Traveling to the US During COVID-19: Consular Applications & Interview Update

By David Cantor Global Director of Client Relations

It is notably a difficult time for anyone needing to travel to the United States. Whether it is for purposes of business, family or leisure – travel restrictions are still in effect for the United States through December 31, 2020 as a result of the Presidential Proclamation.

In recent months, various US Embassies and Consulates have issued formal reports on the commencement of adjudicating select visa-applications, conducting interviews and granted travel permission to those who fall within the National Interest Exemption.

The National Interest Exemption (NIE), effectively permits individuals from the UK and Schengen Region to travel to the United States – the most common applicants being Students (F1 and M1 visa holders), Researchers (J1 Visa), Investors (E2) and those who need to attend to urgent, temporary, business matters (B1 or ESTA).

In order to determine whether you qualify for the National Interest Exemption it is necessary to submit a request to the respective US Consulate.

Navigating these requirements can prove challenging, since there is no uniform policy for the re-opening of US Consulates. For instance, the US Consulate in Rome is now welcoming E-2 Treaty Investor Visa applications, while the US Embassy in London does not expressly mention this on the State Department website.

The same goes for other US Consulates throughout the Schengen Region, and we suggest you further consult an attorney to determine visa-processing viability and NIE procedures through the respective Consulate.

What remains clear, is that waiting periods and additional processing delays are likely accumulating. For example, the United States Embassy in London was previously adjudicating E-2 Investor Visas within a 30-45 day window – while, cases filed in March and April remain pending and the earliest interviews that are being granted is August 2021.

That said, for qualified applicants you are generally able to make expedited requests and obtain Consular appointments in a much shorter period of time. However, you still need to fully-understand the processing requirements for the National Interest Exemption, as it varies from Consulate to Consulate. 

The global response to Covid-19 is unprecedented. The United States has imposed restrictions on visits from a swathe of countries and regions in an attempt to limit the outbreak. Nevertheless, if you are considering a US visa application, we recommend starting the process. It takes time to prepare and L-1 and and E-2 visa application, so this uncertain time can still be used effectively.

The E-2 Treaty Investor Visa allows a person to move to the United States with their family for the purpose of own and operating a business. Spouses are eligible to apply for work authorization outside the E-2 business. Applicants must be a citizen of an E-2 Treaty Country. Click here to find out if your country is on the list.

If your country is not on the list, it is necessary to first become a citizen of an E-2 Treaty Country. Davies & Associates is able to package together citizenship by investment (CBI) of Grenada or Turkey with an E-2 visa application. Find out more about the process here.

The L-1 Visa allows for the transfer of a manager or executive from the overseas branch to the US branch of the same company. This visa can also be used as part of setting up a new US presence. Davies & Associates can help you set up the US office before transferring an employee there to manage that business.

The Schengen area refers to 26 European countries that have abolished their internal borders. This includes much of the European Union excluding the United Kingdom, Ireland, and recent joiners. It also includes Iceland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Norway.

Contact Us to discuss your case.

This article is published for clients, friends and other interested visitors for information purposes only. The contents of the article do not constitute legal advice and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Davies & Associates or any of its attorneys, staff or clients. External links are not an endorsement of the content.


Tax Planning for US Immigration

Podcast: Tax Planning for the American Dream

When we first start thinking about moving to the United States, tax is not always uppermost in our minds. But as Global Tax Counsel Gary Kaufman explains in this podcast, it is vital to start planning your tax position from the earliest stages of the process.

In this podcast we cover tax as it relates to the two types of US immigration – immigrant visas and non-immigrant visas.

Immigrant visas refer to programs like the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa and the EB-1A and EB-1C visas for extraordinary talent and business leaders respectively. Immigrant visas offer permanent residency status in the United States (Green Cards). Permanent residents are taxed on worldwide income, so it is vital to consider your entire global asset base, and to understand whether the countries in which you hold assets have a tax treaty with the United States.

We also cover non-immigrant visas in the podcast. Non-immigrant visas do not confer permanent residency, however there will still be tax considerations for any earnings made inside the United States.

Many of our non-immigrant visa clients move to America for the purposes of starting or acquiring a business. This can be achieved through the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa, or by setting up a US office of your existing company through the L-1 Intracompany Transfer Visa. In the podcast, Gary explains the importance of structuring the business correctly from a tax perspective at the outset.

Many of our non-immigrant visa clients eventually wish to transition to a Green Card. There are multiple ways to achieve this, and anyone interested should speak to one of our immigration attorneys.

Contact Gary gkaufman@usimmigrationadvisor.com

This podcast is produced for clients, friends and other interested visitors for information purposes only. The contents of the article do not constitute legal advice and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Davies & Associates or any of its attorneys, staff or clients. External links are not an endorsement of the content.


Benefits of Grenada Citizenship Programme: Visa-Free Access to China

Many of our clients are motivated to apply for the Grenada Citizenship by Investment Program because of it provides rapid access to the United States E-2 Treaty Investor Visa. But that is only part of the picture.

There are many benefits to Grenadian citizenship in its own right. This includes no residency requirements, no tax on worldwide income, as well as citizenship of a politically and economically stable country.

And now, we are seeing clients cite another factor as their motivation for seeking Grenadian citizenship: Grenada is one of the few countries in the world that is granted visa-free access to China.

Geopolitics is largely the reason behind this change. Clients who live or do business in China are concerned that their current citizenship may present obstacles to them in future.

Take the example of one client, an American businessman who spends lots of time in Beijing. He is concerned about that the trade war between the United States and China will impact his ability to live and work in China. As a result he has worked with us to obtain Grenadian citizenship.

Similarly, an Indian client who has strong business links with China is pursuing Grenada citizenship because of heightened tensions between the two countries.

In addition to access to China, Grenada’s strong passport offers visa-free access to a wide range of countries. This includes the UK, the EU Schengen Zone, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Grenada’s citizenship by investment programs is one of the most cost effective in the world. Investment requirements start from $150,000 with real estate investment and public donations available.

Grenada is an E-2 Treaty Country with the United States. The E-2 Treaty allows a person to bring their family to the US for the purposes of investing in and operating a business. Many countries are not eligible for the E-2 Visa so it is necessary to first become a citizen of an E-2 Treaty country like Grenada. Find out if your country has an E-2 Treaty with the USA here.

This article is published for clients, friends and other interested visitors for information purposes only. The contents of the article do not constitute legal advice and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Davies & Associates or any of its attorneys, staff or clients. External links are not an endorsement of the content.


National Interest Exception: Traveling to the United States during Covid19

By David Cantor, Global Director of Client Relations, Davies & Associates

Recent months have proven to complicate matters for those seeking to travel to the United States. This is especially concerning for those that have serious matters to attend to within the United States – whether it be issues related directly business, academics or family.  

On July 20th, 2020, the US Embassy and Consulates General in Italy resumed certain immigrant and non-immigrant visa processing services – including appointments for treaty-investors, exchange visitors and students, as well as athletes and entertainers. This is also true for the US Embassies Consulates in other European locations, with certain exceptions – such as Paris, London and Belfast.

While there is still much uncertainty surrounding the existing travel bans as it applies to foreign nationals and specifically those in the Schengen region – it seems that some US Embassies and Consulates, as well as US Customs and Border Control authorities are beginning to provide practical guidance and potential pathways that permit temporary travel into the United States.

On July 15th, 2020 certain travelers from Schengen countries, including Italy, were permitted to resume travel into the United States through the National Interest Exemption. In order to be granted permission to travel from the Schengen region, an applicant must submit a National Interest Exemption request directly to the respective Consulate.

The National Interest Exemption (“NIE”) is best applied to those that are seeking to travel to the United States as Students (F1 and M1 visas), Researchers (J1 visa), Investors (E2), or for temporary business matters (B1 or ESTA).

To be considered for the NIE it is necessary that you qualify for one of the exemptions listed in the Presidential Proclamation, summarized below:

ECONOMIC BENEFIT EXCEPTION. An applicant must prove that the temporary travel to the United States will provide substantial economic benefit to the US economy. Qualified applicants through the national interest exception may include:

  • Technical experts and specialists
  •  Senior-Level managers and executives
  • Professional athletes, dependents and essential staff
  • Treaty-investors and traders

ACADEMICS & STUDENTS. An applicant should be participating in a bona-fide exchange program or full-time course of study. Qualified applicants through the national interest exception may include:

  • Full-time students
  • Professors
  • Research Scholars
  • Short-term Scholars
  • Other specialists 

I have a valid ESTA, can I travel to the United States?

If you have a valid ESTA and are coming from the Schengen region you still need to apply for the National Interest Exception (NIE) in order to be granted permission to travel.

I have a valid B1, E2, J1, O1, or F1 visa – can I travel to the United States?

If you hold a B1, E2, J1, O1, M1 or F1 visa, you still need to apply for the NIE in order to be granted permission to travel to the United States.

How do I apply for the NIE?

Supporting documentation must be sent directly to the Embassy or Consulate of your region of residence.  Contact us today to learn more.

Italian nationals can submit supporting documentation directly to the respective Consulate – please contact our Italy Practice Team today.

What documents do I need to apply?

This will depend on your local Consulate, however, basic documentation is required (i.e. biographic page of passport, proof of valid US visa or ESTA) as well as supporting documentation in English demonstrating your qualifications for the NIE as well as purpose for travel.

How long does it take to apply for the NIE?

Generally, 30-business days, however, this depends on your local Consulate. As discussed above, as of July 20th, the US Embassy and Consulates General in Italy resumed certain immigrant and non-immigrant visa services. It is very likely that there will be increased wait-times and substantial processing backlogs, so if you believe you qualify, it is encouraged to apply as soon as possible.

Can I include my dependents on the NIE application?

Investors, students and other academics can also include dependents in the NIE request.

I am in the United States, can I apply for the NIE?

No – the consular sections cannot accept NIE requests for those that are physically present in the United States.

How long is the NIE valid for?

Travelers permitted to enter the United States through the national interest exception must do so within-30 days of the approval. This is valid only for a single-entry into the United States.

The total permitted stay will depend on the permitted duration of stay granted  by the US Customs and Border Protection officers at the port of entry.

Is the NIE process complicated?

Since US consulates and embassies are just starting to re-open for routine processing of US visas, the NIE requests are fairly new and untested. We highly encourage you speaking with a qualified US immigration attorney to obtain a free consultation for this matter.

This article is published for clients, friends and other interested visitors for information purposes only. The contents of the article do not constitute legal advice and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Davies & Associates or any of its attorneys, staff or clients.


E2 Visa: You Now No Longer Need a Physical Office Space

By Sukanya Raman, Associate, D&A Mumbai Office

On July 17th 2020, the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) was updated by the United States Department of State (DOS). The updates state that an applicant need not have a physical office space to qualify for E Visa.

E-1  Treaty Trader and E-2 Treaty Investor visa applicants shall benefit the most. E-1 and E-2 visas are non-immigrant visas. Under an E-1 visa, applicants of the treaty country are permitted to enter the U.S. wholly to engage in international trade. Under the E-2 visa, applicants of the treaty country are permitted to enter the U.S. by investing a substantial amount of capital in a U.S. business.

The E visa the classification has a lengthy list of requirements, a few of the  general ones are as follows:

Treaty Agreement

Nationality of E visa qualifying country

50% ownership and/or control & possession

Trade is predominantly between the United States and the treaty country

Enterprise must be real and operating a commercial enterprise

Substantial capital investment

Must be in the position to “develop and direct” the enterprise

Physical office space (no longer mandatory)

Above mentioned are a few mandatory requirements for the E visa application. However, having a physical office space is now optional to qualify for an E visa application.

E visa can now be available for businesses with virtual offices in the U.S. This gives the flexibility to  the applicants to save a huge amount of money from the substantial capital investment in leasing office space and other associated costs to it. We see a lot of clients substantial capital investment amount was invested in leasing the office premises, which they can now utilize in the business for explanation or for development, provided the other requirement of the E visas are met.

The new FAM  reads as “An applicant does not necessarily need a physical office space to qualify for an E visa.  Although having physical office space may be relevant in determining whether the requirements for an E visa have been met, it is not a requirement to qualify for the visa.”

The E-2 Visa is available to citizens of Treaty Countries. Click here to see if your country is on the list. If your country is not on the list, it is possible to become eligible by first obtaining citizenship of an E-2 Treaty country. Click here to learn more about this process.

sraman@usimmigrationadvisor.com

This article is published for clients, friends and other interested visitors for information purposes only. The contents of the article do not constitute legal advice and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Davies & Associates or any of its attorneys, staff or clients.


Relaxation on H1-B and L-1 Visa

Podcast: Comparing E2 & L1 Visas in Light of the “Immigration Ban”

The L-1 Intracompany Transfer Visa was temporarily suspended last month as part of President Trump’s ongoing so-called “immigration ban”. The list of visa categories suspended through to the end of the year is now quite lengthy.

However, there are notable exemptions: The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa and the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa are not included.

In this podcast we speak to Verdie Atienza, a senior immigration attorney at Davies & Associates, to examine whether the E-2 visa may prove a possible alternative to the L-1 visa in certain cases.

Verdie heads up our L-1 and E-2 practice team and so he is well placed to compare and contrast these two visa categories. Listen in as he provides a forensic comparative analysis of both.

L-1 Visas are used to move to management-level staff from an overseas branch to the US branch of the same company. At D&A we specialize in “new-office” L-1s which is where an individual can set up a US branch of their overseas company and then move to the United States to manage that new office.

The E-2 Treaty Investor visa allows a person to bring their family to the United States for the purposes of running a particular business. It is necessary that your country of citizenship has a relevant treaty with the US to qualify. For those that do not initially qualify, D&A offers a two-step process whereby you first obtain citizenship of a country that does qualify, like Grenada or Turkey.

Topics covered in the podcast include:

  1. The impact of the immigration suspension
  2. Investment requirements
  3. Premises requirements in the United States
  4. Spousal Rights
  5. Children’s rights and ageing out?
  6. Visa duration
  7. Renewal process and limits
  8. Business plan requirements
  9. Nationality requirements and quotas
  10. Becoming eligible for an E-2 visa through Citizenship by Investment
  11. Transitioning to a Green Card?

This podcast is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please contact us to speak to an attorney.


President Trump Reverses Ban on Foreign Students Taking Online Courses

President Trump has been forced to make a U-Turn on his attempts to revoke the immigration status of international students taking online courses in the fall. Most university courses across the United States have gone online in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, and many are expected to stay that way for the fall semester.

Students and their parents from around the world had been left to reconsider their education plans as a result of the president’s initial announcement.

However, a federal legal challenge by Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) caused the Trump administration to rescind the policy.

Almost 400,000 F-1 student visas were issued last year. International students bring billions of dollars to the US economy in tuition fees and spending.

Many of our clients use the F-1 visa to send their children to school in the United States before transitioning to other visa categories after graduation. Some of those visas, particularly the H-1B, is currently under suspension because of President Trump’s executive order of June 2020.

However, other visa categories are not suspended. The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program is a relatively fast route to a US Green Card requiring a $900,000 investment. The E-2 Treaty Investor Visa requires a plan to invest in and run a US-based business. As we mentioned in a previous blog posts, it is possible for parents and children to co-own the company to prevent the child from ageing out. Citizens of certain countries have to first obtain additional citizenship, often of Grenada or Turkey. This is usually a relatively straightforward process, contact us to discuss.

Both the E-2 Visa and the EB-5 Visa are exempt from the so-called “immigration ban”. A high proportion of our EB-5 clients are motivated to apply because of their children’s studies and work prospects after graduation.

Written by Duncan Hill. This blog is for informational purposes only, nothing in this blog constitutes legal advice. Contact us for a free consultation to discuss your circumstances.


E2 Visa Myth Busting: Do I have to stay in Grenada?

By Mark Davies, Global Chairman, Davies & Associates

“I have to stay in Grenada for six months to get my E2 Visa” if I use the donation route for my Grenada CBI case.

One of our clients e-mailed me this morning having been given this completely false statement, probably by a salesman selling another country’s program.

For a E2 visa the only country that has a residency requirement is the United Kingdom (which is the oldest E2 treaty). We do recommend creating connections with Grenada which is a wonderful country to visit but residency there is not required.

You can obtain an E2 visa regardless of the manner you used to obtain your Grenada passport. We have clients living in the US on an E2 investment visa to prove it.

Our Indian, Vietnamese, South African and Bangladeshi* clients have been opening business in the USA for a decade. Since about 2014 Grenada citizenship-by-investment has been a top consideration.

Prior to the new USD 220,000 share ownership program most of our clients were exclusively interested in the CBI USD 150,000 donation option.

Click here to see if your country has an E2 Treaty with the United States.

Click here to learn more about the E2 visa coupled with Citizenship by Investment.

*Although Bangladesh is an E2 country there are reasons why clients sometimes still use the Grenada route.


Relaxation on H1-B and L-1 Visa

Should Vietnam and India be granted E-2 Visa Status?

D&A Global Chairman Mark Davies argues the time is ripe to grant E2 and E1 Visa status for Vietnam and Indian citizens.

Before coming to Vietnam I did not realize that the US is Vietnam’s largest export market. Having spent years in India I did know of the massive potential to grow cross-border business between the US and India.

We are seeing a lot of interest in the L1 Visa and E2 Visa from companies in our offices in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai much of it being Vietnamese and Indian businesses looking to access the US market. Many Vietnamese and Indian firms are looking to increase their trade with the US through E2 and L1.

Vietnam and India both represent a huge opportunity for US businesses to expand and invest. Vietnam is Asia’s fastest growing market and companies want to grow by investing through a business there.

At the moment, obtaining an E2 Visa means a Vietnamese or Indian national has to obtain a second nationality, popularly Grenada and Turkey.

It’s time to put an end to the need for Citizenship by Investment in Vietnam and India and for the US to enter into a treaty with both Vietnam and India allowing for both the E2 and E1 Visa. Such a treaty would allow Vietnamese businesses access to the US and streamline the process by which US businesses can access the lucrative Vietnamese market.


E-2 Visa: Worried about your Children “Ageing Out”?

Are you worried about your children “ageing out” of a family E-2 visa? Are you worried about leaving behind extended family members? We can help you solve this issue with some careful planning.

By Verdie Atienza & Sukanya Raman

If you are planning to move to America but are concerned about your child age and your extended family members to be a part of your application, we have a solution for you.

We see that a lot of Indian nationals are enthusiastic to move to America for obvious reasons like business opportunities, better standards of living, healthcare, education, etc. Though, take a step back as in most visa categories are limited to spouse and children below the age of 21 including the E-2 Treaty Investor visa.

The spouse and children may apply for E-2 derivative visas. The spouse may apply for Employer Authorization Document (EAD) to work for any US employer and the children are permitted to study.  

There are ways to structure the E-2 enterprise to address the issues of ageing-out for children and qualifying other family members. As once the children turn 21 they will cease to qualify as dependents under the E-2 Visa.

We can structure the E-2 enterprise in such a fashion that it qualifies children over the age of 21, dependent parents, unmarried siblings.

To qualify for the E-2 Treaty Investor visa, the requirement is to own at least 50% of the E-2 company to show operational control. For this reason, the E-2 company may qualify two Treaty Investors having 50-50 ownership. The child who may age-out can make an investment to acquire at least 50% of the E-2 enterprise to qualify himself as a Treaty Investor.

If the goal is to bring members of the extended family like parents or siblings, they can be made 50% owners of the E-2 company, and they may also obtain derivative visas for their spouse and dependent children as well.

In cases where there are multiple family members, two or more E-2 enterprises can be set up. With relatively low investment requirements, it should not be too difficult for foreign entrepreneurs to raise capital.

Another advantage of the E-2 option is that the E-2 enterprise may file a petition for E-2 employees who must be the same nationality as the treaty investor. The prospective employees must either be engaged in duties of an executive or supervisory character or if employed in a lesser capacity, have special qualifications.

Children over 21, parents, siblings, and other extended family members may potentially qualify for E-2 Employee Visas provided they have the same nationality, and they meet the requirements for employees under the treaty.

India is not a Treaty country, but with attractive Citizenship by Investment (CBI) programs offered by countries that have E-2 treaties with the US like Grenada, Turkey and Montenegro, the path to the E-2 visa are clear. Compared to the investment the amount for EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program and the wait time to get a green card is much longer than the E-2 Visa.

The processing time for E-2 visa is much quicker ranging from six to eight months from the date of application. Meaning, your children can start school in American from the next academic year onwards. E-2 visa is not like other non-immigrant visas. E-2 visa can be renewed indefinitely, which gives you stability and permanency. There are no country limit or quota limit under the E-2 Visa.

To conclude, below are the most well-known advantages of the E-2 visa:

1.           Quick Processing Times

2.           No Quota Limitations

3.           Relatively Less Capital Investment Needed

4.           Funds to be Invested may come from various sources

5.           Control of Investment Funds and the Treaty Enterprise

6.           You may opt for a franchise

7.           Dependents are entitled to E-2 derivative visas

8.           Flexibility with Travel

9.           Potential Tax Advantages

10.         Relatively Low Legal Costs     

This article is published for clients, friends and other interested visitors for information purposes only. The contents of the article do not constitute legal advice and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Davies & Associates or any of its attorneys, staff or clients.