USA Visa Program:
Canadians looking for short-term work permits should consider the NAFTA “TN” (treaty national) visa. The visa includes most professional designations. The TN visa is not designed for self-employment. The visa is designed to accommodate short-term employment in a professional capacity. Consultants must demonstrate that they are coming to the US to service a client, not to set up their own US business.
We can package your petition. Applicants may apply at border posts. You will be asked to show your professional credentials, proof of university education, and a cover letter from the employer describing your job duties. The INS border inspector should process your application within a few hours. If you are already in the US you can apply for TN status by mail through an INS regional processing center. The Visa lasts one year but is renewable indefinitely. Common sense dictates that the longer you have the TN visa the more scrutiny you face at the border.
The TN visa automatically expires upon application for permanent residence. If you have a TN and want a green card, change status to H1B or E treaty status before applying for the green card. The H1B lasts for up to six years, which is generally more than enough time to process the green card.
The TN visa is only available to Canadian citizens, not landed immigrants.
The TN category offers Canadian professionals a fast track into the US. Once in the US one may consider other options for a longer-term stay.
You may be thinking; “Wasn’t Mexico was included in NAFTA too?” Yes they were, and the TN visa is available to Mexican Citizens also, but they must apply through the INS Service Centers inside the United States, and are subject to longer processing times. Our Mexican clients often wonder why this is too.
L-1A International Managers
- Manager or executive works for foreign company that is related to a US company by 50% or more common ownership. The manager must have worked for the foreign company for one of the past three years and must be coming to the US company to work in a managerial or executive capacity.
E-1 Treaty Traders
- Manager or executive from a treaty country controls substantial trade between the US and the treaty country. Substantial as a general rule means $500,000 or more a year of trade.
E-2 Treaty Investors
- Owner or Developer of the new enterprise from a treaty country (see list of treaty countries) has 50% or more ownership in a substantial US employment creating investment. As a general rule substantial means $200,000 or more. Although smaller investments are often approved the risk of denial increases as one heads south of $200,000.
Eb(5) Immigrant Investors.
- Individual invests $500,000 in a high unemployment area (150% of national unemployment rate) or $1,000,000 elsewhere and hires 10 persons within 2 years, or invests in a Regional Center and may use job multiplier studies instead of direct employment. Because this category has been controversial INS processing times are slow and unpredictable.None of the investor categories have language, education, or business experience requirements.
The Investor Decision Tree
- You own or control a business in your home country and want to establish a branch office, affiliated company, or subsidiary in the USA.
- Use the L1A visa. INS grants 1 year to start up the US business with a total extension periods of seven years. The biggest advantage of the L1A visa is that it can be easily converted to a green card after doing business in the U.S. for one year.
- You own or control a business in your home country that already owns a U.S. branch office, affiliated company, or subsidiary company.
- You can apply for a green card as a managerial transfer from abroad without coming to the US, you can come to the US as an L1A (above), or you can come to the US as E1 or E2 if you are from a treaty company. In all cases you may apply for a green card as long as you qualify as an international manager (serving one of past three years as manager or executive of the foreign company).
- You want to establish a US business that is not connected with an overseas company.
- If you are a citizen of a treaty country you can use E1 if the US business is based on trade or in all other cases use E2. If you do not also qualify as a managerial transfer you will probably never qualify for a green card unless you invest $500,000 or $1,000,000 per the Eb5 category. If you want to know why, you need to contact us. Otherwise take our word for it. It’s too complicated to describe in summary form.
Now you need to know the basic differences between the E visas and Green cards.
The green card lasts forever, and permits one to work, invest, study, or do none of the above with complete freedom. Green card holders are subject to US worldwide taxation and must make the US their permanent residence. Green card holder dependents also receive green cards valid for the rest of their lives. E visa holders may only work for themselves or the E visa enterprise. E visas may be extended as long as the E visa enterprise is operating. E visas are generally issued in five year increments. E visa dependent children loose their E visa status when they turn 21 years of age. At that time they need to find another status. E visa holders and dependents may study in the US. E visa holders do not have to live in the US any particular amount of time and may arrange their affairs so they are not subject to world wide taxation.
Those wishing to retire in America, live in America say six months a year and have no kids under 21 years of age, should consider an E visa investment. In this case the E visa is more flexible both for tax purposes and there’s no requirement to come to the US for at least one time every six months. The US does not have a retirement visa category. The E visa is as close as it gets.
Families with young children need to consider the fate of their children once they turn 21. In this case green cards are the better alternative. If a green card is not possible, then consider that children can go to university on F1 visas, upon graduation qualify for H1B visas and at some point they will get married, more than likely to a US citizen. If you don’t qualify for a green card and don’t want to expose your children to the added immigration pressure of having “if” status then stay home or invest under Eb5 below.
The Treaty Investor Visa permits citizens of certain countries to reside in the United States through an investment in the U.S.A. The investor must come to manage or oversee the investment.
The Treaty Trader visa is the same as the Treaty Investor visa except that it involves qualifying trade between the US and the treaty country. Instead of investing the qualifying activity is import/export of goods or services.
One may invest in virtually anything or trade in virtually anything. While some under $200,000 investments are approved, its safe to say that the investment capital and reserves should total at least $200,000 and the applicant must be prepared to demonstrate that the business will employ at least 3 – 4 persons. Minimum annual trade should be at least $500,000. The investment funds and the applicant both must come from the same Treaty Country. 50% or more of the U.S. investment must be owned by citizens of the Treaty Country.
Who uses the Treaty Investor Visa?
- Large companies who establish manufacturing plants
- Real estate investors
- Small businessmen who purchase a franchise or small business
- Retirees who use the Treaty Investor visa as a means of getting US status so they can retire in America.
The Treaty Investor visa lasts as long as one maintains the investment. That’s good and bad. If you sell the business you loose the visa unless the money is reinvested.
The Treaty Investor Visa includes the principal applicant and children under 21. At the age of 21 children must either convert to an investor green card by investing more capital or get married or attend a US University and then find job as an H1B professional or make an investment them selves as a Treaty Investor.
The E2 has tax advantages. Green card holders pay tax US income tax on world wide income or they can loose their green card. This can be expensive for people with foreign sources of income. E2 visa holders have ways to avoid worldwide taxation. Green card holders have no way out. For this reason many investors prefer the E2 visa to the green card.
One may not apply for a treaty trader or treaty investor visa unless the funds are committed to an investment or unless trade exists. Traders must come to the US as business visitors to get things going before applying for the Treaty Trader visa. Traders must produce evidence of existing trade such as purchase orders and bills of lading to obtain the visa. Investors must place their funds in the hands of a bank or closing agent who is instructed to release the funds to the seller of the property or business upon visa approval. Investors developing their own business must come to the US as business visitors to get the business started before applying for the Treaty Investor visa.