Articles Posted in O1 Visas

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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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On May 04, 2016 the Department of Homeland Security published a proposed rule in the Federal Register, announcing that filing fees for many USCIS petitions and applications are expected to increase for U.S. employers and foreign nationals. The proposed regulation stipulates that filing fees may be adjusted for certain immigration and naturalization benefit requests by USCIS. The increase in filing fees was considered after USCIS conducted a comprehensive review of its fees and found that the current fees do not cover the cost of services provided by USCIS. According to USCIS, in an effort to fully recover costs and maintain adequate services, “an adjustment to the fee schedule will be necessary”. According to the regulation, fees for most employment-based petitions and applications would be raised by an average of 21%, though other types of petitions may experience a higher increase in filing fees.

According to DHS, the higher fees will more accurately reflect the current cost of processing immigration applications and petition. A portion of the increased fees would provide additional funding for refugee and citizenship programs as well as system support for interagency immigration status verification databases.  The increase in filing fees will not take effect until the federal government approves the regulation, which is expected to take several months following the close of the 60-day comment period on July 5, 2016.

According to the new fee schedule under consideration, employment-based petitions would be the most impacted by the increase in filing fees. The filing fee for Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, would increase by 42% to a fee of $460, from the current rate of $325.  Similarly, the filing fee for Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, would increase by 21% to a fee of $700, from the current rate of $580. The complete fee schedule under consideration has been provided below for your reference.

The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program is expected to be the most heavily affected by the new fee schedule. The filing fee for Form I-924, Application for Regional Center Under the Immigrant Investor Pilot Program, would increase by a rate of 186% requiring Regional Centers seeking designation under the program to pay a filing fee of $17,795 instead of the current rate of $6,230. In addition, Regional Centers would be required to pay a $3,035 annual fee to certify their continued eligibility for the designation. Currently, there is no fee in place for annual certification. The filing fee for the I-526 Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur, an application associated with the EB-5 visa program, would also increase to a rate of $3,675, a 145% increase up from the current rate of $1,500. The filing fee for an investor’s petition to remove conditions on residence would remain unchanged under these new regulations.

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mayaFor this month’s staff spotlight, we invite you to learn more about Paralegal, Maya Elkain.

Ms. Elkain began her journey with the Law Offices of Jacob J. Sapochnick in 2014 as an intern. She quickly learned the ins and outs of employment based immigration law and was offered a position. Today, she assists attorneys with the preparation of H-1B applications, E-2 investor visas, L-1A visas, O visas, National Interest waivers, provisional waivers of unlawful presence, and much more. Ms. Elkain specializes in employment-based immigration and investor petitions. With her assistance, our law office has been able to receive affirmative decisions in numerous cases.

“The best part of my job is having the opportunity to make a difference and actually help our clients succeed in their immigration process. It is the most rewarding feeling.”

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It is our pleasure to introduce our readers to our senior case manager, Inese Grate, one of the original members of the Law Offices of Jacob J. Sapochnick. Ms. Grate joined our firm when there were merely 2 employees working at the office. In addition to studying law in Latvia, Ms. Grate received her Master’s in Law in International Business Transactions from Temple University Beasley School of Law and attended the International Law Institute at Georgetown University School of Law.

Ms. Grate specializes in business and family immigration, corporate, international trade, and international transactions. Ms. Grate provides consultation on strategic investment in the United States for international clients and corporations to identify potential opportunities, create jobs, and develop successful businesses. Throughout her professional career, she has taken several international and U.S. startup companies from an ideation phase through to establishment and registration. Ms. Grate is unique in that she thinks outside of the box and is able to utilize her professional network of financial advisors, real estate brokers, investors and industry experts to assist our clients based on their unique needs. Throughout her career, Ms. Grate has helped numerous corporations and individuals in the United States as well as several European countries in various immigration/business related issues. Ms. Grate evaluates business plans and works on all related immigration issues including visas, licenses, and permits. She has helped in numerous cases in this area for the past few years.

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It is our pleasure to introduce our readers to Associate Attorney Yingfei Zhou, Esq who joined our firm in 2012. Attorney Zhou is an active member of the California State Bar, the New York State Bar, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).

Ms. Zhou practices primarily on employment-based and investment-based immigration law. Ms. Zhou has experience in various aspects of business immigration, including employment-based permanent residence and nonimmigrant visas, as well as marriage-based immigration and citizenship matters. Specifically, she has provided counsel to clients in relation to employment in specialty occupation, nonimmigrant NAFTA professional visa, individuals with extraordinary ability and achievements, nonimmigrant trainee or special education exchange visitor visa, religious worker visa, E-2 treaty investor visa, waivers, applications for adjustment of status, employment certification (PERM) applications, motion to reopen/reconsider, re-entry permit, visa interviews, as well as extensive EB-5 investment immigration work.

Ms. Zhou received her Bachelor’s degree in Law (LL.B) from Zhejiang University, one of the top universities in China. She graduated with distinguished honor awarded by the Department of Education of Zhejiang Province and was editor-in-chief of law review of her law school in China. She subsequently attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, CA and obtained her Master’s degree in Law (LL.M.). Prior to joining the Law Offices of Jacob J. Sapochnick, Ms. Zhou has practiced in China for two years.

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President Obama’s executive action announced on November 20, 2014 fell short in many ways than one for many people residing in the United States—both legally and illegally. Though a marginalized few have been allowed to come out of the shadows, some of the world’s best and brightest have been completely ignored by the executive action altogether. The United States would be quite a different place without our hard working immigrant population and without our foreign born innovators, movers, and shakers.

Obama’s announcement on November 20th notably left out any indication that the creation of a more expedient and efficient system would be considered— through which highly skilled and highly capable foreign workers would be able to more easily attain permanent residency and visas. Industry leaders in areas such as the Silicon Valley, seeking to employ such highly skilled and highly capable foreign workers for their startup companies, have expressed their concerns, forming groups such as FWD.us, albeit with the knowledge that Congress must act in order for an all-encompassing solution to be reached.

Though Obama’s speech shed little light on the topic, a memorandum released by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security following the speech is much more informative. The memorandum announces that inventors, researchers, and founders of start-up enterprises who do not qualify for a national interest waiver, but who have been awarded what is considered ‘substantial’ financing by a U.S. investor OR who ‘hold the promise of innovation and job creation through the development of new technologies or the pursuit of cutting edge research’ can attain parole authority under section 212(d)(5) of the INA,6 on a case-by-case basis after being assessed by the DHS. Possessing parole in this situation would authorize extraordinary inventors, researchers, or start-up entrepreneurs to temporarily conduct their research or development of innovative ideas or their business while in the United States.

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The 27th AILA (American Immigration Lawyer Association) California Chapter Conference was held between the 13th and 15th of November 2014 at San Jose, California. Attorney Yingei Zhou, Esq. was in attendance on behalf of our law firm. The conference concentrated on several trending topics such as status of comprehensive immigration reform, consular processing and updates with border posts in Mexico and Canada, driver’s licenses for undocumented workers, unaccompanied alien children (UAC), H-1B/L-1A/O-1/EB-1 adjudications, federal litigation, and advanced family immigration issues, as well as staple subjects like evidentiary issues in removal proceedings and PERM applications.

This article provides you several important updates from the conference addressed at the conference, especially the government open forums with AILA practitioners, USCIS representatives, CBP officers, and San Francisco Asylum officers.

In the following weeks, we will post more articles to address the trends on each specific visa applications and immigration proceedings discussed in the conference.

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Start-up entrepreneurs who wish to come to the U.S. to open a business have several immigration options. It is important that you understand the requirements, benefits, and downsides of each and choose the one that best fits your situation.

B-1 Business Visa

A B-1 business visa is a non-immigrant visa issued to those who wish to enter the United States for a business purposes. You are eligible to apply for a B-1 visa if you want to consult with a business associates, participate in a required medical clerkship without any remuneration, embark on independent research which does not benefit any U.S. institution, or participate in educational, professional scientific or business conventions, seminars, or conferences.

The validity period for this visa will differ depending on your country of origin. If you are seeking entry into the U.S. for business reasons for the first time, you may be allowed to stay in the U.S. for a period of time long enough to enable you conduct your business. However, the maximum period of stay allowed per visit is 6 months. But you can also apply for another six-month extension if you needed. A B-1 visa can be used for multiple entries in so far as it has not expired.

There are certain tasks that you are and are not allowed to do while in the U.S. on a B-1 visa. If you are in the U.S. with a B-1 visa, you are allowed to negotiate business, discuss planned purchases or investment, solicit sales or investment, attend and participate fully in meetings, conduct business research, and interview and hire staff. You are not allowed to look for employment, run a business in the U.S., or to take part in sporting and entertainment events as a professional.

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The O-1 visa is a great option for those who have a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in their field. In order to obtain an O-1 visa, one must be an alien with a proven track record of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. Proving that you are extraordinary in your field is not always an easy task. However, there are several steps you can take to help ensure that your application for an O-1 visa is approved.

Include all required documentation

First, you need to ensure that you completely and accurately fill out the O-1 visa application, Form I-129. Next, you need to make sure that you include in your application package all of the other required documentation, such as a written advisory opinion from a peer group, a copy of the written contract between you and your employer, and your itinerary. If you accidentally forget to include these documents, you risk having your application delayed or even denied.

Provide sufficient and convincing evidence

The most important step in filing your O-1 visa application, however, is including sufficient and convincing evidence that you are an alien of extraordinary ability in your field. The evidence you include needs to prove that you have received a major, internationally-recognized award or, if you have not done so, you need to prove at least three other listed achievements.

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The O-1 visa is quickly becoming a popular immigration solution for talented entrepreneurs who have already started or are about to start a new business in the United States. Many of Silicon Valley’s top companies owe their creation and success to foreign-born entrepreneurs, including Google, Intel, and Yahoo. In fact, more than 40 percent of American Fortune 500 companies were founded by an immigrant or child of an immigrant.

In order to obtain an O-1 visa, one must show that he or she is an alien of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. This visa allows individuals to come to the United States for up to three years, with extensions available after that period has elapsed if the applicant is able to prove that he or she is still outstanding in the field. This is a great option for those in technology-related fields.

The O-1 visa has proven to be a better option for many entrepreneurs than the more popular H-1B visa. This is especially true for those entrepreneurs who do not qualify for the H-1B visa or when the H-1B visa cap has already been met, as there is no cap to the number of O-1 visas granted each year. In addition, unlike most H-1B visas, the O-1 visa does not require a college education. This is an important difference, since there are many young and innovative entrepreneurs who bypassed formal education in order to begin their careers. Another benefit of the O-1 visa over the H-1B visa is that it does not tie the immigrant to any employer or sponsor or have any of the other strict requirements, such as a prevailing wage. An O-1 visa applicant can be sponsored by his or her own U.S. company. This gives the entrepreneur more freedom to conduct their business as they choose, including investing any profits early on back into the business instead of paying themselves the prevailing wage salary. The O-1 visa is also a better option than the E and EB “investor visas” for many entrepreneurs, as the O-1 visa does not require any particular amount of capital to be invested into the business.

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