Immediate Relative Petitions
Immediate relative petitions are immigrant petitions by U.S. citizens for:
- their spouse (the marriage-based “green card,” and note: same-sex marriages now qualify too. Marriage-based green cards are conditional for the first two years; before the conditional residency expires, the immigrant must file an I-751 application (ideally jointly with their spouse) to remove the conditions on their permanent residence in the U.S.),
- their child/children who is/are unmarried and under the age of 21,
- their parent(s), so long as the petitioning U.S. citizen is age 21 or over.
Immigrating under this category means that you do not need to wait for a priority date and a visa number to arrive. There is still some delay as you gather the required documentation and the government reviews your paperwork, and you may have to wait for an interview appointment with a backlogged government office, but generally speaking, this process could be a very smooth and efficient way to immigrate to the U.S.
I-751 and I-751 Waiver
If you have a conditional permanent residency (such as the two-year conditional residency following an approved marriage-based green card), you will need to file the I-751 to remove the conditions on your residency prior to the expiration of your conditional residency (you can file within 90 days before the expiration). If your conditional residency was based on your marriage and you are no longer married, we can help you file the I-751 waiver. The I-751, with or without waiver, like the original marriage petition, involves extensive documentation, which we can guide you in gathering and submitting.
N-400 Naturalization (Citizenship)
If you have been a U.S. permanent resident for 5 years or more, you are eligible to apply to become a naturalized U.S. citizen. Citizenship provides a number of advantages, including the right to vote. Certain criminal issues or immigration violations in your background could present problems to your application. We could help you sort through all of the requirements and caveats, and in preparing and filing your application.
E-1, E-2, and E-3
These are employment-based nonimmigrant classifications based upon the existence of a treaty between the U.S. and the foreign worker’s home country. Though these are technically nonimmigrant visas, they can be renewed for as long as a person qualifies, and some people have held such visas for decades.
- E-1: Treaty traders who carry on substantial trade in goods, including services and technology, between the U.S. and the county of their nationality.
- E-2: Treaty investors who direct the operations of a company in which they have invested or are investing a substantial amount of money. This visa, though nonimmigrant, could provide a good alternative for a person whose intended investment does not meet the threshold of the EB-5 immigrant investor visa.
- E-3: for Australian specialty occupation (requiring a bachelor’s level degree or higher) workers coming to the U.S. to perform services in a specialty occupation.
An employment-based immigrant visa preference category for “priority workers.” Priority workers are classified into three types:
- Individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, which ability has been demonstrated by sustained international acclaim. An immigrant petition in this classification required extensive documentation, and the individual must be continuing to rise in their field (if the person has already peaked and is in decline, the petition could be unsuccessful).
- Outstanding professors and researchers who are recognized internationally for outstanding achievements in their field, who have at least 3 years of experience teaching or researching in that particular field, and who are entering in a tenured or tenure track type position at a U.S. university or institute of higher education. There are other conditions for the visa classification as well.
- Executives or some managerial employees of companies with at least one U.S. office and one office abroad (branch, subsidiary, parent, affiliate) where the employee has been continuously employed for at least one of the preceding 3 years in that overseas office and is coming to work in the U.S. office. The employee can be coming to open a new U.S. office; this requires even more extensive documentation.
This immigrant investor visa could provide an excellent means to immigrate for those who have substantial cash to invest (at least $1 million, or just $500,000 in a rural or high unemployment area) in a commercial enterprise. Commercial enterprise includes sole proprietorships, limited or general partnerships, joint ventures, holding companies, REITs, corporations, business trusts, USCIS-designated regional centers, and other entities. The investment must create 10 full-time jobs for U.S. workers (or maintain such jobs, in the case of a “troubled business” as defined by the USCIS).
Very extensive documentation is required with the initial filing, and there are periodic benchmark filings to document that the investor continues to be qualified, before a permanent green card will be issued. Where qualification for a permanent green card seems unlikely under the EB-5 classification, the investor might want to consider the advantages of an E-2 nonimmigrant visa.
This employment-based nonimmigrant visa allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in professional specialty occupations (occupations that require a bachelor’s level degree or higher). There is an annual cap on the number of H-1B visas that can be issued, and many more petitions are filed than there are visa numbers available, so the filed petitions generally go into a lottery system from which 1 out of 3 or 4 approvable petitions will be drawn for adjudication. There is also a limit on the number of years that a worker is eligible to remain in the U.S. in the H-1B classification. While the H-1B visa is a good option for employers and qualifying professional workers, the numerical cap and the limit on years one can work in H-1B status are among the pitfalls through which we could help guide you as you apply. An H-1B visa holder is eligible to apply for a green card if qualified under one of the green card immigrant categories, and some H-1B workers’ employers also undertake the PERM process during the H-1B term of employment.
This nonimmigrant visa classification allows employers or U.S. agents meeting certain regulatory requirements to bring in groups of foreign workers to fill temporary seasonal, peak-load, or one-time needs for nonagricultural workers. There are several other conditions regarding the job needs that we could help guide you through, and there is also a numerical cap that is parceled out in two filing periods annually, but the H-2B is still an efficient way for some employers to bring in groups of workers to fill temporary needs, and is often utilized by the construction and hospitality industries.
This visa allows a U.S. citizen to bring their fiancé to the U.S. for purposes of marriage. The marriage must take place within 90 days of the fiancé’s entry into the U.S. The K-1 could provide an alternative where the fiancé cannot obtain a visitor’s visa to enter the U.S. for your marriage or to marrying abroad and then going through the lengthy I-130 adjudication process followed by submission of documentation to and an immigrant visa interview at a U.S. Consulate abroad. The K-1 allows for some of the basic immigration processing to take place up front, prior to the issuance of the K-1 visa, and the rest to occur within the U.S. following your marriage.
This nonimmigrant visa allows companies having both U.S. and foreign offices to transfer employees from the overseas office to the U.S. for a temporary period.
- The L-1A is for executive and some managerial employees, and allows for a longer period of stay in the U.S. in L-1 status than the L-1B classification. An L-1A holder is also eligible to apply for a green card while in L-1A status in the U.S., if qualified, but the L-1B visa holder is not.
- The L-1B visa is for employees with “specialized knowledge” relating to the company or its interests and allows only a maximum stay of 5 years in L-1B status in the U.S. and strictly nonimmigrant intent. As a practical matter, it can be difficult to document specialized knowledge as defined by the immigration regulations, and there are many denials and requests for additional evidence and documentation after filing an L-1B petition. We could help you navigate the many rules and regulations and hidden pitfalls hedging this visa path.
This is the O-1A nonimmigrant extraordinary ability visa and is available to persons of extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, athletics, education, or business who can demonstrate through international acclaim that they have reached the very top percentile of achievement in their field. There is also an O-1B visa available to persons of distinction in the visual arts and motion picture and television industries. There are several specific criteria that must be met and specific forms of required documentation that must be submitted, and generally the visa petition must be very extensively documented. We can help you in obtaining and gathering the required documentation and consultation for the extraordinary ability visa. Once the O-1 hurdle is met, the path to the EB1 immigrant visa might be more easily reached.
Where an EB1 or a family-based green card is not an option, the PERM (permanent labor certification application) might provide a path to a green card for various classifications of workers. While there are a few jobs that allow for streamlined or no recruitment (such as the O-1B artist), most PERMs require a precise recruitment period and specific recruitment efforts to recruit for U.S. workers, and will not be approved unless there are no qualified U.S. worker s who apply for that job. During the entire PERM process, the rules and requirements must be very carefully followed; one wrong word can sink an application. And a substantial proportion of all PERMs that are filed are audited by the Department of Labor before being approved or denied. We could help you along throughout the arduous PERM process.
This temporary nonimmigrant classification is available only to Mexican citizens or Canadian citizens coming to work for U.S. employers in specific professional jobs. Canadian citizens do not require a TN visa in their passports, but can apply at the airport; Mexican citizens do require TN visas in their passports and apply at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. Careful documentation of the job and the applicant’s qualifications are required, and there are some counterintuitive differences between the TN professional criteria and the H-1B professional criteria, so it is not as simple as it might first app0ear to secure a TN approval. But with the proper preparation, the TN is an excellent option for Canadian and Mexican citizens seeking to enter the U.S. to work temporarily for U.S. employers.