Temporary Business Immigration

Visitors

B-1 Visitors for Business

The B-1 designation is available to temporary nonimmigrant visa holders who wish to conduct limited business transactions in the United States for a non-U.S. employer.  Generally speaking, employment in the U.S. is not permitted with this status.  The applicant must show clear ties with his home country and an acceptable reason for making his trip to the United States.  Some approved B-1 activities include:

  • Taking orders for goods purchased and manufactured abroad,
  • Negotiation of contracts,
  • Consultations with business associates,
  • Participation in professional or business conventions,
  • Independent research
  • Attendance at board meetings
  • Litigation
  • Organizing or staffing of a U.S. business by a principal.
  • In certain circumstances, after-sales service of equipment purchased from abroad is also permissible B-1 business activity:

Canadian citizens may apply for B-1 status at any U.S. Port of Entry, where they must answer the Immigration Officer’s questions about their business activities.  Application by nationals of other countries is generally made directly with the U.S. Consulate in their home country or at a Port of Entry if eligible for Visa Waiver Program admission.  Admission is typically granted for a relatively short time, with the possibility for extensions, if the underlying qualifications can continue to be met.

An article on a sister website discusses this option in detail.

Temporary Employment

The following are commonly used work visas:

The E Visas

Treaty Trader and Treaty Investor

The E visas are commonly called “Treaty Trader” (E-1), “Treaty Investor” (E-2), and “Specialty Occupation” (E-3) visas.  They are only available to nationals of those countries that have reached a qualifying agreement with the United States.  In addition, the visa applicant must meet specific criteria relevant to the application.

There are about 50 countries, including Canada, whose nationals may obtain E visas.  Not all countries are eligible for both—it depends on the specific treaty.  Qualifications for these visas are complex in nature; therefore, it is highly recommended that the advice of an immigration lawyer be obtained in determining whether the E visa may be an option.

Prospective E visa holders generally apply at the U.S. Consulate in their country of nationality.  The initial visa may be issued for up to five years.  Renewals can normally be obtained if the requirements for the E visa remain satisfied.

An article on a sister website discusses this option in detail.

H-1B Specialty Occupation Worker

Employers wishing to employ foreign professionals in the U.S. often look to the H-1B.  The H-1B is a specialty occupation status for positions requiring theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge.  Usually, at least a college degree or the equivalent is required, and that degree needs to be related to the occupation.  Employers must guarantee that the employee is paid the greater of the prevailing or actual wage for the position.  H-1Bs are subject to annual quotas, and so are only available if the annual quotas have not been filled, or if an employer is exempt from the quota.

The U.S. employer must obtain appropriate documentation from the Department of Labor and then petition the Department of Homeland Security on behalf of the temporary foreign workers.  Upon visa approval the beneficiary may complete final processing with a U.S. Consulate abroad.  For Canadian citizens, final processing may take place at a U.S. Port of Entry.  H-1B visas may be issued up to three years initially with extensions available up to a maximum of six years.

An article on a sister website discusses this option in detail.

H-2B

The H-2B visa is available for a worker in a seasonal or intermittent position where no U.S. workers are available to perform the services.  Both H-1B and H-2B visas require clearance from the Department of Labor.

H-2B visas are only issued up to one year.

An article on a sister website discusses this option in detail.

L-1 Intracompany Transferee

The L-1 is available to an employee who has worked for at least one out of the last three years for a company abroad as an executive, manager, or in a capacity involving “specialized knowledge”.  The employee can then be transferred to a U.S. subsidiary or affiliate if the U.S. position is also executive, managerial, or involves “specialized knowledge”.  The L-1 application process involves documenting the ownership and control relationship of the respective businesses, as well as the individual’s position and skills.

The U.S. company must petition the Department of Homeland Security on behalf of the intracompany transferee.  Visa processing occurs at U.S. Consulates abroad, and then each L holder must be inspected and admitted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.  The L-1 visa may be granted for an initial period of up to three years.  For a new “start-up” U.S. business operation, the L-1 transferee will be granted a visa for an initial one-year period.

In certain circumstances, this visa may be converted to permanent resident status if the holder’s intent changes and other requirements can be met.

An article on a sister website discusses this option in detail.

O Visa

Extraordinary Ability

Persons who have demonstrated extraordinary ability in the sciences, the arts, education, business, or athletics may be eligible for the O visa.  The O visa is intended for those persons who have risen to the top of their field and have received national or international acclaim.

A petition must be filed with the Department of Homeland Security.  Upon visa approval the beneficiary may complete final processing with a U.S. Consulate abroad.  In the case of Canadian citizens, final processing may take place at a U.S. Port of Entry.

An article on a sister website discusses this option in detail.

TN Visa

Treaty NAFTA Professional

The TN visa option is available only to Canadian and Mexican citizens who are qualified to practice in a profession or occupation designated by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) entering the United States to work for a U.S. employer.  More than 60 approved professions are listed, and most of them require, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree.  The TN visa applicant must document Canadian or Mexican citizenship, appropriate credentials, and an offer of professional employment in the United States.

Canadians outside the U.S. must initially apply at major U.S. Ports of Entry.  The process for Mexicans is slightly more complicated and includes visa issuance at a U.S. Consulate. The TN visa holder will be admitted to the United States for an initial three-year period.  Extensions of TN status may be granted in three-year increments, with no ceiling to the total number of years one may qualify for a TN visa.

An article on a sister website discusses this option in detail.