ENTERING THE UNITED STATES AS A NON-IMMIGRANT
If you do not have a visa stamp in your passport, and you are national of a Visa Waiver Program (VWP) country, you should be able to enter the U.S. for tourism or limited business purposes and for a maximum of 90 days without first obtaining a visa stamp from the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Most western European countries qualify. A machine-readable passport valid at least 6 months longer than the anticipated stay is required. Travel to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver program requires prior approval through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, or ESTA. Information is available at http://www.usatravelvisa.net
A list of qualifying countries, the passport requirements and other important information about this program may be found at the U.S. Department of State website, http://www.travel.state.gov
B-1 / B-2 Visa
These two Visas are typically combined into one stamp. The B-1 Visa allows you conduct a limited amount of business in the U.S. for your overseas employer (for example, attend a trade show or handle contract negotiations). The U.S. stay is usually authorized for the period of time necessary for you to take care of your business.
The B-2 category is strictly for tourists; an authorized stay of up to six months is typically granted upon entry into the U.S.
Both Visas are obtained through your United States Consulate or Embassy. An application form, passport photos, and fee are required. A DS-160 must be completed with passport photograph, signed and submitted electronically. The form is available at http://www.travel.state.gov/visa/forms. Additional information about visas and the application process including payment of fees is available at the US Department of State website. You should also visit the web page of the US Embassy or Consulate at which the application will be filed for specific details about any specific requirements or procedures. (http://www.usembassy.gov/)
E-1 (Treaty Trader)
The basis of the E-1 Visa is trade (exchange of goods, services, or technology) between a U.S. business or a corporation (of which the applicant, a national of the treaty country, must be at least a 50% owner) and a foreign country. At least 51% of the trade must be with the treaty country.
The amount of trade must be substantial; the volume of trade is much more significant than the dollar amount.
E-2 (Treaty Investor)
The basis of the E-2 Visa is a substantial investment in an active U.S. business or company (of which the applicant, a national of the treaty country, must be at least a 50% owner). Speculative or passive investments do not qualify. The investment must have a significant, positive impact on the U.S. economy or generate significantly more income than the amount required for the applicant’s living. The applicant must be coming to the U.S. to direct and control the business.
The validity period of both the E-1 and E-2 visa varies depending upon the terms of the treaty and the viability of the business. Both the E-1 and the E-2 visa categories are available for executive or supervisory employees who are the same nationality as the applicable treaty country.
Procedures can vary widely, so it is always advisable to review the instructions available at the US Embassy or Consulate websites.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services first must approve a U.S. employer’s L-1A application on behalf of a senior manager or executive for transfer from a foreign affiliate. To qualify, employment by the foreign affiliate in an executive or senior management position for at least one of three years immediately preceding the application is a prerequisite. The foreign company must be the parent, subsidiary or an affiliate through ownership of the United States’ company.
There is no minimum investment requirement. However, for the initial L-1A application the foreign company must prove that it is in a financial position to support the start-up of the U.S. business.
You may qualify for an H-1B Visa if you have a minimum of a university degree or its equivalent. The prospective employer must apply first to the U.S. Department of Labor,and make a number of attestations regarding the labor conditions. The employer must then submit an application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The approval is typically granted for an initial period of three years, and may be extended up to six years. (or longer if an application for labor certification or US permanent residency is pending).
Individuals with no university degree or its equivalent may qualify for an H-2B Visa which is issued for seasonal or temporary workers. The employer must advertise the opening (as above under “Employer Sponsorship”), and prove that the position is only for a temporary duration. This type of visa may be appropriate for short-term employment or for a particular project or assignment.
J-1, M, R, O & P
Other visas such as the J-1, M, R, and O & P are available to exchange workers, trainees, athletes, entertainers, religious workers and journalists, provided specific qualifications are met. Normally Visas are granted to spouses and children of the primary visa holders, granting the same length of stay but without work authorization.
Temporary Work Authorization for Spouses
Spouses of L-1, E-1 and E-2 visas are eligible for employment authorization. Limited work authorization may also be granted to individuals with F-1 student visas. The administrator of the foreign student office should be able to provide assistance in this process.
For more detailed information, visit the United States citizenship and immigration services website: www.uscis.gov
Whether an application to U.S.Citizenship and Immigration Services for change of status from one category to another, or whether a visa stamp from a US Embassy or Consulate, is appropriate will depend upon a number factors, including your need to travel, current legal status, etc.
The content of this website is intended for general informational purposes only, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. The hiring of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely upon advertisement. Before you decide, ask us to send you free information about our qualifications and experience.