Category Archives: Business / Employment

USCIS seeing benefits from its “Entrepreneurs in Residence Initiative”

In just over one year, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) innovative Entrepreneurs in Residence (EIR) initiative has produced real benefits that will strengthen agency policies and practices relating to job-creating immigrant entrepreneurs who help advance American economic growth.

“Our EIR initiative has had one overarching goal – to ensure that we capture the full potential of current immigration laws to attract and retain startup enterprises that promote innovation and create jobs in America,” said Director Mayorkas. “In the 15 months since we started the initiative, we have seen positive results based on the combined talent of private sector experts and our own internal experts and we are eager to expand this concept to other industries we serve.”

Launched at a February 2012 summit in Silicon Valley, the EIR initiative brought together startup experts and USCIS immigration experts to work collaboratively to streamline pathways fora range of existing visa categories often used by entrepreneurs. Three aims were key to the overall initiative: producing clear public materials to help entrepreneurs understand relevant visa categories; equipping USCIS staff with
the right tools to adjudicate cases in today’s complex business environment; and streamlining USCIS policies to better reflect the realities faced by foreign entrepreneurs and startup businesses. USCIS released a summary of the EIR team’s work. Some of the highlights over the past year
include:

  • Nearly 30,000 visits to Entrepreneur Pathways, which provides entrepreneurs seeking to start a
    business in the United States an intuitive way to navigate the immigration process;
  • Approximately 500 participants across the United States in USCIS’s entrepreneur-focused
    engagements;
  • More than 400 USCIS employment-based immigration officers trained on startup businesses and
    the environment for early-stage innovation; and
  • More than 100 USCIS officers receiving additional specialized training to handle entrepreneur and
    startup cases.

Israelis Eventually E-2 Eligible.

In June 2012, President Obama signed into law legislation that adds Israel to the list of countries eligible for E-2 treaty investor visas. Regrettably, Israel nationals remain ineligible for E-2 status because of delays in implementing the new law.
The legislation is conditioned upon visa reciprocity. Accordingly, once the new law was sent to the State Department for implementation, teams from the United States and Israel began discussing the terms and conditions that E-2 status will provide to Israeli investors in the U.S. and examining whether Israel will provide similar terms and conditions for American investors in Israel. These discussions were complicated by the fact that Israeli immigration law does not currently provide for a visa category that parallels the E-2 visa.

Indeed, Israel has only one non-immigrant work visa category, with visas issued for one-year validity periods and with an absolute maximum stay in the country of five years. (The E-2 visa, of course, can be issued for an initial period of up to five years.) Moreover, the options under Israeli immigration law for derivative visas on behalf of accompanying family members are extremely limited with no provision for a benefit resembling the E-2′s Employment Authorization Document (EAD) for an accompanying spouse.

However, the implementation of this visa category will not be effective until the terms and conditions of the final agreement are determined between the two countries. [...] The Department does not yet have a basis for determining that Israel offers equivalent status to U.S. investors in Israel – a statutory prerequisite for issuance of E-2 visas to Israeli nationals. Through our Embassy, we have been working with Israeli government officials to facilitate Israel’s development of a visa status similar to the E-2.

Clarifications on the Scope of “Investment” in the E-2 visa

Time and time again, I receive various queries regarding the “investment” component of the E-2 visa.   In the day and age of readily available information-overload (thanks, Google), much has been written over the years regarding the E-2 visa and its requirements, particularly about “how much” to invest in order to maximize chances of receiving the E-2 visa (or status).

While there are many different figures cited in various blogs, newsgroups, and other sites,  ranging from $25,000 to $2.5 million, there is NO OFFICIAL MINIMUM which the U.S. government dictates MUST be invested in the E-2 visa context.

In 10+ years of my immigration law practice, I can say, based on actual E-2 cases, one can say that average investments in approved cases range between $50,000 and $250,000, ordinarily.

However, it is important to stress that the appropriate level of investment varies from case to case and is reviewed by the U.S. government as such, on a “case-by-case” basis.   While an investment of $35,000, for example, could be approved in one case, it may very well be denied in another.   The same holds true for an investment of any other amount.

As prospective investor, in order to maximize one’s chances of successful E-2 visa issuance, one must remain mindful of several factors, which will be important in the government’s decision-making process:

(1) What is needed investment-wise, to get YOUR U.S. business up and running properly.
(2) the amount invested is the “correct” and adequate amount, given your unique situation.
(3) the amount invested is “sufficient” to safeguard your ongoing commitment to the success of the enterprise.
(4) the investment is potentially “subject to partial or total loss”, if business fortunes turn bad. (no financial safeguard!)
(5) the investment funds cannot be withdrawn at will, once the visa is issued, but must remain in the enterprise.
(6) based on the investment, the U.S. business enterprise will likely be profitable within the first 5 years of operation.

There are, of course, additional E-2 visa requirements, not directly relating to the investment.

The MORE you accomplish before the visa is applied for, the HIGHER the likelihood of the visa being granted.  In other words, the more of the start-up commitment and risk you take upon yourself before applying, the better your chances.

Investment Opportunity: E-visa and EB-5 capable.

school

Investment opportunity in West-Central Florida: SACS Accredited School, Gold Seal School, Platinum School.

Facility employs 34 FT staff, approximately 17,000 square feet, with 10 classroom suites, a cafeteria, a resource room, a large activity gym for before and after school students, and 4 large play areas separated by age groups, glass walls, real-time Internet access, accredited curriculum, 270+ students enrolled. Annual Turnover ~ $1.5 million USD.

Asking price: $4.9 million USD. (min. $1.7 million USD down-payment requ.).

Could be suitable for E-visa or EB-5 as self-directed investment.   Please email me: steve@saculbreathlaw.com for details.

Historic Visa Agreement between U.S. and Russia

The Department of State announced that a “historic” U.S.-Russia visa agreement entered into force on September 9, 2012. The agreement facilitates travel between the two countries and “enables us to strengthen ties between our people by benefiting the largest segments of travelers in both our countries – business travelers and tourists,” the Department said in a statement. Among other benefits, the agreement provides for longer visa validity.

Nearly 159,000 business and tourism visas were issued in fiscal year 2011 to Russian citizens. Over 75,000 U.S. citizens travel to Russia annually, the majority of whom require Russian visas.  The agreement includes these key provisions:

  • Three-year, multiple-entry visas will be issued as the standard “default” visa for U.S. citizens visiting Russia and Russian citizens visiting the United States;
  • Diplomatic and official visa holders on temporary assignments will receive one-year, multiple-entry visas;
  • The documentation required will be reduced. For example, the Russian government will no longer require U.S. citizens to provide formal, “registered” invitation letters when applying for Russian business visas or visas for private visits, although applicants seeking Russian tourist visas must continue to hold advance lodging reservations and arrangements with a tour operator;
  • Both sides have committed to keeping standard visa processing times under 15 days, although the circumstances of individual cases may require additional processing; and
  • The $100 issuance (reciprocity) fee for Russians issued U.S. visas for business or tourism (B-1/B-2) will decrease to $20.

USCIS Redesigns EAD and Citizenship Certificates

USCIS today announced the launch of an enhanced Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and a redesigned Form N-560, Certificate of Citizenship, with new features to enhance security and deter fraud.

As part of USCIS’s ongoing efforts to enhance the integrity of the immigration system, the state-of-the-art technology incorporated into the new documents will deter counterfeiting, obstruct tampering, and facilitate quick and accurate authentication. The agency anticipates that more than 1 million people will receive the new documents over the next year.

EAD_2011_design

CitCert_2011_design

USCIS Announces “Entrepreneurs in Residence” Initiative

USCIS Director Mayorkas announced the coming of “Entrepreneurs in Residence.” This new innovative initiative will utilize industry expertise to strengthen USCIS policies and practices surrounding immigrant investors, entrepreneurs and workers with specialized skills, knowledge, or abilities.

“This initiative creates additional opportunities for USCIS to gain insights in areas critical to economic growth,” said Director Mayorkas. “The introduction of expert views from the private and public sector will help us to ensure that our policies and processes fully realize the immigration law’s potential to create and protect American jobs.”

The agency will stand up a tactical team comprised of entrepreneurs and experts, working with USCIS personnel, to design and implement effective solutions.

U.S. Consulate in Mumbai (India) to resume processing certain visas.

The U.S. Consulate General in Mumbai recently announced the resumption of interviews for H- and L-visas, after a temporary suspension, beginning in March 2011, due to issues with aging internal processing systems.

All interviews will be conducted at the Lincoln House Consulate building, located at 78, Bhulabhai Desai Road, until further notice. Visa appointments may be made online via VFS.

Please Sign E-2 Reform Petition!

Zoe Adams, the driving force behind E2VISAREFORM.ORG, has initiated a petition with the White House in order to raise Washington’s awareness for the need of reforming E-2 visa regulations to allow for a path to permanent residency.

If we can reach 5,000 signatures within 30 days – till October 26th 2011 – the White House staff will look at our issue. We have to reach 150 signatures for the Petition to be shown on their website, so please take a moment and sign the petition…

“IDEA Act”, a Summary of this Proposal’s Major Provisions.

This post summarizes the major provisions of the legislative proposal known as “IDEA Act”, or H.R.2161 – Immigration Driving Entrepreneurship in America Act of 2011, as it is officially known. As stated in the bill itself, its purpose is “to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to promote innovation, investment, and research in the United States, and for other purposes.”

1 — Preferential Processing for “STEM”-graduates

Academics who hold degrees in the “STEM” fields will have some preferential processing parameters when applying for certain employment-related immigration benefits, including exemption from numerical caps and simplifying other visa processing hurdles.

2 — Incentivizing Job-Creation and Entrepreneurship

This builds on the principles and spirit set forth when the original EB-5 Greencard category was created. A new category of “EB-6″ entrepreneur Greencard will be created, not subject to numerical limits.

3 — Simplifying the Burdensome Labor Certification Process

Shorten processing and turn-around times by the U.S. Dept. of Labor. Offer optional fee-based expedited processing. Enhance communication between Employers and DOL during the “PERM” process. Streamlined processing for established employers who file PERM’s frequently.

4 — Modifications to Prevailing Wage System and H-1B to protect U.S. workforce

Measures will be implemented to strengthen the recruitment processes, prevailing wage determinations will be adjusted to better reflect actual market wages, employers will be “incentivized” to retain or recruit U.S. workers, and also for paying above-average wages. Additional safeguards will be put in place to protect workers from potentially abusive or retaliatory conduct by employers. Spouses of H-1B workers are to be employment-authorized.

5 — Modifications to the L-1 category to protect U.S. workforce

Modifications will be made to the existing L-1B “specialized knowledge worker” classification to now required prevailing wage determinations (under certain circumstances). Exceptions would apply in some instances where the L-1B worker is kept on foreign payroll. DOL will be provided with enforcement mechanisms, equal to those currently available in the H-1B classification.

6 — Existing EB-5 Employment Creation Greencard to undergo some modifications

Aims to set aside half of the annual allotment of EB-5′s for those specifically to be used by Regional Center projects. USCIS will revise its current methods of calculating direct and indirect job creation. A major improvement to the current EB-5 program would be the desired authorization of 2-years of added time on the Conditional Residency status if not all conditions could be met within the first two years, if unexpected problems or delays occur. Another welcome change would be the allowance of “concurrent” filings of I-526 and I-485 in the EB-5 and new EB-6 programs, as well as an optional “Premium Processing” to adjudicate petitions within 60 days.