The United States is a nation of immigrants. Whether one considers it a "melting pot" of cultures blended together or a mosaic of unique identities, America is continually enriched by new arrivals to its shores.
Of course, getting there is not always easy.
Most UK citizens can travel freely under the Visa Waiver Program for brief visits, but not all; for extended visits, business ventures, job postings, and permanent resettlement, you need the proper visa--and that means a visit to the US Embassy in London or the Consulate in Belfast.
And, if you happen to be among those whom the US government considers "inadmissible," you are going to need a waiver, too.
We can help.
BUSINESS IMMIGRATION STRATEGIES
There are several options available for individuals seeking to invest significant sums in US businesses. Investments of $ 1M or $500,000 in a targeted area can buy a green card while more modest investments of @$100,000 may gain a Treaty Investor (E-2) nonimmigrant visa. Similarly, businesses with significant UK-US trade can send staff to the US on a Treaty Trader (E-1) visa (similar to the L-1 discussed below, but without the requirement of previous employment in the UK). In the recent past, E-2 visas have been a popular means of gaining a foothold in the US for business purposes (especially when the dollar was so poor against the pound)—the visas are issued for up to five years at a time and may be renewed infinitely; the only drawback is that it does not offer a means of transferring to a green card.
Musical groups, solo performers, dancers, circus acts, and various artists and renowned specialists (from chefs to stars of stage and screen) are always in demand in the US. If they are going to be paid in the US, they must obtain a visa. The O-1 visa for individual of extraordinary ability, and the P-1 for groups, offers a convenient means of enabling such engagements in the US. These visas require a US-based sponsor, who may be an agent or direct employer.
Businesses that have affiliates in the UK and the US like to have the ability to move key staff between their businesses. US immigration rules recognize this need and facilitate visa processing for intracompany transferees who serve in executive, managerial, or positions requiring specialized knowledge. These visas are available for such employees of companies that have a parent-subsidiary or branch-affiliate relationship. Managers and executives are designated as L-1A and specialized knowledge personnel are designated as L-1B. An added benefit of the L-1A is that is can be easily transferred into an EB-1.3 green card. The visas are only available to staff who have worked for at least one of the last three years for the UK company in the UK. For UK companies that are starting a US affiliate, the initial visa is issued for one year; otherwise visas are usually issued for three years, with a maximum of seven years in a continuous period.
PERSONAL IMMIGRATION SOLUTIONS
US immigration law is fundamentally committed to family unity. Spouses, children, and parents of US citizens are eligible for an Immediate Relative visa, which is the fastest way to get a green card. While many individuals can handle preparation of the various forms on their own, the process is full of potential pitfalls that can result in significant delays in processing. There are two stages to Immediate Relative visa petitioning: the petition phase, in which US Citizenship and Immigration Services examines the bona fides of the relationship; and the application phase, in which the immigrant applies for the visa at the US Embassy. In all, the process now takes about seven months from start to finish, but in the not-so-distant past the process took in excess of a year, and there are still possible delays that can extend the processing time significantly (when the US Citizen petitioner resides in the UK the process takes significantly less time—as little as three-four months—but the USCIS must be satisfied that the petitioner actually resides here). Fiance(e) visas may be available to individuals who can establish a bona fide intent to marry in the US (the marriage must take place within 90 days of entry and the beneficiary must then file an additional application to Adjust Status to become a US Lawful Permanent Resident.
Spouses and children of business visa holders
Dependants of business visa holders are generally eligible for dependant visas (the spouse of an L-1 would be an L-2, for example). Not all companies that assist employee business visa holder provide assistance to their family members, although establishing eligibility is usually pretty straight forward. The one complication comes with non-marital relationships; US immigration law does not recognize civil partnerships or same-sex unions; however, visa regulations allow for issuance of extended B-visitor visas in lieu of dependent visas.
Individuals born abroad to a US-citizen parent (whether married or not) can often claim derivative citizenship; however, the rules are far from clear. Factors that can affect eligibility can include the date of birth, the parent’s actual period of residence in the US prior to the birth, and (in cases based on derivation through an out-of-wedlock father) proof of acknowledgment and/or support).
Green Cards are considered proof of Lawful Permanent Residence, with an emphasis on the Permanence. When Green Card holders leave the US, they are presumed to intend to return to their permanent home there—unless they are absent for a year or more, in which case they are presumed to have abandoned their status. Where an extended absence is planned, individuals may obtain advance permission (re-entry permit).
Whether for economic/tax or personal reasons, many individuals who hold US citizenship seek to dispense of their US citizenship. Although this may relieve them of duties to file taxes, there are certain taxation risks for those in upper income brackets. There are also repercussions for those who may find themselves inadmissible without their claim to citizenship.
B-1/B-2 visitor visas require proof of ties outside the US (to show non-immigrant intent), adequate funds, and purpose of travel. Non-UK nationals applying for a US visitor visa in London are also required to establish residence in the UK.
Consular officers must assess a visa applicant’s liability to various grounds of inadmissibility, including criminal history, past US immigration violations, and health-related. Generally, these determinations are not appealable; however, attentive US immigration legal assistance can identify matters which may warrant review and in certain cases an advisory opinion from the US State Department may be sought. If the inadmissibility determination cannot be removed, a visa applicant must seek a waiver.
Waiver applications typically require review of criminal records, engaging outside experts, such as barristers, doctors, and psychologists, to render expert opinions, and assembling character references to develop a winning case.
Hardship waivers focus on the harm to US citizen family members if an immigrant visa is not issued due to an inadmissibility determination by a consular officer.
GENERAL ADVICE and ADVOCACY
Whether just beginning to explore immigration possibilities or seeking to move forward on pending matters, we offer a wide range of services.
Application Filing Services
- Advice and representation on US visas, naturalization, and citizenship issues
- Assistance with drafting relevant forms and filing with appropriate authorities
- Family-based petitions
- Business-related petitions
- Citizenship and naturalization
- Continuing care and attention to matters filed with our assistance
- Appeals of adverse determinations
- Administrative Appeals Office
- Board of Immigration Appeals
- Advocacy relating to matters already filed and pending (including applications stuck in Administrative Processing)
- Assistance on matters affected by Trump's Muslim ban
- Review and advice on procedures and material eligibility
- Contact with relevant authorities
- Court reports on US immigration and nationality law
- Eligibility for US immigration benefits
- Inadmissibility issues
- US citizenship status
- US orphan and adoption requirements
- US asylum and refugee protection
Why engage us?
Steven D Heller provides a personal, professional advice and service for your US visa, immigration, and citizenship matters, without excessive reliance on inexperienced junior attorneys. If you are seeking the care, attention and personal relationship you gain from a solo practice lawyer, then our services are for you.