa allows foreign nationals to make an investment in an existing or new business venture in the United States.

Advantages

There are no numerical limitations on the number of E-2 visas that can be issued, and there is no set minimum level of investment required, however the level of investment that should be made in the business venture should be sufficient to justify the presence of the foreign national in the United States. Although the E-2 visa is granted for an initial two-year period, the investor may qualify to extend their stay in two-year increments, with no outer limit on the total period of the foreign national’s stay.

Disadvantages

Not all foreign nationals are eligible to apply for the E-2 treaty investor visa. To qualify, you must be a foreign national from a treaty country that participates in a treaty of friendship, commerce, navigation or similar agreement with the United States. See below for qualifying countries:

Albania Czech Republic Kosovo Romania
Argentina Denmark Kyrgyzstan Serbia
Armenia Ecuador Latvia Senegal
Australia Egypt Liberia Singapore
Austria Estonia Lithuania Slovak Republic
Azerbaijan Ethiopia Luxembourg Slovenia
Bahrain Finland Macedonia Spain
Bangladesh France Mexico Sri Lanka
Belgium Georgia Moldova Suriname
Bolivia Germany Mongolia Sweden
Bosnia and Herzegovina Grenada Montenegro Switzerland
Bulgaria Honduras Morocco Thailand
Cameroon Iran The Netherlands Togo
Canada Ireland Norway Trinidad and Tobago
Chile Italy Oman Tunisia
China (Taiwan) Jamaica Pakistan Turkey
Colombia Japan Panama Ukraine
Congo (Brazzaville and Kinshasa) Jordan Paraguay United Kingdom
Costa Rica Kazakhstan Philippines Yugoslavia
Croatia South Korea Poland

Another disadvantage is that the E-2 visa is a temporary non-immigrant visa type. This means that the E-2 visa does not create a pathway to permanent residency. In addition, making an investment in a small business venture is risky. Most small businesses fail. Investors seeking to establish a new business in the United States must be prepared to face challenges, obstacles, and potential losses. If the investment will be made by a company, at least 50% of owners in the qualifying country must maintain the nationality of a treaty trader country if they are not lawful permanent residents.

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Today, May 25, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it will be publishing a proposed rule in the Federal Register on May 29th to end the International Entrepreneur Rule, a program that gives foreign entrepreneurs the opportunity to apply for parole to come to the United States for the purpose of developing or starting a business venture in the United States.

As you may be aware, during July of last year, DHS took its first steps to dismantle the program by delaying the implementation of the rule until March 14, 2018. During that time, DHS began to draft a proposal to rescind the rule. In December of 2017 however, a federal court ordered USCIS to begin accepting international entrepreneur parole applications, vacating the delay.

In an act of defiance, DHS is now seeking to eliminate the international entrepreneur rule altogether because the department believes that the rule sweeps to broadly and doesn’t provide sufficient protections for U.S. workers and investors. According to the agency, the international entrepreneur rule “is not an appropriate vehicle for attracting and retaining international entrepreneurs.” This is once again an effort by the Trump administration to undermine Obama era policies such as Deferred Action, to better align with the President’s America-first policies on immigration.

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Beginning April 30, 2018 until October 31, 2018, the California Service Center (CSC) and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at the Blaine, Washington, Port of Entry (POE) will implement a joint 6-month pilot program for the benefit of Canadian citizens seeking entry to the United States in L non-immigrant visa status pursuant to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

The L-1 Visa:

The L-1 visa designation allows a foreign company to transfer an executive or manager to an existing U.S. subsidiary or parent company of the foreign entity, or allows the foreign entity to send the executive or manager to the U.S. for the purpose of establishing an affiliated subsidiary or parent company of the foreign entity (L-1A). In addition, the foreign company can transfer an employee with specialized knowledge to the U.S. on an L-1B visa. To qualify, applicants must have worked abroad for the foreign employer for at least one year within the proceeding three years.

Under the NAFTA program, Canadians can apply to receive an L visa at the border and are not required to file an L visa application with USCIS or at a U.S. Consulate abroad. Up until this point, the application procedure involved same-day processing of an L application where the worker would file Form I-129 with supporting evidence at a Class A Port of Entry to the United States, or airport pre-clearance location, where the petition would be granted or denied at the port of entry.

Pilot Program

Under the new pilot program, petitioners may file an L petition on behalf of a Canadian citizen by first submitting Form, I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, and supporting evidence to the California Service Center, before the Canadian citizen seeks nonimmigrant L-1 admission to the United States through the Blaine Port of Entry. Petitioners should include a cover sheet annotated with “Canadian L” to ensure quick identification of the Form I-129 and for any correspondence thereafter, such as a response to a request for evidence (RFE).

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Andrew, a real estate professional and Vice President of a large real estate firm headquartered in Asia, came to our office to discuss the possibility of filing for an EB-2 National Interest Waiver. To receive a national interest waiver, the applicant must demonstrate a high level of achievements and unique skills pertaining to their position to justify a waiver of the requirements of a job offer and labor certification filing.

The challenge in Andrew’s case was the absence of demonstrated achievements in the real estate business, and various non-disclosure agreements the client had signed restricting the documentation he could provide to demonstrate his exceptional ability in the industry, based on the high net worth projects he had worked on in the real estate industry. There were however other strengths that Andrew possessed that would qualify him for the national interest waiver. Andrew possessed a law degree from his home country, a master’s degree in taxation, a master’s degree in real estate from an ivy league university, and he was licensed to practice law in the United States. In addition to possessing these advanced degrees, two of which were received in the United States, Andrew’s career in the real estate sector spanned nearly 21 years.

The difficulty however remained in that Andrew did not have many documents to present to USCIS demonstrating his achievements as an entrepreneur and real estate investor, and the projects he was working on could not be disclosed based on the confidentiality agreements he had signed. Our experienced staff and attorneys decided that the best strategy in Andrew’s case was to highlight his education and vast experience in the industry having maintained high level positions in the industry, leading international real estate teams, heading overseas real estate and property management implementation strategies across various continents, and initiating/implementing domestic real estate acquisition projects totaling more than $4 billion in investment. We are happy to report that our strategy was successful and Andrew’s national interest waiver was recently approved. Here is how we did it.

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To our loyal readers and clients, we wish you and your families very safe and happy holidays. We would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your continued trust and loyalty in our office. Our clients continue to inspire us with their stories of hope, courage, and innovation. Although it is a very challenging time for immigration law due to our current political climate, we believe that our executive and legislative branches will work together to find a solution to pressing issues that have remain unresolved for so many years. We hope that in the new year, members of Congress will begin talks to pass comprehensive immigration reform, including legislation to protect Dreamers from deportation. Whatever happens in the new year, we will be here every step of the way to help you achieve your immigration goals. See you in the new year!

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According to an internal memorandum, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has plans to conduct a targeted enforcement operation at a national food service chain within the coming weeks. An ICE official spoke with The Daily Beast, on condition of anonymity, telling the news organization that ICE plans to conduct this operation to discourage American employers from exploiting undocumented workers by paying them low wages. Officials told the news organization that the operation will be targeting multiple locations across the United States, and that employers will likely be charged with federal offenses including harboring illegal aliens.

This move is the Trump administration’s latest attempt to deter illegal immigration through worksite enforcement actions, described by the administration as targeted operations to prosecute individuals who employ undocumented immigrants. If all goes to plan, the operation will be primarily focused on prosecuting owners of franchises who illegally employ undocumented immigrants. Sources with knowledge of the investigation have said that a preliminary investigation has already been conducted and that targets have already been chosen.

The food industry has and continues to be an industry that employs thousands of undocumented workers due to the unskilled nature of the work, and the fact that employers are able to cut costs by paying undocumented workers very low salaries. According to a 2008 Pew report, at least 10 percent of the hospitality industry is supported by the labor of undocumented immigrants. Last year, Eater reported that over 20% of all cooks working in restaurant kitchens could be undocumented. Noelle Stewart, communications manager for Define American, said that undocumented immigrants make up a crucial part of our economy in that, “they cultivate our produce; they cook our food,” she says, “the food industry wouldn’t be possible in the way it is without them.”

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7541767406_8bf4575705_zNew developments have recently emerged regarding the Trump administration’s decision to dramatically scale back or rescind the International Entrepreneur Rule, passed under former President Barack Obama, a rule that would have made it easier for eligible start-up entrepreneurs to obtain temporary permission to enter the United States for a period of 30 months, through a process known as “parole,” for the purpose of starting or scaling their start-up business enterprise in the United States. International entrepreneurs would have been able to apply for this benefit beginning July 17, 2017.

However, this may all change in the coming days. The San Francisco Chronicle has reported that the Trump administration plans to undo the International Entrepreneur rule, to prevent foreign entrepreneurs from coming into the United States and starting their companies. This comes as part of President Trump’s commitment to “buy American, and hire American,” and his promise to create more jobs in the United States, by encouraging American companies to expand within the United States. All of this unfortunately comes as no surprise. It is no secret that the President has consistently expressed his anti-immigrant sentiment through his immigration policies and executive orders.

An administration official has come forward on condition of anonymity disclosing that the Trump administration plans to push back the rule’s effective date from July 17, 2017 to March 2018, to give the administration enough time to dramatically scale back the rule or get rid of the rule altogether.

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On December 27, 2016 in Matter of Dhanasar, 26 I&N Dec. 884 (AAO 2016) the USCIS Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) handed down a groundbreaking decision which has changed the analytical framework for determining eligibility of national interest waivers. This new decision will affect foreign nationals who are pursuing a green card based on employment in the EB-2 category, and who are eligible for a “national interest waiver.”

The national interest waiver is a discretionary waiver of the job offer and labor certification requirement made possible by subparagraph (A) of section 203(b)(2) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. This section of the INA states that the Secretary may, when it deems it to be in the national interest of the United States, “waive the requirements of subparagraph (A) that an alien’s services in the sciences, arts, professions, or business be sought by an employer in the United States.”  In addition to meeting a three-prong test of eligibility, to obtain a national interest waiver, the foreign national must be a member of a profession holding advanced degrees or their equivalent or prove that “because of their exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business they will substantially benefit prospectively the national economy, cultural or educational interests, or welfare of the United States.”

Without this discretionary waiver, EB-2 applications must be accompanied by a labor certification and their employer must go through the process of advertising the position to prove to immigration that there are no other applicants who are qualified, willing, and able to fill the position that the foreign national is expected to fill. Employers must also meet prevailing wage requirements as established by law. Establishing the national interest waiver in other words made it easier for qualifying foreign nationals in the EB-2 category to skip the job offer and labor certification requirement, streamlining their path to permanent residency.

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If you are a foreign entrepreneur, you have probably discovered that the United States immigration system is very limited in that there are very few visa options available to entrepreneurs that do not tie down the entrepreneur to a foreign employer, as is the case for the L and H visas. To make matters worse, if your ultimate goal is to obtain a green card to live and work in the United States permanently, you must work for an American employer willing to sponsor your adjustment of status. Although there are few exceptions, the main avenue through which entrepreneurs can gain permanent residence is either through family-sponsorship or employment-based sponsorship.

To obtain permanent residence through an employer you must either a) be a professional employed by a U.S. employer willing to sponsor your green card b) demonstrate extraordinary ability in your industry (science, arts, education, business, or athletics, c) work in a management or executive position abroad requiring international transfer to the United States or d) qualify as an EB-5 investor. In either of these cases, the U.S. employer must submit the I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker for you, before you can apply for permanent residence. If your ultimate goal is not to obtain a green card, then you have more options available to you.

We decided to write about this topic because we have found that many entrepreneurs that visit our office are not well-informed on other visa types that put them on a more direct path to permanent residence. Often times the topic of conversation leads to the E-2 Treaty trader visa, by far the most discussed visa type among entrepreneurs. Few entrepreneurs however have heard about the L-1 visa classification, that may in some ways be more beneficial to foreign entrepreneurs wishing to live and work in the United States permanently. Below we discuss both visa types and the advantages and disadvantages of both visas.

The E-2 visa, the most talked about visa:

Without a doubt, the most popular visa option entrepreneurs ask about is the E-2 visa. Many entrepreneurs however do not know that the E-2 visa is not available to everyone, and it is not a path to permanent residence. The E-2 visa is a non-immigrant treaty investor visa that is only available to foreign nationals from specific treaty countries. The E-2 visa allows foreign nationals to carry out investment and trade activities, after making a substantial investment in a U.S. business that the foreign national will control and direct. E-2 visa investors can either purchase an existing U.S. business or start a new business.

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A recent working paper published by Harvard economist, William R. Kerr, and Wellesley economist, Sari Pekkala Kerr, is making waves on the subject of immigrant entrepreneurship. The study asks: just how important are foreign-born entrepreneurs to our economy? Are their contributions truly significant?

The study’s abstract reads as follows:

We examine immigrant entrepreneurship and the survival and growth of immigrant-founded businesses over time relative to native-founded companies. Our work quantifies immigrant contributions to new firm creation in a wide variety of fields and using multiple definitions. While significant research effort has gone into understanding the economic impact of immigration into the United States, comprehensive data for quantifying immigrant entrepreneurship are difficult to assemble. We combine several restricted-access U.S. Census Bureau data sets to create a unique longitudinal data platform that covers 1992-2008 and many states. We describe differences in the types of businesses initially formed by immigrants and their medium-term growth patterns. We also consider the relationship of these outcomes to the immigrants’ age at arrival to the United States.

The study is important because it forces members of Congress to conduct a cost-benefit analysis, in order to determine whether or not it is beneficial for the United States to create more opportunities for highly-skilled entrepreneurs and professionals. Regrettably, the immigration debate has largely centered around illegal immigration to the United States, ignoring calls to create more flexibility for highly-skilled immigrants and immigrant entrepreneurs. As it stands today, immigrant entrepreneurs can only obtain a green card via sponsorship from a United States employer. The majority of entrepreneurs are forced to remain in the United States on a temporary ‘dual intent’ nonimmigrant visa, until a U.S. employer agrees to sponsor their green card. Visa options are very limited for highly-skilled immigrants. Even for the most brilliant of entrepreneurs, this process requires time and patience. Our current immigration laws are doing us a disservice since they are keeping out some of the most talented entrepreneurs in the world. Immigrant entrepreneurs are increasingly important because the number of businesses and American jobs they create is on the rise.

Here are some of the study’s findings:

  • As of 2008, at least one in four entrepreneurs among start-up companies are foreign-born. Similarly, at least one in four employees among new firms are foreign-born
  • 37% of new firms had at least one immigrant entrepreneur working for the company
  • At least 1 in 3 start-up firms were founded by an immigrant entrepreneur, with an increasing rate from 1995-2008
  • The share of immigrants among all employees working for start-up companies is on the rise
  • Immigrant employees in low-tech positions comprise about 22.2% of start-up companies, while 21.2% of immigrants work in high-tech positions in start-up companies
  • Among new start-ups backed by venture capitalists, 60% had at least one immigrant entrepreneur
  • Immigrant employees working for a start-up company backed by venture capitalists have higher mean average quarterly earnings

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