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

221g Administrative Processing – What is it and What Can be Done

Pursuant to your non-immigrant visa (L, H-1B, E-2, O-1) interview, the consular officer will typically indicate whether they are approving or refusing/denying the visa.  But at times, officers may require additional information due to which they are unable to approve or deny the visa at the end of the interview.  In such instances, the officer will “refuse” the visa application placing it under “221g Administrative Processing,” requiring further scrutiny.  Generally, the applicant will receive a notice from the consular officer indicating that their case is undergoing administrative processing, and in some situations, listing further documents that may be needed.

There’s often confusion that a “Refused” visa status on the Department of State’s case portal means that the visa was denied. A Refused status in the context of administrative processing does not mean that the visa was denied or that the refusal is final; it means that the final decision is put on hold until necessary checks are completed.  A refusal may be overcome by providing further information and/or documents as may have been requested by the consulate.

Possible Reasons for Administrative Processing

  • Additional Background Checks – In certain situations, a consular officer will need to verify or confirm certain data.  For example, in H-1B cases, where the applicant will be deployed to an end-client worksite, common in the IT industry, the officer may need to contact the end client to verify assignment and worksite details or employer-employee relationship. 
  • Missing Documentation or Information – If any material information is missing or inaccurate, the officer will likely not make a decision and request further information or clarification as they deem fit. 
  • Criminal Background – If an applicant has a criminal record, the consular officer may need to conduct additional checks to determine their visa eligibility and further evidence such as police and court records may be needed.
  • Prior Visa denial – A prior visa denial does not necessarily hinder obtaining a visa in the same category (or a different one).  That said, if an applicant is unable to satisfactorily explain the change in circumstances from the last visa denial if applying in the same visa category, the consular officer may issue a 221g notice requesting further documentary evidence to clarify change in circumstances.  
  • Material Misrepresentation or Fraud Suspicion – Should an officer suspect fraud, for example, material inconsistencies in information provided in the petition and the applicant’s responses, the consular officer may want to perform additional checks or forward the application to their Fraud Prevention Unit for further investigation, which could involve employer site visits and interviews. 
  • Legal Question – In cases involving complex ownership corporate structures in the E-2 and L-1 visa context, an officer may want to seek guidance from higher authority or wish to review necessary departmental guidance and regulations. 
  • Petitioner Information Management Service (PIMS) – This generally happens when the underlying non-immigrant petition (filed with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) has not been updated at the Kentucky Service Center, which scans the duplicate into PIMS systems for consulates to access petition data.

 Timeline and What Can be Done?

There is, unfortunately, no predictable timeline to the administrative processing phase, it can take from a few weeks to several months. 

If the consulate requests specific documents or information via their letter or email, one should ensure that the requisite items are submitted promptly as per their submission instructions. 

DOS has stated that their goal is to complete administrative processing within 60 days.  It is advisable to write to the post (via email and through their online portal) regarding the status of your case if there’s no decision within this timeframe.  If you believe that the consular officer expressed concern regarding any specific point or that you were unable to answer a material question, it might help to address that particular concern or question by way of an email to the consulate.

If the case is stuck in administrative delay for  n excessive period of time, a Mandamus lawsuit could be an option, seeking a U.S. court’s order to direct the post to adjudicate the visa application.

Once the administrative processing is complete, the consulate will issue the visa or refuse/deny it.  In cases where fraud is suspected, the consulate may return the petition to the USCIS with a recommendation for revocation. 

What to Bear in Mind

Administrative processing not only prolongs visa adjudication but to an extent, adds an element of uncertainty; hence it’s important to apply well in advance and factor in such delays.  Certain factors prompting administrative delays are beyond one’s control.  That said, to minimize chances of such delays, the applicant should be prepared to answer all questions as best they can and truthfully.  If you believe there’s anything in the petition or your background that might warrant scrutiny, ensure that you have the necessary explanation and supporting evidence if any.  And very importantly, it helps greatly to understand the requirements of your visa category and be well versed with key petition documents.  As good practice, one should carry all pertinent paperwork to the interview.

D&A attorneys routinely assist and guide visa applicants in the consular processing stage.  Please feel free to contact us if you require assistance in this regard.


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.


L1 Visa India

United States Sets Visa Records in India in 2023

In a recent press release, the U.S. Mission in India has stated that in 2023, the consular team in India processed more non-immigrant and immigrant visas than ever before – a record-breaking 1.4 million.  There was a 60% hike in visa applications compared to the previous year, with demands surging across all visa categories.

Employment visas remain a top priority.  Consular officers in India processed over 380,000 employment visas (L-1, H-1B, etc.) for Indians and their family members in 2023 alone. Most petition-based visa processing was consolidated in cities such as Chennai and Hyderabad to increase efficiency and maintain minimal appointment wait times.  

The U.S. stateside 2024 pilot program which has kicked off, allows certain H-1B employees to renew their visas in the U.S., further streamlining processing.

The post in Mumbai which processes immigrant visas in India eliminated a queue of over 31,000 immigrant visa cases delayed by the pandemic.  Immigrant visa applicants can now obtain an appointment within the standard, pre-pandemic appointment window.

The U.S. Mission continues to invest in the future of consular services in India and explore ways to provide more efficient and convenient services.  

Source: https://in.usembassy.gov/


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.


H1-B visa India Interview

The Pilot Program to Renew H-1B Visa Applications within the U.S 

The Department of state has launched a pilot program to resume visa renewals for qualified H-1B non-immigrant visa applicants within the U.S. nearly after two decades.

The program has started from January 29, 2024, through April 1, 2024, or when all application slots are filled, whichever comes first. Under this program the department will make a maximum of 20,000 application slots available for approximately 4,000 per week for applicants whose most recent H-1B visa was issued by U.S. Mission India with an issuance date of February 1, 2021 through September 30, 2021, and for applicants whose most recent H-1B was issued by U.S. Mission Canada with an issuance date of January 1, 2020, through April 1, 2023.

This move will help to reduce the workload on officers at the U.S. consulate abroad and also the H1-B beneficiary could continue stay within the country while the visa is being processed. This move will surely a good start, if and when the program becomes permanent it would be a smooth renewal process.

Who are eligible for renewal within the country?

Applicants who fulfil the below criteria shall be eligible for renewal within the country

· Seek to renew an H-1B nonimmigrant visa only;

· Prior H-1B visa that is being renewed was issued by U.S. Mission India or by U.S. Mission Canada;

· Are not subject to a non-immigrant visa issuance fee also known as commonly “reciprocity fee”;

· Are eligible for a waiver of the in-person interview requirement;

· Have submitted ten fingerprints to the Department in connection with a previous visa application;

· Prior visa does not include a “clearance received” annotation;

· Do not have a visa ineligibility that would require a waiver prior to visa issuance;

· Were most recently admitted to the United States in H-1B status;

· Are currently maintaining H-1B status in the United States;

· Have an approved and unexpired H-1B petition;

· Period of authorized admission in H-1B status has not expired; and

· Intend to re-enter the United States in H-1B status after a temporary period abroad.

If the above criteria’s are met then the applicants must submit following list of documents and fees to renew the visa within the U.S.

· A DS-160 barcode sheet for a properly completed and electronically filed form DS-160, Online Non-immigrant Visa Application

· A passport valid for travel to the United States, which is valid for at least six months beyond the visa application date, and contains at least two blank, unmarked pages for placement of a visa foil. RECOMMENDED: A passport containing the most recently issued H-1B visa if the visa is not in the current passport

· Non-refundable and non-transferable $205.00 MRV application processing fee

· One photograph not older than six months

· Copy of current Form I-797, Notice of Action

· Copy of Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record

The department is processing only H-1B Visa and not H-4 visas under the program. However, if the program becomes permanent then maybe more non-immigrant visa category shall be added such as L-1 visas, E-2 Visa, etc.


This article has been written by Sukanya Raman, Davies & Associates, India Office.

Sukanya is an Independent Consultant working the capacity of Associate of the firm’s Bengaluru office. She earned her first undergraduate degree in Commerce from Mumbai University in 2013 and her second undergraduate degree in Law from Indian Law Society’s Law College, Pune at Savitribai Phule Pune University in 2017.

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


S

Importance of Timely Extension Filings and USCIS Update 

A foreign worker on a non-immigrant visa status in the United States (such as L-1, H-1B, E-2, etc.) may be needed to stay longer and work beyond the expiry of their admitted stay that was granted at the time of entering the United States, or as per their latest I-94, in which case the filing of an extension petition may become necessary.  The foreign worker’s US employer will file the I-129 with the USCIS, requesting to extend their non-immigrant status.  Extension petitions can be filed only if the employee (beneficiary) is present in the US at the time of filing.   

USCIS will generally not grant an extension approval if the foreign workers have failed to maintain their non-immigrant status or if their status has expired before the extension petition filing date.  Even during the validity period of their granted stay in the US, an employee could fall out of status; for example, an L-1 employee could lose their status if there is a structural change in the foreign employer abroad resulting in severance of the “qualifying relationship” between the foreign and US employer, as required for L-1 purposes. 

The timing of filing the extension petition is crucial as it has implications.  A late filing of an extension request, meaning filing after the expiry of the granted stay (generally until expiry of latest I-94), can result in them falling out of status.  This can at times have dire consequences, as unlawful presence in the US beyond certain prescribed periods trigger various bars to entering the country.  Thus, it’s very important to keep a track of petition/expiry dates and ensure timely filings of extension requests to avoid undesirable situations.   

Under certain circumstances, USCIS has discretion to condone late extension filings.  These circumstances are: 

  • Delay was due to extraordinary circumstances beyond the person’s control; 
  • The length of delay was commensurate with the circumstances; 
  • The person has not otherwise violated their nonimmigrant status; 
  • The person remains a bona fide nonimmigrant; and 
  • The person is not the subject of removal proceedings and deportation proceedings. 

On January 25, 2024, USCIS updated their Policy Manual to clarify extraordinary circumstances that would allow USCIS discretion to excuse untimely extension filings.  These circumstances include situations where delay arose from a stoppage of work involving a strike, lockout, or other labor dispute; or due to inability to obtain a certified labor condition application due to a lapse in government funding supporting those adjudications. 

If USCIS approves an untimely extension petition, the approval is effective as of the date of the expiration of the prior non-immigrant admission period.  


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.


US Visa application - Immigration lawyer

New Guidance on Employer Ability to Pay in Certain Green Card Cases 

On January 5, 2024, the USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) issued a Policy Guidance regarding analysis of an employer’s ability to pay the proffered wage in certain I-140 cases involving change of employers.

US employers seeking to sponsor workers under the EB-1, EB-2 and EB-3 employment-based immigrant classifications that require a job offer are required to demonstrate their continuing ability to pay the proffered wage to the worker from the priority date of the immigrant petition until the time that the worker acquires permanent resident status. The employer/petitioner’s ability to pay the wage as stated on Form I-140 is one of the essential elements that USCIS weighs in evaluating whether the job offer is realistic. 

To demonstrate ability to pay, 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’s statement attesting to the employer’s ability to pay the proffered wage if they have 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 I-140. 

USCIS’ updated guidance explains that when the beneficiary of an I-140 immigrant petition moves (or “ports”) to a new employer under the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act of 2000 (AC21) while their I-140 is in process, USCIS determines the ability to pay requirements only by reviewing the facts in existence from the priority date until the filing of the I-140.   

The AC21 provisions allow a beneficiary of a pending I-140 to port to a new employer provided their adjustment of status application (I-485) is pending for at least 180 days and the new job offer is in the same or similar occupational classification as the earlier one.  USCIS clarifies that an unadjudicated or pending petition is not valid merely because it was filed with USCIS or through the passage of 180 days, rather, the beneficiary must have been entitled to the employment-based classification at the time of such filing, and therefore must be approved prior to a favorable determination on a portability request.  

The guidance, which is effective immediately, is controlling and supersedes any related prior guidance.  It builds on the prior guidance from March 15, 2023, on how USCIS analyzes employers’ ability to pay the proffered wage, covered in D&A’s blog: New Policy Guidance on Employer’s Ability to Pay in I-140 Filings (usimmigrationadvisor.com) 

USCIS is also making other minor technical revisions to improve clarity and streamline existing guidance. 

Source: USCIS Issues Policy Guidance on “Ability to Pay” Requirement When Adjustment of Status Applicants Change Employers | USCIS


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.


Investor Visa Application Price Increase

Mastering E2 Visa Interview Questions With Expert Tips

E2 Treaty Investor Visa

An E2 Investment Visa is a nonimmigrant visa that allows nationals of E2 treaty countries to reside in the US with their families. Each E2 investor is required to make a substantial investment in a U.S. enterprise or business.

A treaty country is defined as a country that has a signed treaty with the United States or with a qualifying international agreement, or which has been deemed qualified by legislation. A list of E2 visa countries is available by following this link.

The E2 Treaty Investor Visa allows you to start a successful business in the U.S. and stay in the U.S. indefinitely. The E-2 Visa process for applying for this visa can be complex. After submitting your application and documents, you will need to arrange an appointment to attend an interview with the immigration officer in your local US consulate to answer any questions regarding your application and provide additional information should it be needed.

It is also possible to change status to E2 status from within the United States. As an applicant for change of status is already in the US E2 visa is not initially needed. Once a person and an interview can be avoided. However, upon leaving the US a person in visa status will need to obtain an E2 visa at a US consulate.

E 2 Visa Expectations

An E-2 Visa interview has a number of purposes. An E-2 investment Visa interview serves to not only to verify your identity but also to check any information the visa applicant has provided in their application and to ensure that they satisfy all the requirements of the visa. If you’re the applicant, you may be asked to provide additional information even though you have provided all documents or information needed.

The interview is usually conducted by a consular officer who will ask questions related to your visa application and your future stay in the U.S. The officer may start with a few general and simple questions before going into detail about your application.

If you fail to answer your interview questions or simply fail to attend the interview itself without any reasonable explanation, your visa may be refused. So it’s important to attend and prepare for your interview.

The key to success in an E2 visa interview is to thoroughly understand your business and the business plan.

Preparing for an E2 Visa Interview

There’s nothing wrong with overpreparing yourself for your visa interview, especially since it will determine if you’re qualified for an E2 Visa. To help you prepare for your interview, we’ve highlighted some of the things you need to do:

Lay the groundwork

There’s nothing wrong with overpreparing yourself for your visa interview. You  have to bring necessary documents such as a complete copy of your E2 visa application process and copies of your and your family members’ passports, birth certificates and marriage certificates. Where the US business is already operations we also suggest brining updated business bank account statements to the interview. The interviewing officer may also request additional documents
before your interview, so you should be ready to submit them.

As the requirements at each US consular post vary we strongly suggest that applicants speak with an immigration lawyer experienced with E2 visa interviews at your consulate. They will be able to give more detailed guidance as to documents typically required at interview.

Study ahead of time

The interview will focus on your business and relevant personal qualifications in great detail. You must therefore be able to discuss in your business including source of funds, type of business, industry, and financial and personnel projections. The consular officer will ask extremely detailed questions to see and make sure your business can contribute to the U.S. economy.

Keep a calm composure

There are times that the consular officer will appear unfriendly or rude when they ask you questions, but it’s important to note that their job is to ascertain that everything you have provided is true. Always maintain a calm and professional composure throughout your interview.

Be cordial

Appearing confident during your interview will be helpful but also being warm and friendly. Make sure not to be overly friendly as you still need to appear courteous and respectful as well.

Take you lawyer with you

While some consulates do not allow lawyers to be present at visa interviews others do. Singapore and Zurich are amongst those consulates who have allowed lawyers to attend E2 visa interviews with their clients in the past.

Required Documents for an E2 Visa Interview

There are only a few documents that you will need to show and provide during your interview. A majority of the documents should have been submitted together with your visa application to the U.S. Consulate or Embassy.

  • DS-160 confirmation;
  • A printed interview appointment confirmation
  • A copy of your current and expired passports;
  • Evidence of any previously issued U.S. visas, if any;
  • Two coloured photographs that comply with the U.S. visa photo requirements. You are allowed to wear a headdress if required by the religious order in which you are a member;
  • A copy of the fee payment receipt; and
  • Proof of your nationality or immigration status with your home country such as bank statements, leases, property deeds, etc. It’s important to take note of the active E2 countries to make sure you’re qualified.

The consular officer may ask ahead of time for additional documents that you would need to submit during your interview, so you would need to bring them as well.

E2 Visa Interview Questions and Answers

During the interview process, the immigration officer may ask you a lot of things related to you and your investment. If you’re still nervous about your upcoming interview, we’ve highlighted some of the questions that may be asked to you divided into categories:

General

Why are you going to the U.S.?

Answer the reason why you’re going to the U.S., highlighting that you’re travelling to manage and control the E2 business.

Have you visited the U.S. previously?

Answer with a definite yes or no. The immigration officer may also ask about the specifics of your previous visits if there are any.

Do you have any family members in the U.S.?

Answer with a definite yes or no.

Do you intend to settle permanently in the U.S.?

Since the E2 Visa is a nonimmigrant visa, you need to answer no to make sure that your intent to depart is proven to the officer. Since the officer may want to know if you’re going to permanently live in the U.S., you may also provide evidence of your ties to your home country such as a dependent family member.

Do you have a family in your home country?

Answer with a definite yes or no.

Do you own or lease real estate, and vehicles, or own businesses?

Answer with a definite yes or no.

What do you plan to do once your visa expires?

Answer with your plans and goals after your visa expires.

Personal

What is your current job?

Answer with your current job title in your home country.

What is your source of income?

Answer with any source of income you may have including salary, pensions, and
businesses among others.

How did you meet your business partners? (if you have)

Answer with the reason you met your business partners, including how you
started the business.

How did you get the idea for the business?

Answer how you came up with the business.

Why do you think you’ll have a successful outcome for this business?

Answer how you think your business can give you success, highlighting any
financial trajectory you have.

How will you manage the business in the U.S.?

Answer with your clear plan on how will you manage your business and your
commitment to its success. You need to prove that you will be actively
involved in the management of the E2 business.

What is your long-term plan and goals for the business

Answer with your clear goals and plans for the business, including your
long-term plan. A more detailed business plan outlines your business’
projected outcomes and strategies.

What is your experience in business management?

Answer with any experience you have in managing a business. You may also
provide a resume or curriculum vitae to outline your experience in the
relevant and particular industry of your business.

Are there business interests you are actively involved in?

Answer with a definite yes or no.

What will be your role in the company?

Since the E2 Visa allows you to control the business in the U.S., you have to
answer a role that shows you have control over the business.

Investment-related

Is your investment committed to an active U.S. business?

Answer with a definite yes or no. You can also provide evidence that your
investment is irrevocably committed to the U.S. enterprise.

What are the details and nature of your investment?

Answer with the details of your investment such as the business type,
location, and amount.

How will you finance the investment?

Answer with the legal source of your investment funds. You may also provide
evidence such as bank statements and tax returns.

How much have you invested in the business?

Answer with the clear investment amount that you have placed for your E2
business.

What enterprise are you investing in the U.S.?

Answer with the type of enterprise you have invested in the U.S.

How will the U.S. economy benefit from your investment?

Answer how your investment will create jobs and contribute to the U.S.
economy, such as your plan for job creation or economic growth.

How many people are you planning to hire?

Answer with the number of people you’re hiring for your business, including
your plan on how to pay them.

Where do you think your business will be in 5 years?

Answer with your projection for your business in 5 years. As we have said,
your investment plan or business plan can give you a clear picture of the
trajectory of your investment.

As questions can vary by consulate we suggest contacting us for a list of
questions commonly asked at your consulate.

Maximising Chances of E2 Visa Approval

The E2 Visa application process can get complicated especially with its requirements. Moreover, you have to convince and satisfy the consular officer that you meet these requirements.

An E2 visa immigration lawyer can give you expert advice on how you can maximise your chances of getting approved for the visa. They can also give you an overview of what you can expect for the interview, and a list of relevant documents you can submit depending on your circumstance to cut down the processing time of E2 Visa. Additionally, they can give you advice on what to do should problems or issues arise during your interview and application process.

Take note that you can’t risk getting your E2 visa refused as it carries financial risk to your E2 business and will make you permanently ineligible for the ESTA waiver program.. If you’re not approved, you will  need to hire another person to oversee the business operations.


Eb-5 Visa Investment Level Increase

USCIS Announces Premium Processing Fee Increase for Form I-907

On December 27, 2023, USCIS has announced a final rule that will increase the filing fee for Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing, to adjust for inflation. The fee increase will take effect on February 26, 2024. The premium processing fee will be increased to $2,805 from $2,500.

More information: https://www.uscis.gov/newsroom/alerts/uscis-announces-inflation-adjustment-to-premium-processing-fees#:~:text=The%20adjustment%20increases%20certain%20premium,%241%2C965%2C%20and%20%242%2C500%20to%20%242%2C805.


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

This article has been written by Verdie J. Atienza, Esq., Senior Immigration Attorney, Head of E-2 and L-1 Visas Practice Team at Davies & Associates, New York Office.

Verdie J. Atienza is a Senior Attorney in charge of the firm’s L-1 and E-2 visa practice. He is a dual qualified lawyer in New York and in the Philippines and is qualified to practice immigration law in any state in the United States. 

 


USA Immigration

U.S. Stateside Renewal Pilot To Kick Off in Jan 2024 

The much-anticipated stateside renewal pilot program is set to run from January 29 to April 1, 2024.  Under the pilot, certain H-1B visa holders will be able to renew their visas within the United States, without having to leave the country for visa stamping.   

The program is limited to a total of 20,000 visa applications.  4,000 application slots will be opened up by the State Department every week, from January 29 through Feb 26.  

While the pilot is currently applicable to H-1B employees only, there is a possibility of it being expanded in the near future to other non-immigrant visa categories like the L-1. 

To qualify under the pilot for domestic visa renewal, the H-1B worker, who has an approved and unexpired H-1B petition and is seeking to renew their visa stamp must: 

  • Have been issued the visa by Mission Canada with an issuance date from January 1, 2020, through April 1, 2023; or by Mission India with an issuance date of February 1, 2021, through September 30, 2021; 
  • Not be subject to a nonimmigrant visa issuance fee (“reciprocity fee”);  
  • Be eligible for an in-person interview waiver;  
  • Have been fingerprinted in the past in connection with a prior visa; 
  • Not have a prior visa that includes a “clearance received” annotation;  
  • Not have a visa ineligibility that would require a waiver prior to visa issuance;  
  • Be currently maintaining H-1B status in the United States;  
  • Have a period of authorized admission in H-1B status that has not expired; and 
  • Intend to re-enter the US in H-1B status after a temporary period abroad. 

 Eligible applicants will be able to apply for renewal through the State Department’s dedicated domestic visa renewal website by submitting the DS-160 and paying the requisite fee, after which applications will then be sorted to determine whether they fall within the scope of the pilot. 

Source: 2023-28160.pdf (federalregister.gov)

D&A will closely follow this development and provide updates as and when they become available. 


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.


US Immigration

US Visa Options for Entrepreneurs

Whether you are desiring to start a business in the United States or have established one already, you may be eligible for a non-immigrant or immigrant visa.  Fortunately, US immigration law provides multiple options in this regard. 

This article briefly touches on the popular routes available to foreign entrepreneurs seeking to live and run their business in the US. 

E-2 Treaty Investor Visa 

The E-2 visa is a great and often times, quick option for entrepreneurs seeking to establish a business in the United States or invest in an existing one.  The E-2 non-immigrant visa is available to nationals of specified countries that have a certain treaty with the US.  One must demonstrate a substantial investment in the US entity; there’s no prescribed minimum, and substantiality is generally assessed based on the proportion between the invested funds and value of the business.  Investments can be by way of cash, inventory, or intellectual property. The capital must be sufficient enough for the business’ operational success.  For example, while an investment of USD 60,000 may be substantial for a juicery, it would not work for a inventory-heavy or manufacturing business.  

An E2 visa can be renewed indefinitely as long as the business continues to operate and the investor – entrepreneur remains actively engaged in the business.  To qualify, the investor does not need to own or run a business in their country or if they do have one, the nature of the US E-2 business need not be the same as their foreign business.   

L-1 Intracompany Transferee Visa

The L-1A, a dual-intent nonimmigrant visa, is used for the transfer of qualified managerial and executive personnel from an overseas company to a related company in the United States. The key criteria are: (1) existence of a qualifying relationship between the foreign and US entity (the US entity should be a parent, subsidiary, affiliate or a branch of the foreign company); (2) the applicant should have worked in a managerial or executive capacity for the foreign employer abroad for at least a year (3) should be assuming a managerial or executive role in the US as well. 

An eligible foreign business owner desirous of expanding their business operations into the US or venturing into a new business line can apply for the L-1 visa for themselves.  The business need not be operational, an L-1 can be applied for “new office” purposes too, where the US business is a startup and has not been engaged in activities for more than a year.  Here as well, there is no prescribed minimum investment amount.  A founder and CEO of an established logistics and warehousing company in Vietnam for example, who is keen on starting and running a similar or different business or businesses in the US may be eligible for the L-1A visa option.  

EB-1C – Multinational Managers and Executives 

The EB-1C visa is a green card/immigrant visa category, available to certain multinational executives and managers who have been employed abroad for at least a year and whose employer is related to a U.S. company (by way of being a parent, subsidiary, affiliate or branch). The US EB-1C sponsor must be engaged in business for at least a year and must offer to employ the foreign applicant in a managerial or executive capacity in the United States.   

The US business does not need to be large; there’s no minimum revenue, earnings, investment or staff prescribed, even small businesses may qualify as long as the EB-1C requirements are met and the company can show the financial ability to pay for the proffered position. 

The EB-1C visa grants permanent resident status.  This category does not require the lengthy labor certification process and the wait time for obtaining a green card is significantly shorter compared to those of the other employment categories.  

EB-1C is a common route adopted by L-1A executives or managers employed in the US to transition to permanent residency.  EB-1C, however, is not limited to L-1 employees; it can be used to sponsor the green card for a multinational manager or executive who has not worked in L-1 status in the US as long as the visa requirements are met. 

EB-5 Investment (Direct) 

The EB-5 immigrant visa is reserved for foreign investors/entrepreneurs who are willing to invest capital in a new or existing business in the US, that will result in jobs for US workers.  Unlike the EB-5 regional center route, under direct EB-5, the investor invests his money directly into their own or a family member’s business which can be a new or an existing one.  The minimum amount is $800,000 in a commercial enterprise in a Targeted Employment Area (TEA) or $1,050,000 in a non-TEA.  Business options under the EB-5 direct route can include retail, services industry, franchise model, restaurants, gas stations, manufacturing and so on. 

Upon approval of the I-526 which is the first stage, the investor will receive a two conditional green card, which later leads to permanent resident status upon fulfilment of certain criteria. 

O-1 Extraordinary Ability

The O-1 visa is reserved for individuals having extraordinary ability in business, education, sciences or athletics.  It’s a good option for accomplished entrepreneurs desirous of starting a new business in the US.  One has to demonstrate extraordinary ability by a documented record showing that they have sustained national or international acclaim, are recipients of awards, have testimonials form leading experts in their industry, among other things.  Evidence is usually in the form of media coverage, publications, press coverage, testaments from experts, etc. 

Similar to the L-1 or E-2, the investor’s own start-up company can sponsor them for the O-1 visa.  Unlike the EB-5, there is no minimum investment in the company.  The O-1 visa initially granted grants the entrepreneur 3 years with available extensions. 

EB-2 (National Interest Waiver) 

Certain entrepreneurs can also avail the Employment-Based (EB-2National Interest Waiver visa, which is an immigrant visa, leading to a green card.  There’s no US job offer or sponsor needed, the entrepreneur can self-petition.  The entrepreneur needs to demonstrate exceptional ability or that they have an advanced US degree along with demonstrating that their work has “substantial merit and national importance;” they are in a good position to achieve what’s stated in their business proposal, and that their endeavor on balance, would be beneficial to waive the job offer requirement. 

Entrepreneur applicants must be ready to present multifaceted and specific evidence along with a very well-articulated business plan.  Evidence can include educational credentials and work experience, investments, revenue growth and job creation, awards, grants, media and press coverage, testament from leading experts and industry organizations and so on. 


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.


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.