Frequently Asked Questions: Visas, Green Cards & 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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Can a San Francisco immigration attorney help me understand what information I must provide to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) when I petition for an actor’s EB-1 visa?
As a San Francisco immigration lawyer, I regularly help actors who wish to work in the United States and I understand how confusing the process can seem. Basically, the information you provide to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) depends on the type of visa for which you are applying. While there are many EB visa forms, actors will usually apply for an EB-1 visa—Extraordinary Ability, first preference.
Many of the documents you will provide to the USCIS will involve evidence of your extraordinary ability as a performer. If you have sufficiently demonstrated your qualifications, you will have essentially addressed your ability to find work and continue working in the United States. This means you will NOT have to go through the process of:
- Proving employment. Although an EB-1 visa is employment-based, you do not need to have a job offer to be approved. USCIS accepts that you are highly qualified and are likely to find employment.
- Labor certification. Some EB applicants (EB-2 and EB-3) will have to complete a labor certification process to prove there are no qualified U.S. workers who could potentially fill the positions for which you qualify. As an EB-1 visa applicant, you are demonstrating that you are uniquely positioned to perform your role.
What Are the Three Types of EB-1 Green Card?
There are three subcategories of the EB-1 immigration visa for those with extraordinary abilities – and chances are that only one is right for you and your family.
The EB-1A green card is meant for those who can easily prove that they have an extraordinary ability and have risen to the top of their field internationally. This immigration visa asks that you prove thoroughly that you have received top recognition as an educator, artist, athlete, businessperson, researcher, or scientist. It does not require that you have a job lined up in the United States.
The EB-1B green card is tailored to professors and researchers with at least three years of experience who have secured a permanent position in the United States, either as a tenure-track teacher or researcher. You must prove that you have received international recognition for your work, such as an award or publication.
The EB-1C green card is designed for managers and executives of international companies who wish to permanently work and live in the United States. While you do not have to prove extraordinary ability, you do have to prove your experience and necessity to your company.
Should I apply for the EB-1 visa or the O-1 visa for extraordinary ability?
Many talented foreigners are confused by the visa options for immigrants with extraordinary abilities. At first glance, the EB-1 visa and the O-1 visa seem to be extremely similar. How do you know which choice is right for you?
Although both the EB-1 and O-1 visas were developed to encourage foreigners with special talents and abilities to immigrate to the United States, the two options are considerably different.
The EB-1 visa for extraordinary ability is geared toward athletes, artists, and businessmen with acclaimed talents. It is an immigration visa meant for those who would like to live permanently in the United States with a green card. If you come to America with an EB-1 visa, you do not need an employer sponsor or a job lined up, but you are expected to continue working in your field if you would like permanent residency.
The O-1 visa for extraordinary ability is for anyone with internationally acknowledged talents, from athletes to managers to actors. This is a non-immigration visa that requires an employee sponsor and a job in the U.S. Proving a certain level of talent and qualifying for an O-1 visa is more difficult than qualifying for an EB-1 visa. An unlimited number of O-1 visas can be issued each year.
Is an L-1A visa approval required prior to obtaining an EB-1C visa approval if a California company is looking to petition a multinational executive or manager?
The EB-1C visa and the L-1A visa are similar, but one major difference is that the L-1A visa is a non-immigrant visa, while individuals with an EB-1C visa approval would also qualify for permanent residency in the United States.
This makes the EB-1C visa more attractive to multinational companies and individuals. However, according to experienced California immigration lawyers at Jatoi & de Kirby, APC, the approval process for an L-1 visa tends to be less burdensome.
The L-1A visa is not a prerequisite for the EB-1C visa, and approval of an L-1A visa does not automatically guarantee approval of an EB-1C visa. Further, a multinational corporation may file an EB-1C petition directly as long as all of the requirements are met.
However, a company may choose to petition for an L-1A visa because the requirements are not as strict as the EB-1C visa. In particular, under the EB-1C visa requirements, the U.S. company is required to have been in “substantial operation” for one year prior to applying for the EB-1C visa.
As explained by an immigration lawyer in California, this means that if your California office is looking to petition for an EB-1C visa for an executive or manager, it must have an established corporate structure in the United States for at least one year with a reasonable number of employees. The revenue of this U.S. business must have then led to the need for a manager or executive to head operations.
Does an EB-1 "Extraordinary Ability" Green Card applicant have to have an employer?
No. One important advantage of the EB-1 is that (unlike with the non-immigrant O-1 Visa) the applicant doesn't need to have found an employer willing to guarantee a job. In other words, the applicant can "self petition"-that is, apply on his or her own behalf.
This is a critical difference between the O-1 non-immigrant visa and the EB-1 immigrant option.
What advantage does the EB-1 Green Card route provide?
One of the major advantages of the EB-1 category is that it often allows a qualified applicant to receive a Green Card in far less time than it takes to navigate through some of the other categories. Some EB categories, for example the EB-3 option, can take over four years! Right now, the EB-1 category is considered "current," which means that as soon as an EB-1 application is filed, the only waiting time is however long it takes USCIS to process the application and make a decision.