Visas

 

B1 & B2 Visas

These visas apply to citizens of foreign countries who wish to visit the United States for a temporary period.  There are two types of B visas: B1 (for business) and B2 (for pleasure or medical treatment).   

A B1 visa would be issued to individuals intending to visit the U.S. and to engage in temporary, business-related activities. Permissible business activities include conventions, conferences, consultations, and other legitimate commercial and professional activities. This category does not allow individuals to engage in local employment for hire within the United States. Foreign medical students may also be granted the B1 visa and status for unpaid observerships. It is appropriate on a limited basis for missionaries as well as certain ministers exchanging pulpits. This category is available, subject to very specific requirements, to personal and/or domestic attendants of certain nonimmigrants and U.S. citizens who hold international jobs. These attendants must obtain separate work authorization documents. In addition to the requirements common to all applying for the visitor visa to the United States, B1 visa applicants must show that business activities primarily benefit a non-U.S. based company. 

The B2 would be issued to individuals intending to visit the United States for pleasure. The intent at the time of the visa application and admission must be to engage in a purely temporary visit, followed by departure from the U.S. The B2 category is appropriate for tourism, social visits, certain medical treatments, and participation in amateur sports, music and related events. This category is also used for domestic partners not in a marital relationship, to accompany their qualifying partners. 

Duration of Stay.-- A business visitor (B1) will be granted a period of entry sufficient to conduct his or her business.  Generally, these visits are approved for less than three months.   

A non-business visitor (B2) will automatically be granted a six-month period of entry.  Only in unusual circumstances will a B2 visa holder be granted a period of entry that is shorter or longer than six months. It should be noted that it is possible to obtain a period of admission of one year on initial entry to the U.S.  Additionally, extensions of up to six months may be granted. B-2 visitors generally are admitted to the United States for an initial admission period of six months. However, port of entry officers can further limit the admission period based on the purpose of the visit, one's U.S. travel history and other considerations. In some situations, it is possible to obtain extensions of B-2 stay beyond the initial admission period. However, it is necessary to establish the need to extend the visit in a manner consistent with the B-2 requirements. 

In order to obtain any of the two B visas, you need only apply with the U.S. consulate. An application to the Immigration Service is not required. 

Application

Foreign travelers who are citizens from certain eligible countries (see list below) may also be able to visit the U.S. without a visa for tourism or business for 90 days or less under the Visa Waiver Program.   

How We Help 

The Tax and Immigration team provides assistance and advice regarding B1 options, including the parameters of permissible activities and options for extensions or changes of status. We provide guidance and representation in connection with requests for B1 personal and/or domestic attendants. We also provide B-1 visa application assistance and advice to individuals who are abroad. For those within the United States, our team advises on options for obtaining a change to or extension of the B-2 from within the United States, and represent individuals in connection with changes or extensions of status, if appropriate. For individuals outside the U.S., we provide assistance and advice related to B-2 visa applications at U.S. consulates. We assist in appropriate cases involving prior denials and prior immigration violations. 

Preparation before applying 

In order to assure entry at the border, for the B1 visa holder to carry a letter from his or her company, similar to the letter supporting the visa application that affirms the purpose of the trip, the limited duration of the trip, documentation showing he visa holder's steady employment with the company and strong ties with his or her home country. The individual applying for the tourist visa should carry a letter of invitation, together with such other pieces of documentation as hotel reservations or evidence of other travel arrangements. Both B1 & B2 visa holders should also bring copies of the documentation that accompanied the visa application, the return portion of his or her round-trip ticket and evidence of prepaid accommodations or confirmed hotel reservations & sufficient funds to cover the period of stay requested by him or her. 

Special Conditions 

It should be noted that an alien entering the U.S. with a B visa must not engage in gainful employment in the U.S.  Similarly, the undertaking of an academic study program is not permitted either. 

Basic Requirements for obtaining B-1/B-2 Status 

There are five basic requirements for issuance of a B visa, as specified by The State Department:  

  • The alien is entering the U.S. for a limited duration. 

  • The alien intends to depart the U.S. at the expiration of his or her stay. 

  • While in the U.S., the alien maintains a foreign residence which he or she has no intention of abandoning. 

  • The alien has adequate financial arrangements to travel to, sojourn in, and depart from the U.S. 

  • ​The alien will engage solely in legitimate activities relating to business or pleasure. 

Additional Information 

No assurances regarding the issuance of visas can be given in advance. Therefore, final travel plans or the purchase of non-refundable tickets should not be made until a visa has been issued. Unless previously canceled, a visa is valid until its expiration date. Therefore, if the traveler has a valid U.S. visa in an expired passport, do not remove the visa page from the expired passport. You may use it along with a new valid passport for travel and admission to the United States. Visitors are not permitted to accept employment during their stay in the U.S. 

 

Visa Waiver

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) is available to citizens of a specified list of countries. These countries are designated for inclusion in the VWP based upon having low rates of immigration violations as well as meeting other security-related protections. Citizens of the designated countries are permitted to travel to the United States for up to 90-days to engage in activities that would be appropriate within the categories of visitor for business or visitor for pleasure (B 1 or B2).  

The list of designated (http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/visit/visa-waiver-program.html#countries ) countries is available on the U.S. Department of State (DOS) website. 

The VWP facilitates routine travel for business or pleasure by eliminating the need to apply for a visa at a U.S. consulate prior to entry. However, it contains strict prohibitions on obtaining extensions or changes of status within the United States. 

Requirements: 

  • Must hold and travel on the passport of a designated country. 

  • Advance travel authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).  

  • Must have a machine readable passport. Purely temporary travel, lasting no more than 90-days. 

  • Visit consistent with the B-1 or B-2 visitor category.  

How We Help

The Tax and Immigration team provides assistance and advice regarding U.S. travel options, including the VWP.  We can review and asses the benefits and drawbacks of VWP travel for eligible foreign nationals. 

 

H-1B Visa

The H-1B visa classification permits a foreign national to work in the United States for a temporary period. It is available for offers of employment that are in a specialty occupation. A person may hold H-1B status for a maximum of six years, and it may be issued in increments of up to three years by the USCIS. An employee may receive extensions of H1B status beyond six years in certain circumstances, if he or she is in the process of applying for employment-based permanent residence (commonly referred to as the "green card"). H-1B visas are numerically limited, with a total of 85,000 visas available each fiscal year (20,000 of these visas are restricted to individuals who have received master's degrees or higher from U.S colleges or universities). This limitation is referred to as the H-1B cap. Review the FY14 H-1B Cap Count (http://www.uscis.gov/working-united-states/temporary-workers/h-1b-specialty-occupations-and-fashion-models/h-1b-fiscal-year-fy-2015-cap-season) here. 

Requirements 

For a specialty occupation H-1B petition, the employee must have a bachelor's degree or the equivalent experience. 

The employer for an H-1B petition must obtain a labor condition application (LCA) from the U.S. Department of Labor before filing the H1B petition with the USCIS. An important distinction is that an employee who has previously received an H1B visa, or been granted H1B status is generally exempt from the numerical limitations. 

An employee who is presently employed in H1B status may utilize the portability provisions of the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act (AC21) to transition their H1B to a different employer. 

The spouse and minor child of an H1B employee are authorized to live in the United States in H-4 status. They are also allowed to study, but are not permitted to work. 

How We Help 

The Tax and Immigration team's is skilled in preparing H1B petitions encompassing a wide variety of industries and occupations. We take particular pride in our track record in the demanding IT consulting field along with Financial Services positions, for which the USCIS imposes particularly stringent requirements on H1B petitions. We represent and consult both employers and employees to discuss their options and responsibilities. 

 

L-1 Visas

The L-1 intra-company transferee classification is appropriate for the transfer of specified types of employees within multinational companies. This category permits a U.S. company to temporarily transfer certain employees from a properly affiliated foreign company. The employee must be offered employment in either an executive / managerial position or in a specialized knowledge position to qualify for this classification. Executive / managerial transferees are given the L-1A designation. Specialized knowledge transferees are given the L-1B designation. Large employers are sometimes eligible to file blanket L-1 petitions with the USCIS, rather than filing individual petitions for each employee. 

Requirements 

To be eligible to file L-1 petitions, a qualifying relationship must exist between the U.S. company and the foreign company. Qualifying relationships include parent company, branch, subsidiary or affiliate. The transferred employee must have been employed by the foreign affiliate for at least one continuous year within the three years prior to coming to the United States. 

How We Help 

The Tax and Immigration team can guide and represent employers in the preparation of individual and blanket L-1 petitions. 

We can consult with companies considering or initiating the establishment of new offices in the United States with regard to L-1 related planning for staffing a new office. We are available to consult with both employers and employees to discuss their options and responsibilities within the L-1 category. 

 

J-1 Visa

The J-1 nonimmigrant visa classification is for exchange visitors who come to the United States to participate in an exchange visitor program administered by the U.S. Department of State. There are different programs within the J-1 category, including trainees, college or university students, secondary school students, professors and research scholars, short-term scholars, specialists, foreign medical graduates, international and government visitors, teachers, camp counselors, au pairs, and summer work / travel students. 

Requirements 

Because J-1 visa classification incorporates a number of different categories of visitors, the specific requirements may differ. However the requirements common to all programs are as follows: 

Ability to demonstrate that one has a residence in a foreign country that s/he has no intention of abandoning 

A Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (Form DS-2019) obtained from the program sponsor. 

How We Help 

The Tax and Immigration team provides assistance and advice with regard to J1 & J2 visa applications to increase one's chance of obtaining a visa at consular post abroad, especially in case of previous denials and prior immigration status violations in the United States. We offer advice on J-1 status maintenance and employment matters and assist with change of status applications. We also offer advice regarding the two-year home residency requirement (HRR) and waiver. 

 

F-1 Visa 

The F-1 visa classification is allocated to academic students entering the United States temporarily for the purpose of pursuing a full course of study at an accredited school or university that is approved by the Attorney General. 

Requirements 

  • Ability to demonstrate status as a bona fide student with nonimmigrant intent and strong ties to the home country. 

  • Ability and credentials to qualify for the intended full course of study in a SEVP certified institution. 

  • Acceptance to study at an established college, university, academic institution or language training program in the United States. 

  • Proficiency in the English language and evidence of sufficient funds to attend the university or college to which s/he has been admitted to study and live in the United States for the duration of the program. 

How We Help 

The Tax and Immigration team provides assistance in devising a strategy and course of action to increase ones chance of obtaining the F1 or F2 visa at the consular post abroad, especially after a previous visa denial. We provide advice on F1 status maintenance, employment issues such as CPT, OPT, STEM extensions, automatic F1 status and employment extension based on the cap gap rule, and other matters related to the F1. We also provide assistance with regard to changing between F1 primary and F2 dependent statuses. 

 

M-1 Visa 

The M-1 visa classification is reserved for the student who intends to pursue a vocational, non-academic program (other than a language training program) in an established institution in the United States. Examples of vocational study are training programs for health care technicians, machinists, dental hygienists, and other, similar pursuits. 

Requirements 

  • Ability to demonstrate bona fide student status with nonimmigrant intent and strong ties to the home country. 

  • Acceptance for study at an established vocational or other recognized, nonacademic institution. 

  • Proficiency in the English language and evidence of sufficient funding to attend the educational institution one will attend while living in the United States throughout the duration of the program. 

How We Help 

The Tax and Immigration team provides assistance in devising a strategy and course of action to increase one's chance of obtaining the M-1/M-2 visa at the consular post abroad, especially after a previous visa denial. We provide advice and assistance with request for changing between M-1 and M-2 statuses. 

 

J-1 Exchange 

The J-1 nonimmigrant visa classification is for exchange visitors who come to the United States to participate in an exchange visitor program administered by the U.S. Department of State. There are different programs within the J-1 category, including trainees, college or university students, secondary school students, professors and research scholars, short-term scholars, specialists, foreign medical graduates, international and government visitors, teachers, camp counselors, au pairs, and summer work / travel students. 

Requirements 

Because J-1 visa classification incorporates a number of different categories of visitors, the specific requirements may differ. However the requirements common to all programs are as follows: 

Ability to demonstrate that one has a residence in a foreign country that s/he has no intention of abandoning. A Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (Form DS-2019) obtained from the program sponsor. 

How We Help 

The Tax and Immigration team provides assistance and advice with regard to J-1/J-2 visa applications to increase one's chance of obtaining a visa at consular post abroad, especially in case of previous denials and prior immigration status violations in the United States. We offer advice on J-1 status maintenance and employment matters and assist with change of status applications. We also offer advice regarding the two-year home residency requirement (HRR) and waiver. 

 

Other Work Visas & Statuses 

There are many types of work visas and statuses, each with requirements specific to the position, the sort of business the employer is in, the duration of employment, and more. Just a few of the nonimmigrant visas / statuses are: 

  • The E1 (treaty trader) and E2 visas (treaty investor) allow nationals of countries having commercial treaties with the United States to engage in trade or business investment activities. 

  • The H2B visa allows for entry of certain short-term, temporary workers. 

  • The O visa is for persons of extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, education, business, or athletics. The P1, P2, and P3 visas are for certain types of performers and athletes. 

  • The Q visa allows entry to persons participating in an international cultural exchange program designated by the USCIS, intended to provide foreign citizens with practical training in the United States, while permitting them to introduce the culture, history, and traditions of their respective home countries to the United States. 

  • The R visa is for religious workers. 

  • The TN category is a potential option for citizens of Canada and Mexico who wish to work in the United States. There is no numerical limit or cap on the number of TN visas that may be issued. This category is for professionals, who are offered employment in a specific occupation listed in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). 

  • There are other special categories, as well. ​