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E-1 or E-2 Visa for Foreign Employees

A person can obtain an E-1 or an E-2 visa without necessarily being a treaty investor or a treaty trader.  He can obtain an E-1 or E2 employee visa instead. A noncitizen employee of a treaty trader may obtain an E-1 visa and a noncitizen employee of a treaty investor may obtain an E-2 visa, if said employee is coming to the US to perform duties that are executive or supervisory in character, or, if he has special qualifications that are essential to the efficient operation of the enterprise.

There are a few things to be considered before applying for said visa. First and foremost is that as an employee of a treaty trader or treaty investor, you must have the same nationality as your employer. Since this is also a treaty-based visa, it is important that your employer comes from a country that has a standing treaty or bilateral relations with the United States to be able to engage in economic and commercial relations. It is important that you determine what the nationality of your employer’s business is. A business that is at least 50% owned by treaty nationals is eligible to become E-1 or E-2 visa recipient and the employees are, too.

The Philippines is one of the many countries that have commercial and navigational relations with the US. In fact, the Philippines has one of the longest treaty relations that started back in Sept. 6, 1955.

It is important also to consider what your role is to your company. In order for one to be eligible for an E-1 or E-2 employee visa, one should be an essential, managerial or executive employee of the company.

To be considered as an essential employee, you must be a specialist and not merely an ordinary skilled worker. You do not need to have an executive or supervisory function if your E-1 or E-2 employee visa application is based on being an essential employee. One must bear in mind that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) looks into how your skills actually contribute to the successful operations of the company. They look into your expertise in the area or your length of training or experience as well as your salary. They also consider the availability of American workers in your field of expertise to consider your essentiality in the business. In one case, E-2 employee visa applicants who were nationals of Great Britain and employed by IAD Modern Design, Ltd. which at that time, had a contract with General Motors (GM), were considered essential to the company since it was proven that there was not enough American automotive design engineers who can do what they do best— redesign GM line of cars into smaller, Europe-style vehicles.

Your duty or position may also have an executive or supervisory character and USCIS looks not just into the title of the position vis-à-vis the business’ organizational structure but it also looks into your degree of control and responsibility in the operations of the company, the number and skills of the employees you will supervise, your salary level as well as your qualifying experience. Your executive and supervisory function must be your principal and not merely an incidental function.

Getting an E-1 or an E-2 employee visa can entitle one to work and live in the US and bring their family here as well. The good thing is that the spouse or children of the employee need not have the same nationality as the treaty trader or treaty investor employing the principal applicant. The E-1 or E-2 employee visa is issued for up to five (5) years and it can be renewed indefinitely in five-year increments.

While holding said visa, the E-1 or E-2 employee can obtain public education access for their children and access to universities without the need to apply for a student visa; obtain a social security number and of course, open bank accounts and get a driver’s license.

3 Visa Authorizations Extended Through Dec. 9

Three visa programs that expired last September 30 were recently extended through Dec. 9, 2016. The visa programs are the Conrad State 30 Program, the non-minister special immigrant religious worker program (SR visa), and the EB-5 Regional Center Immigrant Investor program.

The Conrad 30 program allows state health departments and agencies to recommend the waiver of the 2-year foreign residence requirement for up to 30 foreign medical graduates upon completion of their J-1 exchange visitor program. This waiver allows them to change their status to H-1B or adjust to permanent residence and meet the demand for healthcare in medically underserved areas where doctors are in short supply.

An extension was also granted to the employment-based 4th preference category visa for non-minister religious workers. This visa grants special immigrant status to professionals and non-professionals working within a certain religious vocation other than being ministers. The extension also includes their accompanying spouses and children. To be eligible, an applicant must have been a member of a religious denomination with a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the US and he must have also have been working in a religious vocation or occupation aside from those that are purely administrative in nature.

Lastly, extension was granted to the EB-5 Regional Center Immigrant Investor Program (R51 and I51 visa categories). This comes as a welcome development since organizations of business leaders, trade associations and government officials had recently urged Congress and members of the Judiciary Committee to take a second-look at the program.

The EB-5 regional center program grants a green card to foreign nationals who invest in any of the regional centers all over the country. As of October 3, 2016, the USCIS has approved 863 regional centers across the country.

In its letter to the members of Congress, the EB-5 Investment Coalition highlighted the contribution that the program has done especially in turning the wheels of the American economy. According to the group, the program has created jobs, facilitated growth of vital industries in different parts of the country and essentially, has revitalized communities.

“The program, has facilitated billions of dollars in direct foreign investment into a diverse range of projects throughout the United States and has thereby generated over $15 billion from 2005-2015, creating well over 100,000 new US jobs in that time,” stressed the coalition.

Unlike the regular EB-5 program which requires the investor to create 10 full-time jobs in two years, a regional center investor can use the more relaxed requirement of indirect job creation. Furthermore, for regional centers $500,000 is usually sufficient for investment as opposed to the $1,000,000 required under the regular EB-5 program making it a more welcoming program to anyone who wishes to invest in a targeted employment area.

Filing for Adjustment Even if Visa Not Immediately Available

This October which is the start of fiscal year 2017, adjustment of status applications may be filed even if a visa number is not immediately available for the priority date of the applicant. The date of filing the application rather than the date when a visa number is available determines when to file.

This is good news to those who have been waiting for a long time for their priority dates to become current. A pending adjustment application entitles the applicant to work authorization and travel permit.

Every year, there is a limit to the number of immigrant visas issued to various visa categories except those that do not need to be on the wait list like immediate relatives of US citizens since an immigrant visa is always available to them.

Family-based immigrant visas are capped at 226,000 and employment-based immigrant visas are capped at 140,000 annually. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Department of State (DOS) have established a guide to let applicants know when visa numbers will be available for their particular category.

As a guide, the DOS releases a visa bulletin every month. This lists the availability of immigrant visa numbers and likewise shows the backlogs in each category for a given month. The visa bulletin also shows when an application for adjustment of status (green card application) can be filed.

Up until last year, an application for adjustment of status could only be filed if the visa petitioner’s priority date was earlier than the cut-off date in a particular category. A priority date is generally the date when a relative or employer filed an immigrant visa petition on behalf of the beneficiary.

Starting in October 2015, the visa bulletin has adopted two charts per visa preference category— the Final Action Dates and the Dates for Filing Applications. Essentially, the Final Action Dates indicate when a visa is immediately available and the Dates for Filing Applications are the earliest dates when applicants may be able to apply. For purposes of adjustment of status application, the USCIS said that it will announce every month which of these two charts will be used to determine when application to adjust status may be submitted.

Ever since the start of this new revision, USCIS has used the Final Action Dates to indicate when foreign nationals can submit their application to adjust status (green card application). The Dates for Filing Applications have been used only to notify applicants as to when they can start assembling their documents for submission to the National Visa Center (NVC).

However, for the first month of the new fiscal year the USCIS has announced that adjustment applicants must use the Dates for Filing Applications. This means that they can file for adjustment without waiting for the availability of visa numbers.

If their priority date is earlier than the cut-off date in the chart for Dates of Filing Applications they may file for adjustment of status. For employment-based visa categories, EB-1 is now current worldwide. EB-2 is also current worldwide except for China and India. EB-3 is also current worldwide although the Philippines remains oversubscribed. For the Philippines, EB-3 shows a cut-off date of Sept. 1, 2013 which is about 34 months ahead of the Final Action Date.

For the family-based visa preference, the cut-off date for F1 for the Philippines is May 1, 2006; F2A is November 22, 2015 and F2B is February 1, 2007. The cut-off date for the F3 is January 1, 1995 and for the F4, it is April 1, 1994.


Disappointing Ruling on DAPA and DACA+

Without any explanation, the US Supreme Court gave Pres. Barack Obama’s immigration initiatives another blow as it denied last Oct. 3 a petition to rehear United States v. Texas, also known as the DAPA and DACA+ case.

Back on June 23, the High Court came to an even 4-4 decision on the preliminary injunction placed by the lower Texas court and upheld by the Fifth Circuit Court upon DAPA and DACA+ essentially putting a stop to these programs in the whole country. The evenly split decision came about because the High Court was missing its ninth member following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia early this year.

On July 18, the Department of Justice filed with the US Supreme Court a petition to rehear the case and argued that although it was exceedingly rare, the Supreme Court had granted a rehearing in the past where the prior decision was issued by an evenly divided court and that it “appeared likely that upon reargument a majority one way or the other might be mustered.”

It is a disappointing decision for the millions of undocumented immigrants who have been waiting for DAPA and DACA+ to provide them a reprieve from deportation and an authorization to work. Many immigration advocates are also saddened by this news.

However, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) through its President William A Stock remains optimistic. “This case is far from over. Once a more complete record of the merits of Texas’ claims is created, we are confident that when the case is once again back on the Supreme Court docket, the Court will show appropriate deference to the executive branch and not legislate from the bench by enjoining this program permanently,” said Stock.

DAPA would have temporarily deferred deportation for those who have a US citizen or LPR son or daughter as of November 20, 2014 and who have continuously resided in the US since January 1, 2010 but with no lawful immigration status. As long as they had no criminal convictions and have passed a background check, these undocumented immigrants could benefit from DAPA.

DACA+ eliminated the age requirement of DACA and pushed the arrival date to January 1, 2010. It must be recalled that DACA was first introduced by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) back in 2012. Under this program, those under 31 years old on June 15, 2012, have arrived in the US before becoming 16, have continuously resided from June 15, 2007 to the present, are either in school, have graduated or completed high school or a general education development (GED) certificate, or are honorably discharged veterans of the US Coast Guard or US Armed Forces and have not been convicted of a felony could have deferred action or deferred deportation.

With immigration policy being among the salient battleground in this year’s presidential elections—with the two parties clutching the opposite ends of the pole, undocumented immigrants cannot rest easy. While Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton promises to continue Pres. Obama’s immigration initiatives, the denial of the rehearing could also affect any further steps she may take. There is also Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s incessant vow to put a stop to Pres. Obama’s initiatives because of what he deems as a railroading of the country’s immigration laws.

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