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Immigration Law
We represent clients in the full spectrum of cases, from obtaining a visa to becoming a citizen. Immigration law is federal law, and applies equally to all states, which means we can successfully represent clients wherever they live or do business. We are located right here in the DC area, where all the action happens, so if there is a need to represent you in court or other federal immigration administrative agencies in person, we are here to help.

We are with you every step of the way, keeping a keen eye on the latest immigration procedure trends and adapting our tactics in order to deliver the best outcome for your particular situation.
Change of Status
Who Needs to Apply

When you are admitted into the United States, a U.S. official will assign you a nonimmigrant category according to the purpose of your visit. If you want to change the purpose of your visit while you are in the United States, then you or, in some cases, your employer must ask the INS to change your nonimmigrant status. For instance, if you arrived as a tourist, but want to become a student or employee you must submit an application to change your status with the INS.

In order to qualify to apply for a change of nonimmigrant status, a nonimmigrant alien must be in lawful nonimmigrant status. This means that the applicant has not overstayed the departure date shown on his or her arrival/departure record (form I-94), nor engaged in unauthorized employment or done anything else in violation of his or her nonimmigrant status.

Late Filings for a Change of Nonimmigrant Status

If you are late filing for a change of nonimmigrant status and your current status has already expired, you must prove that:

The delay was due to extraordinary circumstances beyond your control;
The length of the delay was reasonable;
You have not done anything else to violate your nonimmigrant status (such as work without INS approval);
You are still a nonimmigrant (This means that you are not trying to become a permanent resident of the United States. There are some exceptions.); and
You are not in formal proceedings to remove (deport) you from the country.
How to Apply

Depending upon the nonimmigrant category into which the applicant seeks a change of status, two different application forms are used. For those who seek a change of nonimmigrant status into E, H, L, O, or P classification, form I-129 (with the appropriate supplement) is used. This is a combined petition and change of status application. For those seeking all other nonimmigrant classifications, an application for change of nonimmigrant status is made on form I-539. Spouses and children of applicants for change of status into E, H, L, O, or P classification must file their own application, using form I-539.

These applications should be filed with the INS regional service center having jurisdiction over the place where the applicant is living.

Intent When Entering U.S.

The INS follows the “30/60 day rule” in adjudicating most applications. If a person applies for a change of nonimmigrant status within 30 days of arriving in the U.S., the application is presumed to be fraudulent. The reason for this is that they doubt that a person who applies for a change of status within 30 days of entry was truthful when he or she stated their reason for coming to the U.S. when they originally entered. This presumption may be rebutted, but applicants should be aware of it.

Applicants who apply more than 60 days after entry are presumed to be acting in good faith. Applicants who apply between 30 and 60 days are suspect, but not presumptively fraudulent.
The INS has recently spoken to the issue of an applicant’s status when the INS has not acted on their application for change of nonimmigrant status by the time the applicant’s I-94 expires.

Generally, a citizen of a foreign country who wishes to enter the United States must first obtain either a non immigrant visa for temporary stay or an immigrant visa for permanent residence. The visitor visa is a non immigrant visa for persons desiring to enter the United States temporarily for business (B-1) or for pleasure or medical treatment (B-2). Persons planning to travel to the U.S. for a different purpose, such as students, temporary workers, crewmen, journalists, etc., must apply for a different visa in the appropriate category. Travelers from certain eligible countries may also be able to visit the U.S. without a visa, through the Visa Waiver Program.

Qualifying for a B-1/B-2 Visa

Applicants for visitor visas must show that they qualify under provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The presumption in the law is that every visitor visa applicant is an intending immigrant. Therefore, applicants for visitor visas must overcome this presumption by demonstrating that:

The purpose of their trip is to enter the U.S. for business, pleasure, or medical treatment;
They plan to remain for a specific, limited period; and
They have a residence outside the U.S. as well as other binding ties, which will insure their return abroad at the end of the visit.
Alien truck drivers may qualify for admission as B-1 visitors for business to pick-up or deliver cargo traveling in the stream of international commerce.

Passing through a U.S. Port of Entry

Applicants should be aware that a visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) at the port of entry have authority to deny admission. Also, the period for which the bearer of a visitor visa is authorized to remain in the United States is determined by the CBP, not the Department of State Consular Officer.

Visitors who wish to stay beyond the time indicated on their Form I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record) must file Form I-539 with USCIS, to request extension of their status before the expiration of their original status. The decision to grant or deny a request for extension of stay is made solely by the USCIS.
H-1B Employer
H-1B aliens may only work for the petitioning U.S. employer and only in the H-1B activities described in the petition. The petitioning U.S. employer may place the H-1B worker on the worksite of another employer if all applicable rules of the Department of Labor and USCIS are followed. H-1B aliens may work for more than one U.S. employer, but must have a petition approved for each employer.

Period of Stay 

A foreign worker with an H-1B visa can stay in the U.S. for a maximum of six years (plus extensions in certain circumstances) period. The H-1B visa is initially valid for three years and can then be extended for another three years.

Dual Intent

Even though the H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa, it is one of the few visa categories recognized as dual intent, meaning an H-1B holder can have legal immigration intent (apply for and obtain a Green Card) while still a holder of the visa. There is no presumption that H1-B holder is an immigrant; no requirement to enter ”temporarily” or have a residence abroad which he or she has no intention of abandoning; and filing of immigrant petition or other indication of seeking permanent residence is not evidence of abandoning foreign residence for purposes of seeking or maintaining H-1B status. This distinction from other nonimmigrant visas is very important for H-1B nonimmigrant while applying for certain immigration benefits.A U.S. employer may obtain permanent residence (Green Card) status for an H-1B alien if the employer can demonstrate that it is unable to locate a U.S. worker to fill the position.
H-2 status/visa can be considered for persons who do not qualify for H-1 status/visa because they are not in “specialty occupations” as defined and interpreted (generally for people who do not have bachelor’s degree). However, there are three additional major distinctions and considerations in H-2 temporary worker status/visa:

the job must be a temporary job in the U.S.; that is, not only must the alien be coming temporarily, and the employer must hire foreign nationals temporarily, but the job itself must have a finite existence;
normally, there must be a determination that there are no qualified American workers available for the position;
it is difficult to obtain permanent resident status based on the same job for which the alien had H-2 status.
Types of H2 Visas

H-2A Agricultural Worker: an alien coming to engage in temporary or seasonal agricultural employment.

The H-2B classification applies to an alien coming temporarily to engage in non-agricultural temporary employment which is seasonal, intermittent, a peak load need, or a one-time occurrence. This option also exists for Au Pairs.

Steps to Obtain H-2 Visa

Before obtaining a final approval, all H-2 petitions have to go through 3 agencies: 1) State Local Workforce Agency (SWA); 2) Department of Labor (DOL); 3) U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).SWA will require employers to go through a process of advertising for a position to show that no Americans are found to fill the position and are immediately available. It forwards all the recruitment results to DOL. The employer must obtain a certification from DOL that there is a shortage of available, qualified U.S. workers at the prevailing wage in the area of intended employment. Based on the approved Labor Certification, the Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker with USCIS is filed, upon the approval of which, the alien might start working for the employer (if within the country) or will have to go through a consulate abroad to receive a visa.

The length of the stay on an H-2 visa is limited by the duration of the employer’s temporary need for additional workers. The maximum authorized period of stay is one year, and the visa may be extended for a total of three years. Spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age of H-2 workers are entitled to H-4 status with the same restrictions as the principal. Dependents may not be employed under the H-4 classification.
The H-3 classification applies to aliens (beneficiaries) coming temporarily to the U.S. on a visa to participate in a training program (i.e., internship visa, trainee visa). There are general H-3 beneficiaries, and those coming for a special education training.

The petitioning employer or sponsor must demonstrate that:

Proposed training is not available in the beneficiary’s home country;
Beneficiary will not be placed in a positionwhich is in the normal operation of the business, and in which citizens and resident alien workers are regularly employed;
Beneficiary will not be productively employed except as incidental to training;
Training will benefit beneficiary in pursuing a career outside the U.S. 
H-3 status is not appropriate for graduate education, including medical training, except under special circumstances, but applies to an alien coming temporarily to participate in a special education training program in the education of children with disabilities. There is a numerical limit (or “cap”) on the number of H-3 special education exchange visitors. No more than 50 applications may be approved in a fiscal year. 

In order to obtain H-3 classification, the U.S. employer or organization must file a Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker demonstrating all the above mentionedrequirements.

If the petition is approved, the trainee may be allowed to remain in the United States for up to 2 years. If the trainee petition is approved for a special education exchange visitor, the trainee may remain in the United States for up to 18 months.

Tra inees’ spouses and children who are under the age of 21 may accompany them to the United States as H-4 nonimmigrants. However, H-4 nonimmigrants are not permitted to work in the United States.
H-4 visa/status is issued to dependents (spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age) of H-1, H-2 or H-3 principal beneficiary.
H-4 status/visaprovides for same restrictions as the principal, however not the same benefits.H-4 usually does not permit employment in the U.S. orcan not give an opportunity to obtain a Social Security Number,but does permit school attendance and applying for a driver’s license.
However, certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants can obtain employment authorization if the H-1B nonimmigrant(spouse):
Is the principal beneficiary of an approvedForm I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker; or
Has been granted H-1B status under sections 106(a) and (b) of the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000 as amended by the 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act (AC21).
An H-4 visa holder is admitted to the U.S. for the duration of the primary (H-1B, H-2A, H-2B, or H-3) visa validity.H-4 visa/status is usually issued at the same time it is issued to an H principal beneficiary or the principal H applicant can request this visa/status for his dependents during his H status.
Treaty Trader Visas (E-1) and Treaty Investor Visas (E-2) are non-immigrant visas for nationals of a country with which the United States maintains a treaty of friendship, commerce and navigation who wish to go to the United States for one of two purposes:

(1) to carry on substantial trade, principally between the United States and the treaty country (E-1); or

(2) to develop and direct the operations of an enterprise in which the national has invested or is in the process of investing a substantial amount of capital (E-2).

E-1 Treaty Trader

The E-1 classification is authorized for a national of a country with which the United States has a commercial treaty, who is coming to the U.S. solely to engage in trade of a substantial nature principally between the United States and the alien’s country of nationality. The trade involved must be international exchange of items of trade between the U.S. and a treaty country. Title to the trade item must pass from one treaty party to the other.

The treaty trader countries are the following:

Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China (Taiwan), Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Honduras, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Korea (South), Kosovo, Latvia, Liberia, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Mexico, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Serbia, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Togo, Turkey, United Kingdom, Yugoslavia.

E-2 Treaty Investor

The E-2 classification is authorized for a national of a country with which the United States has a commercial treaty, who is coming to the United States solely to direct and develop the operations of an enterprise in which he or she has invested, or is actively involved in the process of investing, a substantial amount of capital. An investor must be coming to develop and direct the business which means that there must be a controlling interest. The investment must be a real and active commercial or entrepreneurial undertaking, producing some service or commodity, as opposed to a paper organization, an idle speculative investment in, e.g., a bank account, undeveloped land or stocks, or a not-for-profit organization.

The treaty investor countries are the following: 

Albania, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China (Taiwan), Colombia, Congo (Brazzaville), Congo (Kinshasa), Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Grenada, Honduras, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Korea (South), Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Liberia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Senegal, Singapore, Slovak Rep., Slovenia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Yugoslavia.

Employees of Treaty Traders and Investors

If applicant will be employed rather than doing business on his or her own account, employing company must have (same) treaty nationality in order for the applicant to become E-1/E-2 employee. Company’s nationality is determined by its ownership, not ordinarily by its place of registry.

Two Types of Employees Qualify for E Visas:

E2 Executives and E2 Managers: Executives and Managers should be going to develop and direct the trade or investment of the principal investor/trader in the U.S. Such personnel should be able to demonstrate their executive or managerial qualification.

E2 Specialists or E-2 Essential Skilled Workers: This is a good way of employing highly skilled level people over in the U.S. Employer should demonstrate that:

the employee should have specialized knowledge of the business which may be difficult to find in the U.S.; and
the employment of the treaty national is necessary for the running of the principal trader or investor’s business in the U.S.
Period of Stay

Qualified treaty investors and employees will be allowed a maximum initial stay of two years.  Requests for extension of stay may be granted in increments of up to two years each.  There is no maximum limit to the number of extensions an E-2 nonimmigrant may be granted.

Dependents (spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age) of an E-1 or E-2 nonimmigrant will be admitted under same classification as the principal and can apply for a work authorization for E1/E-2 dependents.
 The L-1 category applies to aliens who work for a company with a parent, subsidiary, branch, or affiliate in the U.S. These workers come to the U.S. as intracompany transferees who are coming temporarily to perform services either in: a managerial or executive capacity (L-1A) or who entail specialized knowledge (L-1B) for a parent, branch, subsidiary or affiliate of the same employer that employed the professional abroad.

L-1 is available only to an applicant who:

(1) has been employed abroad continuously for one year during the last three years;

(2) by a firm or corporation or other legal entity;

(3) in a managerial or executive capacity or a capacity that involves specialized knowledge; and 

(4) seeks admission to the U.S. to be employed in one of such capacities by a qualifying organization that is a parent, branch, affiliate, or subsidiary of the foreign employer.

Blanket L Petition

Certain organizations may establish the required intracompany relationship in advance of filing individual L-1 petitions by filing a blanket petition. Eligibility for blanket L certification may be established if:

The petitioner and each of the qualifying organizations are engaged in commercial trade or services;
The petitioner has an office in the United States which has been doing business for one year or more;
The petitioner has three or more domestic and foreign branches, subsidiaries, and affiliates; and
The petitioner along with the other qualifying organizations meet one of the following criteria:
Have obtained at least 10 L-1 approvals during the previous 12-month period;
Have U.S. subsidiaries or affiliates with combined annual sales of at least $25 million; or
Have a U.S. work force of at least 1,000 employees.
Period of Stay

L-1A (managerial or executive transferee) is limited to seven consecutive years, the L-1B to five consecutive years.Qualified employees entering the United States to establish a new office will be allowed a maximum initial stay of one year. All other qualified employees will be allowed a maximum initial stay of three years. 

Dependents (i.e. spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age) of L-1 workers are entitled to L-2 status with the same restrictions as the principal. Dependents may be students in the U.S. while remaining in L-2 status, however, dependents may not be employed under the L-2 classification.

 An alien who has a residence in a foreign country which he has no intention of abandoning who is coming temporarily to the United States as a participant in an international cultural exchange program may apply for Q-1 non immigrant visa.

Only employers who administer cultural exchange programs are allowed to petition for Q nonimmigrants. The Q-1 classification applies to participants in an international cultural exchange program approved by the U.S. Attorney General for the purpose of providing practical training, employment, and to share the history, culture, and traditions of the alien’s home country.

An applicant must be at least 18 years old and be able to communicate effectively about the cultural attributes of their country.

Steps to Obtain Q Visa

A sponsoring organization may file a Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker with evidence that the employer maintains an established international cultural exchange program. Submitted materials must illustrate that:

the cultural component of the program is designed to give an overview of the attitude, customs, history, heritage, philosophy, tradition and/or other cultural attributes of the participant’s home country;
the program activities take place in a public setting where the sharing of culture can be achieved through direct interaction with the American public or a segment thereof;
has designated a qualified employee to administer the program and serve as liaison with USCIS;
will offer the alien wages and working conditions comparable to those accorded local domestic workers similarly employed; and
has the financial ability to compensate the participant(s), as shown by a copy of the employer’s most recent annual report, business income tax return or other form of certified accountant’s report.
A petition for international cultural exchange is approved for a period of 15 months plus 30 days for departure at the end of the program. A new petition must be filed each time the qualified employer wishes to sponsor an exchange visitor, although it may replace or substitute a participant’s name on a previously approved petition for the remainder of the program.

The Q nonimmigrant visa does not have a provision for any spouse or children to accompany or follow to join a Q-1 nonimmigrant.
P-1 Спортсмены
Этот тип виз предназначен для спортсменов, въезжающих в США временно для участия в определенном спортивном соревновании в качестве спортсмена, в одиночку или в составе группы или команды на международном уровне.
P-1 Эстрадные группы
Эта классификация применяется к иностранцу, въезжающему в США с целью выступить в составе иностранной эстрадной группы, признанной международной и выдающейся в своей области в течение продолжительного времени. Лицо, обращающееся за визой также должно иметь длительные трудовые отношения с этой группой (не менее года) и он должен выполнять функцию, необходимую для успешного выступления группы. 
P-2 Художественный/артистический обмен
Эта классификация применяется к иностранцам, въезжающим временно в качестве художника/артиста или представителя шоу-бизнеса, в одиночку или в составе группы, которые приедут в США для участия в программе двустороннего обмена между американской организацией и организацией в другой стране.
P-3 Артисты из уникальной культуры
Эта классификация применяется к артистам приезжающим в США для выступлений, преподавания, тренировки в качестве артистов или представителей шоу-бизнеса, в одиночку или в составе группы, по программе, являющейся с точки зрения культуры уникальной.
P-1, 2 или 3 (Сопровождающий обслуживающий персонал)
Эта категория применяется  к сопровождающему высокопрофессиональному обслуживающему персоналу,  въезжающему временно как существенная и неотъемлемая часть подготовки представления или соревнования, в котором участвуют P-1, P-2, или P-3. Эти люди должны выполнять такие виды работ, которые не могут выполнить американские рабочие и которые одновременно являются существенными для успешного выступления артиста или спортсмена.  
Продление пребывания и продление визы
Продление P виз может быть дано на один год для того, чтобы иностранец в этом статусе мог выполнить свою программу, указанную в первоначальном заявлении. Спортсмены-одиночки могут получить продление на дополнительный период в 5 лет (однако весь период пребывания не может превышать 10 лет).   
За исключением спортсменов-одиночек не существует максимального ограничения пребывания для иностранцев со статусом P, и поэтому главным вопросом для продления пребывания является вопрос о том, будет ли иностранец работать в той же сфере/бизнесе, указанным в первоначальном заявлении. Если иностранец планирует работать в той же сфере и для окончания работ ему требуется дополнительное время, продление пребывания будет обоснованным. Например, иностранец приехал в США для съемок, которые первоначально должны были быть окончены в пределах определенного промежутка времени, но впоследствии по различным причинам сроки проведения работ были изменены. В этом случае продление пребывания должно быть санкционировано.
Продление для лиц, потерявших статус
Лица, потерявшие статус ко времени подачи заявления на продление пребывания, которые не могут оправдать позднюю подачу заявления на продление статуса, должны подать заявление на получение визы P за границей. Более того, если заявитель оставался в стране дольше срока, установленного ему при въезде в США, заявитель должен будет подавать заявление на визу в стране, гражданином которой он является. Американское консульство в третьей стране не примет заявление к рассмотрению если только иностранец не сможет доказать наличие чрезвычайных обстоятельств.
The R-1 classification applies to a religious worker. This is an alien coming to the U.S. temporarily to work:

As a minister of religion,
As a professional in a religious vocation or occupation, or
For a bona fide nonprofit religious organization at the request of the organization, in a religious occupation which relates to a traditional religious function.
The applicant (religious worker) must have been a member of a religious denomination having a nonprofit religious organization in the United States for at least two years immediately prior to the application date. To be eligible, the U.S. petitioning organization must be a nonprofit religious organization granted (or eligible for) tax exempt status, and must demonstrate that it can and will provide for all of the R-1 beneficiary’s financial and physical needs.

It is very important to establish that R visa applicant’s religious occupation relates to a traditional religious function through a detailed explanation of the duties and requirements for the position and that the position is recognized as a religious occupation in this denomination or organization.

A prospective or existing U.S. employer must file a Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, on behalf of a foreign national seeking to enter the United States as a nonimmigrant minister, or a religious worker in a religious vocation or occupation. An R-1 visa cannot be issued at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad without prior USCIS approval.

Dependents (spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age) of R-1 workers are entitled to R-2 status with the same restrictions as the principal. Dependents may be students in the U.S. but may not be employed under the R-2 classification.

USCIS may grant R-1 status for an initial period of admission for up to 30 months. Subsequent extensions may be granted for up to an additional 30 months. The religious worker’s total period of stay in the United States in R-1 classification cannot exceed five years (60 months).
The O category is reserved for aliens of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, the artist’s or athlete’s support staff, and the O-1’s spouse and/or children.

To qualify, the alien must be coming to the U.S. to work in his or her area of extraordinary ability or achievement.

The O visa holder can work legally in the U.S. for the O visa sponsor. If, however, the worker wants to change jobs, a new O visa is necessary.

O-1A Extraordinary Ability (Science, Education, Business, or Athletics)

In general, the person must have received national or international acclaim in a particular field. This can be demonstrated if the person has gotten a major internationally recognized award, such as an Olympic medal or a Pulitzer Prize, or has accomplished at least three of the following:

received a nationally recognized prize or award for excellence;
attained membership in associations that require outstanding achievements of their members in a particular field of expertise;
been the subject of published material in professional or major trade publications or major media;
participated, on a panel or individually, as a judge of the work of others in the field;
made an original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contribution of major significance to the field;
authored scholarly articles in professional journals or major media;
been previously employed in a critical or essential capacity for an organization with a distinguished reputation, or
command or have commanded a high salary or other outstanding remuneration for your services.
If the above criteria do not readily apply to the applicant’s occupation, the company filing the immigration petition may submit comparable evidence to show how “extraordinary” the person really is.

O-1B: Extraordinary Ability (Arts or Motion Picture or Television Industry)

When applying as an O-1 alien of extraordinary ability in the arts, the person should start by making sure his or her work fits the immigration law’s definition of art. Or, if working in motion pictures or television productions, have a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement. To demonstrate recognition in the field of art, the applicant will need to supply documents showing that he or she has been nominated for or have received significant national or international awards or prizes in the particular field, such as an Oscar, Emmy, Grammy, or Director’s Guild Award.

Alternately, the employer filing the petition can submit at least three of the following forms of documentation:

evidence that the applicant has performed, and will perform, services as a lead or starring participant in productions orevents that have a distinguished reputation;
evidence that the applicant has achieved national or international recognition for achievements evidenced by critical reviews or other published materials by or about the person in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications;
evidence that the applicant has performed, and will perform, in a lead, starring, or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation;
evidence that the applicant has a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes;
evidence that the applicant has received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies or other recognized experts in the field, and
evidence that the applicant has either commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other substantial remuneration for services, as compared to others in the field.
O status extensions can be granted in one-year increments in order to permit the O alien to complete the business listed in the initial petition. There is no maximum limit on stay for O aliens, and, therefore, the main issue on an extension of stay is whether the O alien will be working in the same business or activity listed in the initial petition.  

O-2 Support Personnel

The O-2 category applies to aliens accompanying an O-1 artist or athlete to assist in a specific event or performance. This person would be acting as an essential and integral part of the artistic or athletic performance of an O-1 artist or athlete because he or she performs support services which cannot be readily performed by a U.S. worker and which are essential to the successful performance of the O-1.

O-3 Dependents

Spouses and minor children (dependents) of O-1’s are admitted under O-3 status with the same restrictions as the principal. They may not work in the U.S. under this classification.
Employing Canadian and Mexican Professionals under NAFTA

The United States, Canada, and Mexico have entered into a North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which provides for expedited admission of business persons of each country into the other country. NAFTA went into effect on January 1, 1994. NAFTA makes temporary employment in the U.S. easier for certain Canadian and Mexican workers. NAFTA created a new classification, “TN,” for eligible Canadian and Mexican professional workers and also affected terms of admission for Canadians admitted to the U.S. under other nonimmigrant classifications.

The immigration-related provisions of NAFTA cover four categories of business persons from Canada and Mexico seeking entry into the United States: (1) B-1 temporary business visitors; (2) TN professionals; (3) E traders and investors; and (4) L-1 intra-company transferees.

The most popular among NAFTA categories are B-1 visitors and TN Professionals.

B-1 status under NAFTA

B-1 visitors under NAFTA may enter the U.S. to pursue activities usually provided for B-1 category, and additional activities falling into 7 categories, such as: (1) research and design; (2) growth, manufacture, and production; (3) marketing; (4) sales; (5) distribution; (6) after-sales service; and (7) general service. Notwithstanding this provision the Canadian or Mexican business persons must not be seeking to enter the local labor market, as under current B-1 guidelines and must continue to be paid from an overseas source and the proposed business activities must be international in scope. It appears that professionals are permitted to perform local services, as long as they remained on the Canadian payroll of the employer.

However, there is a list of professionalswho qualify for the temporary employment in the U.S.

Canadian professionals may enter the United States under NAFTA simply by providing documentation at the port of entry that they are engaged in one of the designated professions and that they possess the requisite educational credentials to qualify in the listed profession.

Mexican nationals, on the other hand, seeking TN status must comply with a procedure that is identical to that for H-1B classification for nationals of other countries. Their employer must file a petition for TN status with the USCIS, and the petition must be supported by the same labor attestation or labor condition application (LCA) required for any H-1A or H-1B alien. Furthermore, once the petition is approved, the Mexican TN must obtain a visa from a U.S. consulate prior to admission to the United States. TN professional must provide evidence that his or her work assignment in the United States will end at a “predictable time” and that he or she will depart upon completion of the assignment. The rules provide that the alien must identify the purpose of his or her entry that is limited in time, e.g., to perform services under a contract with a U.S. entity for a specified period of time.

Dependents (spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age) of TN professionals are entitled to TD status with the same restrictions as the principal. Dependents may be students in the U.S., but may not be employed under the TD status.
F-1: Academic Student

When a foreign citizen wants to study in the U.S., he or she must have a valid F-1 nonimmigrant visa, allowing him or her to study for a specific time.  A lawful nonimmigrant in a status other than F-1 may or may not be permitted to engage in study depending upon the regulations governing her or his status and the facts of the case.  Without F-1 status, any foreign national who undertakes study risks violating his or her nonimmigrant status. 

A foreign student seeking to come to the U.S. for non-vocational study under the F-1 visa classification must prove that their sole purpose of coming to the U.S. is to study and they have strong ties abroad that they don’t intend to abandon and permanently immigrate to the U.S. 

In order to obtain F-1 student status (and F-2 for accompanying spouse and unmarried minor children), a foreign student must submit an application for F-1 visa, accompanied by SEVIS Form I-20, issued in his or her own name by a school approved by the USCIS, adequate documentary evidence of financial support.  A bona fide nonimmigrant, who entered the U.S. with a visa other than F-1 status, may apply to USCIS to change his or her classification to that of an F-1 student.

An F-1 student is admitted for duration of status – the time during which anhe or she is pursuing a full course of study at an educational institution approved by USCIS for attendance by foreign students, or engaging in authorized practical training following completion of studies. An F-1 student may be admitted for a period up to 30 days before the indicated report date or program start date listed on Form I-20.  The student is considered to be maintaining status if he or she is making normal progress toward completing a course of study. If a student fails to complete his or her stated academic objective within the time estimated on the I-20, the student must apply for a program extension and an extension of stay.

Under limited circumstances, an F-1 student may have the following options for employment: (i) on-campus employment; (ii) off- campus work authorization; (iii) employment due to severe economic hardship; (iv) international organization internships; (v) practical training. 

A student who is maintaining his or her status may transfer to another USCIS approved school.  However, an F-1 student is not permitted to remain in the United States when transferring between schools or programs unless the student will begin classes at the transfer school or program within 5 months of transferring out of the current school or within 5 months of the program completion date on his or her current Form I-20, whichever is earlier.

M-1: Student

The M-1 visa is suitable for foreign students wishing to attend a full vocational or non-academic course, other than language training, at colleges, universities, or conservatories in the United States.  On M-1 student visa, a person can remain in the country for one year or for as long as he or she is enrolled as a full-time student in the course of study plus 30-days to prepare to leave the U.S.

The M-1 visa holders are able to apply for change or adjust status to other categories of U.S. temporary visas.  But they cannot change to H-1B visa or F-1 visa status if the employment offered is based on knowledge gained through studies while in M-1 status.

Some of the benefits an M-1 visa holder include, travel in and out of the U.S. in between their program; transfer from one college to another, work lawfully on-campus and off-campus with some limitations. 

Note: Once an M-1 holder is 6 months into a program of study, he/she is disallowed from changing his/her course of study, excluding under truly exceptional situation. 

Extension of stay 

After the completion of studies, the M-1 visa holder can apply for extension of stay if he/she wishes to pursue practical training.  In general, a person holding M-1 visa will be authorized to have one month of practical training for every four months of study he/she has finished.  The student will be limited to six months total training time.

To extend your stay, you must submitcompleted Form I-539 (application to extend or change nonimmigrant status) to USCIS at least 15 days (but not more than 60) prior to your approved stay in the country ends.  At the same time, you are required to submit Form I-20I-D to the USCIS.

Exchange Visitor Status: J-1

The J-1 Visa offers cultural and educational exchange opportunities in the United States through a variety of programs overseen by the U.S. State Department.

The “J” exchange visitor can be a student, scholar, trainee, teacher, professor, research assistant, specialist, a leader in a field of specialized knowledge or skill, or other person of similar description, who is coming temporarily to the United States to teach, study, conduct research, demonstrate special skills or receive on the job training for periods ranging from a few weeks to several years.

To qualify for “J” status the visitor must meet certain qualifications, including havingsufficient funds to cover the program and living expenses, and capable in terms of language and profession to participate in the specified program.

When an exchange visitor is coming under the “J” program for graduate medical education or training he/she must also pass the Foreign Medical Graduate Examination in Medical Sciences, and be automatically subject to the two-year foreign residence requirement (after completion of their program), and the time limits on the duration of their program.  Physicians coming to the United States on exchange visitor programs for the purpose of observation, consultation, teaching, or conducting research in which there is little or no patient care are not subject to the above requirements.

An exchange visitor alien must be sponsored by a designated exchange visitor program.  An exchange visitor program wishing to sponsor an alien issues that alien a Form DS-2019. 

The complete list of programs can be found on the Exchange Visitor Program website: https://j1visa.state.gov/programs

The two most popular programs are Summer Work and Travel and Au Pair programs.

There are specific set of regulations pertaining to the Summer Work/Travel category, where foreign post-secondary students may enter the United States to work and travel for a maximum of four months during their summer vacations.  While most participants enter the United States with prearranged employment, sponsors are required to place only 50 percent of their participants each year.  Sponsors must ensure that participants entering the United States without prearranged employment have sufficient financial resources to support themselves during their search for employment.  In addition, sponsors must provide such participants with information on how to seek employment and secure lodging in the United States before they depart their home countries, and with a job directory that includes at least as many job listings as the number of participants in their program who are entering the United States without prearranged employment.  Finally, sponsors must undertake reasonable efforts to secure suitable employment for participants unable to find jobs on their own after one week.

Program regulations permit participants to repeat the program more than once.  However, sponsors are required to limit the number of repeating participants to no more than 10 percent of the number of their previous year’s participants.

Department regulations prohibit the placement of program participants as domestic help in U.S. households or in positions requiring them to invest their own money for inventory, such as door-to-door sales.  Most participants typically work in non-skilled service positions at resorts, hotels, restaurants, and amusement parks.  Summer internships in US businesses and other organizations (i.e., architecture, science research, graphic art/publishing and other media communication, advertising, computer software and electronics, and legal offices, etc.) are allowed.  However, the term of the internship may not exceed the four-month program duration and must be completed during the student’s summer vacation. 

Through the Au Pair program, foreign nationals between 18 and 26 years of age participate directly in the home life of a host family by providing limited childcare services for up to 12 months.  Childcare is limited to no more than 10 hours per day, and to a maximum of 45 hours per week.

Participants in the Au Pair program must be proficient in spoken English, and are required to complete at least six hours of academic credit or its equivalent at an accredited U.S. post-secondary educational institution.  Host families are required to pay up to $500 toward the cost of the Au Pair’s required academic course work.

Exchange visitor’s program may be extended for adequate and justified reason. 

Change of Status 

J-1 visitors may apply for a change of status.  The most frequent changes include: change to F-1/student status; B-1/B-2 visitor status; H-1B working visa.  If the J-1 visitor fears to go back to his or her country due to persecution based on nationality, political opinion, membership in a social group, race or religion he/she may also apply for asylum in the United States.
Student Visas