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IMMIGRATION SERVICES

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Immigration law is one of the most complex areas of law with rules changing almost on a daily basis. Being Northern Virginia’s natural choice for global businesses expanding into the United States, we know that immigration issues are imminent of many cross-border business transactions. Foreign companies that enter the U.S. market often require foreign executives and key personnel. At the same time,  local companies that want to go global need legal assistance to secure employment authorizations and conditional and permanent resident status for their U.S. staff working overseas. Many American businesses require highly skilled foreign employees such as executives and other professionals to stay competitive in a global market place.

Our internationally experienced attorneys understand our clients’ business objectives and develop immigration strategies that reflect them. More than often, corporate law and tax considerations have to be part of a comprehensive immigration strategy. For that reason, our attorneys offer legal advice which is not restricted to one area of the law.

While our immigration practice focuses on employment-based immigration services, we also develop and implement immigration strategies for high-net-worth-individuals who would like to relocate to the United States.

Moreover we offer immigration services for relatives of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. We handle all types non-immigrant and immigrant visas, as well as guidance on naturalization and immigration matters. One of our founding partners, himself an immigrant, has experienced the complexity of the Unites States immigration procedures first hand. In addition our attorneys are fluent in foreign languages such as German, French, Spanish, Farsi and Ethiopian and familiar with other cultures and customs which make the foreign nationals we deal with as comfortable as possible throughout an immigration process that is complicated and intimidating .

In United States immigration law, the main distinction is between nonimmigrant and immigrant visas.

NON-IMMIGRANT VISAS

Our attorneys guide clients through the different categories of non-immigrant visas. A nonimmigrant visa classification is one that permits an alien to enter the United States legally for a temporary period. In most cases, the process of entering the U.S. in a particular classification begins with a U.S. employer, who must file a petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). While there are over fifty non-immigrant visas alone, our firm advises corporate clients often on these business visas:


E-Visas: Treaty Investor Visa or Treaty Trader Visa

The treaty investor visa (E-2) is used by foreign investors that invest in the United States and would like to bring in foreign workers to develop and direct their U.S. operation. Prerequisite is the existence of treaty of commerce and navigation between the United States and the foreign state of which the principal investor or its employees are a national. Many Western European countries such as Germany, France, the United Kingdom are treaty investor countries.

If a foreign company carries on substantial trade with the United States, including trade in services or trade in technology, it can sponsor a foreign employee to work in the United States. This visa is called a treaty trader (E-1) visa. As with the E-2 visa, a treaty with the United States is required to qualify for an E-1 visa. You can find further information on E-visas in our Publications section.

L-Visas: Visa for Intracompany Transferees

This visa is typically used by American businesses having related companies abroad to facilitate the transfer of personnel from abroad to the United States. Another example for the use of L-1 visas involves a foreign company that seeks to establish a U.S. based subsidiary. The L-1 Visa enables the foreign company to employ executives or key managers in its U.S. company. If the company is newly formed this visa will be valid for one initial year. At the end of the year, the alien must prove that the U.S. entity has been actively engaged in business. Then there is the possibility to extend for another three years up to a total of seven years. Should the company require to bring in additional skilled workers from overseas, this is also possible as long as this person has been employed for one full year within the previous three. As H-1B visas, L visas are also employer-specific and petition-driven.  The L visa holder's dependents can obtain L-2 visas. L-2 spouses are entitled to apply for employment authorization. You can find further information on E-visas in our
Publications section.

H-1B: Visa for Specialty Occupations

The H-1B visa is the principal vehicle for the admission of temporary professional workers in the United States. However, this visa is not available for every employee: The individual must be working a “specialty profession,” which is one that requires three requirements: The person must have at least a Bachelor's degree or its foreign equivalent, the alien's field of study must be related to the job being offered and the job being offered must usually require at least Bachelor's degree. The  H-1B is a petition-driven classification which means that the employer must first obtain approval for an H-1B1 petition from USCIS. In 1991 Congress imposed an annual cap of 65,000 H-1B visas per year which made the H-1B significantly more complicated. In addition there are  20,000 visas available for certain graduates from American universities.

Many high-tech companies are using this visa to bring individuals with specialty in the field to work here. Another area where H-1B visas are heavily used is the health care system. The best thing of all is that with this Visa the company can adjust from H-1B to legal permanent resident status. However, it has to be stressed that the demand for H-1B visas exceeds the number of available H-1B visas which resulted in a lottery system for the first time in U.S. history on April 1, 2007.


O-1: Persons of Extraordinary Ability


This non-immigrant visa is suitable for persons of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics. These prerequisites needs to be demonstrated by sustained national and international acclaim. This can be difficult in practice.


IMMIGRANT VISAS

While non-immigrant visas enable employees to work in the United States for a definite period of time, the objective of many people is to obtain permanent resident status evidenced by the permanent resident card, widely known as the “green card”, which is actually white.

There are five ways to qualify for permanent resident status: Employment-based, family-based,  or by means of a special category such as asylum, visa lottery and through employment creation.

The different categories are:

A. Employment-based Immigrant Visa Categories

Obtaining employment-based residence is a lengthy and complex process. Congress limits the number of employment based immigrant visas issued year to 140,000, which are spread across five employment-based preference categories. There are significant backlogs in some employment-based categories because the number of applicants for these visas exceeds the supply by far. The waiting time for obtaining a visa depends on the job and citizenship of the employee
.

EB-1(b): Outstanding Professor or Researchers: This category encompasses applicants with at least three years of experience as a tenure track professor or what is judged to be a comparable level of pure research in private industry.

EB-1(c): Transferred Multinational Executive or Managers: Applicants who have at least one full year of prior experience as an executive or key manager with the overseas or US employer within the immediately preceding three years.

EB-(2): Advanced Degree Professionals: Applicants who have a Master’s Degree or the equivalent. The USCIS has established a somewhat confusing standard of equivalency for this category that contemplates five years of progressively more responsible work experience in the field following the attainment of a Bachelor’s degree.

EB-2(b): Exceptional Ability: Applicants with exceptional ability in the arts sciences and business who have been petitioned for by an employer. Under certain conditions, labor certification can be waived.

EB-(3): Professionals and Skilled Workers: Applicants who have a Bachelor’s Degree not qualifying for the second preference, skilled workers filling positions requiring at least two years of training and experience and performing work for which there is a shortage of qualified  United States workers. This is the employment-based immigrant category that is the most popular with only a limited number of visas available which results in a significant backlog. 

B. Investment Visa (EB-5)

Our firm advises clients seeking permanent residence status through investments in the United States. This category is widely known as the “Investor Green Card.” There are 10,000 visas set aside annually for individuals who invest a minimum of $500,000 to $1,000,000 in a business that creates at least 10 full time jobs for American workers over a two year period. The process is complex and the legal requirements are numerous. However, as a consequence of the weak dollar, this is a very attractive way for foreign investors to invest in the United States and get rewarded by USCIS with a "green card" for themselves and their families.

The investment can be in a new, existing or failing business, but it must create or clearly save at least 10 full time jobs. In addition, the foreign investor has to prove that the funds were lawfully obtained and invested. Many clients prefer to purchase an existing business and expand it thereafter. This is a typical situation, where the full potential of our law firm will be used: While we advise you on the relevant immigration aspects, our corporate attorneys counsel you on the acquisition of the target business on corporate and tax issues. We are used to dealing with foreign investors and understand their special needs and high expectations. Once the investment has been made, the investor obtains conditional permanent resident status which is granted for two years. After that time, the investor has to prove that the funds were invested, the enterprise and investments was sustained and that the ten full-time jobs for Americans were created or will be created within a reasonable period of time. Of course, our attorneys continue to guide you through this process until you have obtained full and unconditional permanent resident status.

Another option to obtain an investment visa is to invest in a designated regional investment center. This option exists since 1993 and allows a foreign investor to invest in a pre-approved investment center without the need to personally supervise the business and hire ten American workers. Since then, more than a dozen regional investment centers have been approved. Our attorneys guide you through the screening process  to locate the regional center that is the best fit, review their legal documents, advise you on legal issues regarding the investment in the fund and the subsequently required filings with the USCIS and the Department of State.

C. Family-based Immigration

Another focus of our immigration practice is on family-based immigration. To obtain permanent residency through family-based immigration, a petition must be filed by a U.S. citizen mother, father, sister, brother, son, daughter or spouse. However, it has to be noted that lawful permanent residents can only petition for spouses, children and un-married sons and daughters. The question whether or not a petition can be filed, and the amount of time that the application will take depends on the relationship of the sponsor to the family member that is sponsored. Spouses of US citizens are exempt from any visa number cap, but legal permanent residents are not. It has also to be noted that sponsors have to be over 21 which means that children cannot petition for their parents until they have reached that age.

NATURALIZATION AND CITIZENSHIP

Permanent residents often wish to become citizens of the United States through naturalization. We guide clients through the naturalization process under consideration of such factors as dual citizenship, eligibility criteria and estate and income tax issues. Many immigrants would like to keep their citizenship due to financial, business or personal interests. We advise clients on ways how to legally maintain their current citizenship while becoming American citizens. For example, we advise German nationals on the so called Beibehaltungsgenehmigung and dealings with German consulates all over the United States as well as agencies in Germany.


EUROPEAN IMMIGRATION & FOREIGN CITIZENSHIPS


While the United States remain one of the world’s favorite destination for immigrants, our firm advises American businesses and private persons that plan to live, retire or do business in Europe.

Our lawyers assist companies that expand into the European Union with securing required employment authorizations as well as temporary and permanent resident status for U.S. executives, key employees and their families. We also advise accomplished American entrepreneurs that choose to live wherever they would like to do. Many of our clients have houses around the world and require attorneys that think globally. That's the difference our law firm makes.

Our immigration law practice group also advises U.S. citizens on legal possibilities to acquire foreign citizenships, Many Americans are not aware that due to their ancestry or business interests overseas, they may be eligible for a second citizenship.

You can find further information about selected immigration topics in our
Publications section.



 

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