Frequently Asked Questions: Visas, Green Cards & Investment Immigration Law
As a result of assisting hundreds of immigration clients with various visa matters in past years, our immigration lawyers have compiled a list of frequently asked questions. Be sure to check back often as this list is continually updated. Still have a question? Contact us today to speak with an experienced immigration law attorney.
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How do I change my California EB-5 conditional residence into permanent green card status?
Many EB-5 investors want to know what final steps they need to take in order to be granted permanent residence in the U.S. If you are already living in California, the process is fairly straightforward: you will need to file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
While it only takes one official form to change your status, applicants will need to include many pieces of supporting evidence in order for Form I-485 to be approved. Petitioners should be prepared to submit the following documentation along with their application:
- A copy of your government-issued photo ID
- A copy of your birth certificate
- Two passport-sized photos of you
- A copy of your passport page with a previous non-immigrant visa (if applicable)
- A copy of passport page with previous entry stamp (if applicable)
- Certified copies of any arrest record or court records (if applicable)
- Form I-94 (Arrival/ Departure Record)
- Form I-693 (Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record)
- Form G-325A (Biographic Information) for applicants between 14 and 79 years old
- An approved copy of your Form I-526 (Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur)
Once these forms have been gathered and completed, you may submit your application to USICIS. If you wish to receive green cards for your spouse and unmarried children, they may be included on your immigration petition, but will all need to file separate Forms I-485 for consideration.
How long can I stay in the US under an E-2 treaty investor visa?
You probably realize that, as with all non-immigration visas, there is a finite amount of time that you will be able to spend in the US. Under an E-2 visa, investors and employees (and in some cases, their dependents) will be allowed a maximum initial stay of two years.
However, many visa holders may extend the duration of their stay. Here are a few things investors, employees, and dependents should know about staying in the US with an E-2 visa:
- Extension requests of visa status may be granted in increments of up to two years each.
- There are no limits to the number of extensions an E-2 visa holder may be granted, as long as the applicant maintains an intention to depart the United States when his status is terminated.
- An E-2 visa holder traveling abroad may be granted an automatic two-year renewal of stay upon readmission to the United States.
- Family members of traveling visa holders will not receive an automatic extension of stay unless they have accompanied the E-2 treaty investor or employee at the time of readmission to the United States.
I am coming to set up a new business in the US. How long can I stay if I apply for an L-1A visa?
It depends. First, you must discover if you are eligible for the L-1A visa program. In order to set up a new branch of business for your company under the L-1 visa, you must first:
- Have been employed by and actively working for a qualifying organization in a foreign country for twelve continuous months within a three-year period immediately preceding your admission to the United States, and
- Seek to enter the United States expressly to provide service for a branch of the same employer (or one of its affiliated organizations) in a managerial or executive capacity
If you are qualified to come to the US to serve in a managerial position, your company may apply for L-1A visa status on your behalf. Once you are approved, there are a few limitations on your visa to take note of:
- Employees entering the US to establish new company offices will be granted a maximum initial stay of one year. Other employees may be granted stays of up to three years
- Extension requests may be granted in increments not to exceed two years
- All L-1A employees are limited to a maximum residence of seven years
If you wish to stay in the US any longer than the seven-year limit, you may be able to transition your visa into a green card.
I am an EB-5 investor currently living in the U.S. How can I become a permanent resident?
Before you can become a permanent resident, you must first petition to have your immigrant status adjusted. This will make you a conditional permanent resident; after a period of time, the conditions may be removed, and you will lawfully be a permanent resident of the U.S.
In order to do this, you must have an approved Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur. Once you have a valid visa number, you can apply for conditional permanent residence using Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
Generally speaking, it can take between six months to one year to receive approval for Form I-485. Once you are approved, both you and your eligible family members may receive 2 years of “conditional” permanent resident status in the U.S. This may include spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21.
During your two years of conditional residency, you must continue to operate under the conditions of your EB-5 visa, including upholding the job requirements of your position. Starting six months after your Form I-526, you are required to hire and maintain ten jobs at your company or enterprise of investment in order to maintain your visa status.
Our trusted San Francisco EB-5 attorneys at the Law Offices of Vaughan de Kirby can help you with the steps of the investor immigration process, including the removal of your conditional residency—the final step to permanent residence in the U.S.
Call us today at (415) 221-2345, or request a copy of our FREE informational guide, Investor's Path to a Green Card: How Investing in America Can Put You and Your Family on the Path to Greater Wealth and U.S. Permanent Residency.
I’m studying in the U.S. under an F-1 visa, but I need to go back home right away. Can I leave if there’s an emergency?
Yes. The F-1 visa program will allow you to return to your native country, but you must communicate your intentions to your school and the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services. You will also need to carry several items and important documents with you when you exit and re-enter the country, which may include:
- A valid passport
- Your student visa
- Form I-20, "Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status"
- Form I-94, "Arrival/Departure Record"
- Your Social Security card
- Plane tickets or travel itinerary
- Form I-766, "Employment Authorization Document" (EAD)
- Contact numbers or email addresses of your designated school officials (DSOs) or responsible officers (ROs)
Customers and border patrol officers may ask for additional school information, so it is wise to carry your Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) contact information with you as well.
If you fail to possess the necessary documents, you may have trouble re-entering the United States after your trip home is complete. If you are gone longer than the term of your visa, your status may become invalid, leaving you to begin the application process all over again.
There are many types of L-1 visa. How do I know which one I qualify for?
There are many ways employees can come to the U.S. under the L-1 visa. For instance, workers may hold either L-1A or L-1B status. L-1A applies to executives and managers and is valid for up to 7 years. L-1B is reserved for workers with specialized knowledge, and is valid for residency up to 5 years.
In addition to these two categories, there are also two types of L-1 procedures:
- Regular L-1 visas. This is the typical application route for singular employees. The company must file a petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services for each worker it wishes to send to the U.S., and each visa must be approved individually.
- Blanket L-1 visas. These visas are only available to certain qualified employers, and involves the USCIS issuing one Intracompany Transferee visa to all of the company’s individuals. Visa applicants must file a copy of the approved blanket petition and provide documents supporting their qualifications to the consulate or embassy that has jurisdiction over their U.S. residence.
In order to choose which visa is right for you, it is important to determine what path you will take after your visa expires. After the L-1 visa residency term of 5-7 years, employees may only qualify for L-1 status again by returning to their home countries for at least one year under employment of the parent company.
What if I am in the United States on a P-3 visa, but I want to extend my stay?
Under the conditions of your cultural performance visa, you are only allowed to remain in the U.S. for the duration of the event, activity, or performance. No matter how long the activity lasts, your residence cannot last for longer than one calendar year.
However, there are ways to extend your stay. U.S. Citizenship and immigration services allows those with P-3 visas to file for extensions in increments up to one year in order to continue participation in their cultural program. If you wish to remain in the U.S. for longer than one additional year, you may apply to change your non-immigrant status, but this may mean exchanging your visa for a different type. Lastly, you may also wish to remain in the U.S. under another employer.
You can apply to change your nonimmigrant status as long as you:
- Were lawfully admitted to the U.S. under a nonimmigrant visa
- Still have a valid nonimmigrant status
- Have not violated any of the conditions of your status
- Have not committed any crimes during the length of your stay
To apply for an extension or change your status, you will need to fill out a new Form I-129 and submit it to the USCIS. If you are changing professions, your new employer must file a new Form I-129 to request permission to employ you. You cannot start working with your new employer until the Form I-129 has been approved.
How much money will I need to invest to qualify for an E-2 visa?
The amount needed for a U.S. residency visa varies and depends on the nature of the business the investor creates or directs. While there is no minimum amount that can be invested in a business for an E-2 visa, funds generally start at around $100,000. However, it is important to note that these funds are at significant risk, since they are often invested before the visa has been approved.
In order to qualify as a “substantial amount of capital” by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, your investment amount must be:
- A significant combination of funds and/or assets that can be placed at commercial risk in order to generate a profit, and which can be subject to partial or total loss if the investment fails
- Enough to satisfy the total costs of purchasing an enterprise or establishing a new one, including building erection, renovation, permits, and daily operational costs
- Sufficient funds to ensure an investor’s financial commitment to the success of the business
- Higher than the lower initial enterprise costs
- Enough to suggest that the treaty investor will develop the enterprise into a success
- Documented, and it must be proved that the funds have not been obtained, directly or indirectly, from illegal activity.
Can I use money from an inheritance to fund my EB-5 investment?
Yes, but it will require filing a few additional documents. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service allows investments to be made with capital from an inheritance, but in order to do this, you will have to provide the following forms of evidence along with your EB-5 immigration application:
- A copy of the benefactor’s death certificate
- A document clarifying the relationship between the investor and the deceased
- A receipt outlining the total amount of the investor’s inheritance
- A record of the transmission of inherited funds from the deceased to the investor
- Proof of payment of any inheritance tax
In some cases, such as if the deceased and the investor were not directly related, it can be difficult to explain the nature of the inheritance. In these instances, Immigration Services may ask you to provide an additional statement to thoroughly clarify your relationship with the deceased and the circumstances surrounding the inheritance.
At the Law Offices of Vaughan de Kirby, our trusted EB-5 green card lawyers can help you prepare your application and answer any questions you may have about the investment process, improving your chances of getting your application approved.
Contact our San Francisco immigration attorneys today at (415) 221-2345, or fill out the contact form on this page to get started. You can also get answers immediately in our FREE informational guide, Investor's Path to a Green Card: How Investing in America Can Put You and Your Family on the Path to Greater Wealth and U.S. Permanent Residency.
What is considered a full course of study under the F-1 visa requirements?
In order to qualify for an F-1 student visa, you must enrolled in a full course of study and be a full-time student. But what exactly does this mean?
Whether you are a full-time student or a part-time student is a distinction made by the school that you are attending. However, you can follow some general guidelines to determine whether or not you are studying full time. For example, most full-time students are working toward a specific degree or objective, such as:
- An Associate's degree
- A Bachelor's degree
- A Master's degree
- A doctorate
Attending a primary school or secondary school also constitutes full-time study, as you are working toward a diploma and graduation.
Generally, full-time study at an undergraduate program involves taking 12 credits per semester. Full-time study at the graduate level usually requires 9 credits per semester. However, these requirements may differ, depending on the degree and the learning institution.
It is important to understand that full-time study still involves and allows regular vacations and breaks, such as summer vacation and winter vacation. However, your full-time study status may be in jeopardy if you miss classes or go on personal vacations.