US Immigration Advice for Venezuelans

Due to political turmoil and civil unrest, Venezuela has unfortunately become a difficult place to live. For Venezuelans who are fortunate enough to have qualifying family members, the US immigration process can allow them to safely relocate to the United States. However, those who don’t have such family ties have limited options.

Venezuelan businessmen and entrepreneurs who want to live in the US to invest and develop their own companies cannot readily do so due to the fact that the US and Venezuela do not have an existing treaty for an investor’s visa. The EB-5 immigrant investor program is only open to those who have at least $500,000 to spend and even then, the lengthy backlog means that applicants would have to wait at least two years before obtaining an immigrant visa. However, an island in the Caribbean now holds a shorter and easier path for wealthy Venezuelans to live and work in the US.

Since 2014, the government of Grenada has offered citizenship to wealthy foreigners in order to expand its economy and increase investment into real estate and tourism projects. For a mere $200,000 (excluding application fees), a family of four can obtain Grenadian citizenship in as little as three months without ever setting foot on the island. There is no requirement to buy a home or reside in the country and the investment is tax free.

Although Grenada is not the only country that offers a citizenship by investment program, it certainly presents the best deal as one of the most affordable options and one of the few that can lead to a US investor’s visa. The US has a treaty with Grenada for an E-2 investor’s visa, which grants the qualifying applicant up to five years to live and work in the United States. Additional criteria for the E-2 visa include: at least 50% ownership of the US investment enterprise; the applicant must seek to enter the United States solely to develop and direct the business enterprise; and the applicant must have invested, or be actively in the process of investing, a substantial amount of capital into the US enterprise. A substantial amount of investment can be as little as $100,000 for a business enterprise and a potential investor can either purchase an existing business or develop his or her own.

For affluent Venezuelan citizens who want to relocate to the US with an E-2 investor’s visa, Grenada’s Citizenship by Investment program provides a possible alternative to the backlogged EB-5 program. While wait times for EB-5 visas exceed two years, an E-2 visa can be obtained in only a few months. Once in the US, the investor can then work in his business, obtain employment authorization for his or her spouse and enroll their children in US schools. As long as the business operates and continues to fulfill the qualifying criteria, the E-2 investor’s visa can be renewed indefinitely.

With the deteriorating state of affairs in Venezuela, affluent Venezuelans should look to Grenadian citizenship as an attractive opportunity to live and work in the US.

The consequences for treating your green card like a tourist visa

Once you receive your green card, you should familiarize yourself with the requirements for obtaining U.S. citizenship.  One of these requirements is establishing continuous residence.  If you spend too much time out of the U.S., you will hurt your chances of becoming a U.S. citizen.  You must establish 5 years of continuous residence (or 3 years if you are the spouse of a U.S. citizen), and absences of longer than 6 months may disrupt your residence.
 
If you are planning on being absent for more than 1 year, you should apply for a reentry permit before departing.  But understand that a departure from the U.S. for this length of time is a disruption of continuous residence and will delay your eligibility for U.S. citizenship.
 
There are even more severe consequences for staying outside of the U.S. for lengthy periods of time.  The government could charge you with abandonment of your residency and initiate removal proceedings.  This often arises when someone is seeking re-entry after a long trip abroad.  It may also come up when you apply for U.S. citizenship.  If the government charges you with abandonment, you will be scheduled for a hearing with an immigration judge.  Be aware that having a re-entry permit does not prevent a finding of abandonment.
 
In short, plan your trips abroad wisely.  If you have a green card, you should be residing in the U.S.  If you don’t want to live in the U.S., you can submit an I-407 to abandon your residency and then apply for a tourist visa.        

By Patricia Cooper Esq. 

With H-1Bs running out so quickly, consider PERM as an alternative.

As we’ve all come to know, H-1Bs are at best, a complete crap shoot.  Weeks or months of preparation are put forth only to have about a 25% chance of random selection for processing.  If you begin your preparation in February of 2017 and submit your petition on April 1, 2017, your best case scenario is that your case is accepted for processing and you can begin working on October 1, 2017.  However, if you’re not accepted for processing, you’ll learn about this in May or June and then, even if you reapply the following year, the soonest that one could begin working in H-1B status is October 1, 2018.  This is very unpredictable for both employers and their prospective employees.

 

My suggestion is to forgo the H-1B process and move straight into the PERM (labor certification).  Why?  Because its a more predictable process and the reward is much greater.  At the end of the rainbow (even though it’s further away) is a green card as opposed to a three year employment visa.  The PERM could be started at any time regardless of where the foreign beneficiary is and whether they’ve ever worked for the prospective employer.

 

The process is longer, more expensive and entails a number of additional steps and requirements, but it has the potential to provide a permanent, rather than temporary solution.  As some of our employer clients are receiving their H-1B packages back, having been rejected because they were not randomly selected for processing, they are following our advice to concentrate on the labor certification process.  We will see what the coming months and years bring to the H-1B program as the current administration has proposed changes that it would make it even more restrictive than it is currently.  

President Obama’s Deferred Action Law for Immigrants

The federal government has a new policy called “deferred action” that will allow young people to remain in the United States and give them permission to work.  In order to be granted deferred action, you must satisfy several requirements.  You must (1) be at least 15 years old to apply; (2) have been under 30 years old on June 15, 2012; (3) have come to the USA before the age of 16; (4) have lived in the USA since June 15, 2007; (5) have been present in the USA on June 15, 2012; (6) be currently enrolled in school OR have graduated high school OR have obtained your GED OR have been honorably discharged from the Coast Guard or armed forces; and (7) not have been convicted of a felony or certain misdemeanors or pose a threat to national security.  Even if you are in deportation proceedings or have already been ordered removed from the USA, you are eligible to apply for deferred action.  In the coming weeks, the government will announce its procedure for accepting applications.

A PEEK UNDER THE HOOD OF THE SENATE’S PROPOSED IMMIGRATION REFORM BILL

On April 29, 2010, the Senate majority released a twenty-six page
“framework” upon which they hope to rebuild the current immigration
system. Here are some of the more salient points of the proposal:

Countries with too many Visa Waiver overstays will be held
accountable

The Visa Waiver Program (“VWP”) will be evaluated and monitored to
ensure that no country on this program has a high percentage of visa
overstays. Countries whose nationals frequently overstay their visas
will be removed from the VWP until such time as they implement
accountability systems to ensure compliance from their nationals.

Speedy and close-by Filing of Removal Charges

The Department of Homeland Security will be required to file a charging
document with the immigration court closest to the location at which an
alien was apprehended within 48 hours of the alien being taken into
custody by the Department.

Social Security gets Deputized!

The Social Security Administration will begin issuing biometric social
security cards. These cards will be fraud-resistant, tamper-resistant,
wear resistant, and machine-readable social security cards containing a
photograph and an electronically coded micro-processing chip which
possesses a unique biometric identifier for the authorized card-bearer.

The Social Security Administration will be required to verify the
individual’s identity and employment eligibility by asking for
production of acceptable documents to be provided by the individual as
proof of identity and employment eligibility.
Employers hiring workers in the future will be required to use the newly
created Biometric Enrollment, Locally-stored Information, and
Electronic Verification of Employment (BELIEVE) System as a means of
verification.

SciTech-friendly Student Visa Policy

Foreign students will be permitted to enter the United States with
immigrant intent if they are a bona fide student so long as they pursue a
full course of study at an institution of higher education in a field
of science, technology, engineering or mathematics.

Employers—the other Right Hand of the Government

Employers using the H-2B program will also be required to conduct
advanced recruiting of U.S. workers prior to hiring an H-2B worker and
will be required to pay higher wages than the current wages paid

Family Immigration: Good News for Legal Residents and their Families

Spouses and children of lawful permanent residents will be classified as
“immediate relatives” to promote the efficient reunification of
families.

Family Immigration: Good News for Domestic Partners

It will eliminate discrimination in the immigration laws by permitting
permanent partners of United States citizens and lawful permanent
residents to obtain lawful permanent resident status.

Into the Light: a Comprehensive Legalization Program for Legal
Prospective Immigrants

Streamlined processing, including rapid collection of fingerprints from
applicants leading to prompt issuance of a biometric-enabled credential
to those found eligible for LPI status, will register the physical
presence of those here illegally, record their identities with the U.S.
Government, and ultimately help ensure that those who are qualified are
integrated as accountable, tax-paying members of U.S. society.

Specifically, to be eligible for initial registration for the
legalization program and interim status as an LPI, each individual must:
(1) complete an application supplying basic biographic and biometric
information; (2) pass terrorism, criminal history, and other security
checks; (3) pay all applicable fees, civil penalties, and taxes; and (4)
have been continuously present in the United States since the date of
enactment.

Out of consideration: Felony Offenders

…will not be eligible for registration if they: (1) have been convicted
of any felony offense under Federal or State law (all offenses
punishable with a term of imprisonment greater than one year.

Irish Investors Welcome

This proposal creates an E-3 visa for nationals of the Republic of
Ireland similar to the visa already provided for nationals of Australia.

Lest the Runway Runs Dry…

It adjusts current immigration law so that fashion models can enter the
United States on an O-visa or a P-visa rather than an H-1B visa.

The original text of the proposal in Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format
may be found here.