US Immigration attorney

Ways to get a US Green Card

The much-coveted green card is a license to permanently live and work in the United States.  In other words, this piece of document grants the holder the status of permanent resident in the US and a path to citizenship. 

The two most common ways to obtain a green card are through family and employment. 

In general, green card immigrant visas through family-sponsored preference categories are limited to 226,000 per fiscal year (October 1 to September 30), and employment-based immigrant visas are capped at 140,000 annually.  However, these annual limits can be exceeded if certain immigrant visas from prior fiscal year’s allocation remain unutilized. 

This article provides a brief overview of the various routes through which a green card can be obtained. 

  1. Through Family: 

Immigration through family is arguably the most common path for obtaining a green card and later, citizenship.  The marriage route is the quickset.  The law allows a US citizen or a permanent resident to sponsor a family member for permanent residency (typically done by way of an I-130 filing).   

The family-based route has two immigrant visa categories: 

Immediate Relatives – these are close relatives of US citizens, such as spouses, unmarried children under 21, or parents.  This category is not subject to a fiscal quota and unlimited number of visas are always available; thus visas are processed relatively much faster under this category. 

Family Preference – this category is reserved for other relatives of US citizens and green card holders such as siblings, unmarried children over the age of 21, married children, etc., and a limited number of immigrant visas are available each year.  Processing times in most cases often range from a couple to several years. 

Separately, there’s also a path for fiancés of US citizens – K1 or the fiancé visa – which allows the fiancé to enter the US for the purpose of marriage and later, adjustment to green card status.  

  1. Through Employment:

A green card can be obtained by working with a US employer; there are different categories, and of course, different requirements.  These categories include priority workers such as outstanding professors and researchers, people with extraordinary ability and multinational manager and executives; professionals with advanced degrees; skilled workers and special immigrants.   

The five categories of employment-based immigrant visas: 

  • EB-1: Priority Workers 
  • EB-2: Professionals with Advanced Degrees or Exceptional Ability 
  • EB-3: Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Unskilled Workers 
  • EB-4: Special Immigrants 
  • EB-5: Investors 

Generally, the US employer will sponsor the green card petition.  For example, qualified H-1B employees can obtain green cards if their employer applies for their labor certification and files the I-140 petition to sponsor them, mostly under the EB-2 or EB-3 classification.  However, these particular categories have historically had long wait times.  A quick path to green card is available to certain L-1 employees – a managerial or executive can be sponsored for a green card by their US employer under the EB-1 category; in this case the employer can directly file the I-140, bypassing the labor certification process.  The wait times to obtain a green card under this route have been significantly shorter than those of the EB-2 or EB-3.

The two employment-based immigrant visa classifications which permit self-petitioning by foreign nationals are the EB-2 – National Interest Waiver, and EB-1- Extraordinary Ability.  So, if you are a musician or an athlete who’s attained national or international fame may apply for an EB-1 visa without needing a US job offer.  Similarly, a foreign national who can demonstrate that their work is of substantial intrinsic merit and national importance for the US can apply for an EB-2 visa without a US sponsor. 

  1. Through Investment:

Foreign investors can avail he EB-5 visa – an immigrant visa which allows investors to obtain a green card by investing at least $800,000 in a commercial enterprise in a Targeted Employment Area (TEA) or $1,050,000 in a non-TEA. The investment must employ at least 10 full-time US workers or remain in a pool investment project which will directly result in job creation for US workers. Over the years, the EB-5 program has resulted in the infusion of billions of dollars into the US economy, boosting development projects and employment opportunities. There are 10,000 EB-5 visas available each fiscal year. 

  1. Through Lottery:

Another way to obtain a green card is through the Diversity Visa Program or the Green Card Lottery. Under this program, 55,000 applicants are selected each year, mainly from countries with low immigration rates such as Estonia, Norway, Japan, Ukraine, etc.  The applicant needs to have a high school education, or its equivalent, or two years of qualifying work experience. 

 5.    Through Refugee/Asylee Status:

Applying for a green card by virtue of refugee or asylum status can be complex and time-consuming and requires meeting multiple criteria.  One should have been granted refugee or asylee status in order to apply, meaning that the individual should have demonstrated the fulfilment of certain requirements of a refugee or asylum seeker and have been granted protection under US law.  Refugees are generally people outside of their country who are unable or unwilling to return home because of fear of serious harm.  Asylum status is a form of protection available to people who are refugees and are seeking admission to the US at a port of entry. 

This article is for information purposes only and does not consitute legal advice of any kind.

This article has been written by Zeenat Phophalia, Esq. Of Counsel, Davies & Associates, India Office.

Zeenat Phophalia is qualified to practice law in New York, United Kingdom and India. She practices in the area of U.S. immigration law with a focus on business immigration, and has represented corporate clients including large and medium sized companies and startups across sectors such as IT, consulting, consumer goods, manufacturing and telecommunications.

Looking for an US immigration lawyer? Request free consultation at Davies & Associates or find our closest location around the world.

E-2 Visa approved for a Singaporean national during COVID-19

New Policy Guidance on Employer’s Ability to Pay in I-140 Filings

On March 15, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services issued a policy guidance addressing the analysis of an employer’s ability to pay the proffered wage for certain employment-based immigrant petitions. This guidance, contained in Volume 6 of the Policy Manual, is effective immediately and applies to I-140 petitions filed on or after March 15, 2023. The updated guidance discusses in more detail various types of evidence and explains how USCIS reviews all evidence relevant to the employer’s financial strength and the significance of its business activities.

US employers seeking to sponsor employees under EB-1, EB-2 and EB-3 employment-based immigrant classifications that require a job offer must demonstrate their continuing ability to pay the proffered wage to the employee as of the priority date of the immigrant petition. The employer’s/petitioner’s ability to pay the proffered wage stated on Form I-140 is one of the essential elements that USCIS considers in evaluating whether the job offer is realistic.

Regulations require an employer to submit annual reports, federal tax returns, or audited financial statements for each available year from the priority date. An employer can alternatively submit a financial officer statement attesting to its ability to pay the proffered wage if it has 100 or more workers. Additional evidence such as profit and loss statements, bank account records, or personnel records may also be submitted. Many employers satisfy the ability to pay requirement by also submitting payroll records demonstrating that, during the relevant time period, they have been paying the employee at least the proffered wage indicated on the Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers (Form I-140).

Here’s what the updated USCIS guidance provides:

  • USCIS reviews all evidence relevant to the employer’s financial strength and the significance of its business activities.
  • Employer must submit one of the three forms of initial required evidence listed in the regulation but may also include other types of relevant evidence.
  • Discussion of each form of initial required evidence listed in the regulation and several other forms of additional evidence employers might submit to establish their ability to pay the proffered wage.
  • Explains how USCIS analyzes evidence and issues relevant to an employer’s ability to pay the proffered wage, such as the petitioner’s current employment of the beneficiary, prorating the proffered wage for the priority date year, multiple beneficiaries, successors-in-interest, and non-profit organizations.
  • Addition of information about types of business structures to help officers better understand the types of petitioning employers and the evidence they may submit to establish their ability to pay the proffered wage

Reference Links

Chapter 4 – Ability to Pay | USCIS

20230315-AbilityToPay.pdf (

EB1c Visa | EB1c US Lawyer | Davies & Associates (

Merit Based EB-1A Visa | National Interest Waiver (

EB3 Visa | Permanent Residency for Skilled Workers | Davies & Associates LLC (

This article has been written by Zeenat Phophalia, Esq. Of Counsel, Davies & Associates, India Office.

Zeenat Phophalia is qualified to practice law in New York, United Kingdom and India. She practices in the area of U.S. immigration law with a focus on business immigration, and has represented corporate clients including large and medium sized companies and startups across sectors such as IT, consulting, consumer goods, manufacturing and telecommunications.

Looking for an US immigration lawyer? Request free consultation at Davies & Associates or find our closest location around the world.

L-1 Visa for Spouses

E2 Visas and L1 Visas: Spouses Granted Automatic Right to Work

The Department for Homeland Security has announced that spouses of certain visa holders will have the automatic right to work in the United States.

The policy change applies to dependent spouses of those in the following visa categories:

Until now, spouses of these visa holders had to apply for work authorization, which added to the administrative burden, could cause uncertainty, and even gaps in employment. Being granted automatic working rights is a huge benefit to any married couples considering an L-1 Visa application or an E-2 Visa application.Any spouses entering the US will have a special code stamped on their entry paperwork (I-94) designating their right to work. Any existing E and L Visa spouses already in the US would need to leave and re-enter the country to obtain this code. However, DHS also noted that regardless of the notation on the I-94, E and L spouses are authorized to work incident to status, and any valid I-94 is considered valid for work authorization.
If you hold a different visa category, please contact us to discuss your spouse’s right to work in the United States. 

What is the L-1 Visa?

The L-1 Visa allows for the intracompany transfer of an employee to the existing or newly established US office of your related company. The newly established element is particularly useful to owners of small-and-medium-sized enterprise (SMEs) seeking to expand their business to the United States. The L-1 Visa is valid for up to five or seven years and holders are permitted to seek permanent residency during their stay in the United States.

What is the E-2 Visa?

What is the E-2 Visa?The E-2 Visa permits an investor from an “E-2 Treaty Country” to move to the United States for the purposes of owning and operating a business there. Benefits of this visa include:Relatively low investment expectations (usually > $100,000)Ability to travel freely to and from the United StatesQuick processing times and no country quotasUnlimited renewals – so long as business continues to operate successfullyNo longer a requirement to have a physical premisesOption to purchase a franchise businessIf you are not from an E-2 Treaty Country, it is possible to become a citizen of a Treaty Country and make yourself eligible for an E-2 Visa. We have helped clients acquire citizenship of both Grenada and Turkey and then go on to obtain an E-2 Visa. Both countries offer relatively fast and cost effective routes to citizenship.

Israelis looks to US E2 Visa as Vaccination Program Reopens Both Countries

Israelis looks to US E2 Visa as Vaccination Program Reopens Both Countries

Israel signed an E2 Treaty with the United States in 2019, but the Coronavirus pandemic caused a false start. As the world reopens, 2021 and 2022 look set to be bumper years for Israeli E2 visas.

Israel became the newest E2 Treaty Investor Visa Country in the world when it signed a treaty with the United States that came into force in May 2019. The E2 Visa allows anyone from a treaty country to move to the United States for the purpose of investing in and running a business.

Around 500 E visas were issued to Israeli nationals in 2019*, a figure that was expected to jump significantly in 2020. Then the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Borders were shut and the US embassy in Israel closed to all but essential operations. Visa processing ground to a halt and the number of E visa issuances in Israel dropped to just 260 last year.

The outlook for 2021 is mixed. While consular services have resumed at the embassy, they are still limited by social distancing and the need to protect both staff and applicants. Israel’s world-leading vaccination campaign mean things are likely to improve quickly in the second half of the year and into 2022. Given the current demand we are seeing from Israel, 2022 could be a bumper year for E2 visas in the country.

Benefits of an E2 Visa?

The E2 visa allows a person to invest in and run a business in the United States. Investment requirements are relatively low – usually starting from around $100,000 but need to be enough to support the business plan. It is possible to start a new business, acquire and existing business, or buy into a franchise. It is important to engage attorneys like Davies & Associates that has corporate lawyers working in close proximity with immigration lawyers because the business needs to be correctly structured to comply with the immigration regulations.

Spouses and children under the age of 21 can accompany the primary applicant. Spouses can apply for work authorization in the United States. The visa is valid for up to 5 years but can be renewed again and again provided the underlying business continues to operate. That said, the very first time an Israeli citizen is issued an E2 visa, it will be valid for anything up to 2 years before requiring renewal – subsequent renewals will be at the 5 year intervals.

Becoming a citizen of Israel to access the E2 Visa

Eligibility for the E2 Visa is determined by your country of citizenship. People from countries like Russia and South Africa are not directly eligible. Anyone from a non-E2 Treaty country the could claim Israeli citizenship can then become eligible for the E2 visa by virtue of their new Israeli nationality. Read more about dual Russia Israel citizenship.

People who hold dual UK and Israeli nationality may prefer to opt to apply for the E2 Visa under their Israeli passport. The UK is the only E2 country whose citizens are required to reside in their home country. Israeli-UK dual citizens can still apply at the embassy in London under their Israeli passport.

Alternative US Visas for Israelis

Israel and America have a long history of close political and economic ties. America is by far Israel’s leading export market with around one third of all exports going to America. This may mean the E1 Treaty Trader Visa is more suited to some Israelis. Israel has been eligible for the Treaty Trader Visa for much longer than the E2 Visa. In fact, Israel has been an E1 country since the 1950s. This visa allows for more easy access to the US for employees and owners of Israeli firms that conduct substantial trade with America.

Other alternatives to the E2 Visa for Israeli business owners, entrepreneurs and professionals include the EB5 Investor Visa and the L1 Transfer Visa. Only one Israeli was issued an EB5 investor visa in 2019 out of a total allocation of just over 700. The EB5 visa is a residency by investment program that offers a Green Card for $900,000. All qualifying family members can all obtain Green Cards for a single investment.

The L-1 Visa allows for the intra company transfer of a manager, executive or specialized knowledge employee, from the Israeli office to the US office of the same company. It is possible to use this visa category to send a manager to oversee the establishment and growth of a new US operation of your existing Israeli business. 2,000 L-1 Visas were issued to Israelis in 2019.

* Figures include E1 Treaty Trader Visas as well as E2 Treaty Investor Visas.

This article is published for clients, friends and other interested visitors for information purposes only. The contents of the article do not constitute legal advice and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Davies & Associates or any of its attorneys, staff or clients. External links are not an endorsement of the content.

E-2 Visa approved for a Singaporean national during COVID-19

Should Vietnam and India be granted E-2 Visa Status?

D&A Global Chairman Mark Davies argues the time is ripe to grant E2 and E1 Visa status for Vietnam and Indian citizens.

Before coming to Vietnam I did not realize that the US is Vietnam’s largest export market. Having spent years in India I did know of the massive potential to grow cross-border business between the US and India.

We are seeing a lot of interest in the L1 Visa and E2 Visa from companies in our offices in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai much of it being Vietnamese and Indian businesses looking to access the US market. Many Vietnamese and Indian firms are looking to increase their trade with the US through E2 and L1.

Vietnam and India both represent a huge opportunity for US businesses to expand and invest. Vietnam is Asia’s fastest growing market and companies want to grow by investing through a business there.

At the moment, obtaining an E2 Visa means a Vietnamese or Indian national has to obtain a second nationality, popularly Grenada and Turkey.

It’s time to put an end to the need for Citizenship by Investment in Vietnam and India and for the US to enter into a treaty with both Vietnam and India allowing for both the E2 and E1 Visa. Such a treaty would allow Vietnamese businesses access to the US and streamline the process by which US businesses can access the lucrative Vietnamese market.