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Business Immigration FAQs

Whether you are a business owner in the U.S. or a foreign national looking to come to America for work, you likely have a lot of questions about the U.S. immigration process. Below are answers to some of the questions most frequently encountered at the Owji Law Group in San Francisco as we help California businesses with their legal immigration matters. If you have other questions, or if you need to speak with an attorney regarding your U.S. immigration needs, call the Owji Law Group at 415-693-9583, or contact us online to set up a consultation with an experienced California business immigration lawyer.

What do I need to qualify for an H-1B visa?

This visa is used to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations requiring the theoretical or practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge. In general, the prospective employee (the beneficiary of the H-1B visa) needs to hold the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree and earn the prevailing wage in a specialty occupation in a field such as technology, math, engineering or business.

When do H-1B visas become available?

USCIS typically begins accepting H-1B petitions on April 1st, and you may file your petition at that time. The employee/beneficiary of the petition must have an employment start date within six months of the time you submit the petition.

How many H-1Bs are available each year?

The government caps the number of H-1B visas at 65,000 for the year. If more than 65,000 petitions are received within five days after the period for accepting applications is opened, then a lottery is used to select the 65,000 petitions for visa processing. The cap is regularly exceeded, and a lottery is regularly used.

Is there any exemption from the annual visa cap?

USCIS provides an advanced degree exemption from the cap for anyone with a U.S. master’s degree or higher. The exemption is limited to 20,000 qualifying petitions, and if more than 20,000 are received in the first five days after the announcement, then a lottery is used to select the 20,000 exempt petitions. If your petition is not selected in that lottery, it will go into the general pool of petitions for the general lottery which selects the 65,000 petitions for the year.

How does a “national interest” waiver work?

The general rule for obtaining an EB-2 visa is that the applicant must first have a permanent job offer and labor certification. However, if the petitioner is a researcher or professional with exceptional ability or an advanced degree, the individual may self-petition for an EB-2 visa without a specific job offer by obtaining a national interest waiver, provided the petitioner can demonstrate that the granting of such a waiver would be in the national interest and would be of benefit to the United States.

How can I immigrate as an investor or entrepreneur?

One option is to apply for an EB-5 visa. You will need to invest at least $1,000,000 in a business, or $500,000 if the investment is made in certain rural areas or areas of high unemployment. Your investment must also create or maintain a certain number of jobs, and you have to demonstrate a certain level of involvement with the management of the enterprise.

Another option is to apply for an E-1 Treaty Trader or E-2 Treaty Investor visa. The required investment amount is less for these visas than it is for an EB-5, but you must be a national of a country that maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation with the U.S. to be eligible. These visas are nonimmigrant visas, but you can petition for lawful permanent residence if your investment is above the threshold amount required for an EB-5 visa.

How do I qualify for a visa in the Employment First Preference (E1) category?

More than one-fourth of all employment-based immigrant visas are granted to Priority Workers in this category. To qualify, you must meet specific criteria in a designated area, such as being a person with extraordinary ability, an outstanding professor or researcher, or a multinational manager or executive. Call our office for help in determining which type of visa will work best for you, and to get started preparing and submitting your petition.

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