Immigration Law Services

From its inception, the United States has been, in the words of John F. Kennedy, a Nation of Immigrants. Today, the US offers a multitude of visas for foreign nationals seeking to enter, to live, and to work in America. Each of these different pathways to the United States have their own pros and cons, costs and benefits. Choosing which one is right for you, your family, or your business is often a daunting task, and knowing how to craft the strongest possible application and how to advocate your case before US immigration officials can be challenging.

The role of an immigration lawyer is to help shepherd you through these often long and complicated processes to help you achieve your desired objectives. At Chang & Yoo LLP, our dedicated immigration lawyers will help you determine which immigration option is right for you by analyzing your individual history, your long-term future goals, and the latest trends in government policy. They will use their expertise to compile requisite documentation, draft and submit applications and petitions for you, respond to inquiries from immigration officials, prepare you for government interviews and inspections, and advise you on how to comply with your visa conditions.

Chang & Yoo LLP is here to help you navigate the complexity of the US immigration system, and we are committed to providing you with attentive, high-quality legal advice so that you, your family, and your business can take advantage of a new life and new opportunities in the United States.

Business Immigration

The United States boasts the largest consumer market of any nation in the world, and foreign nationals seeking to do business in the US have a myriad of options for bringing their unique talents, skills and expertise to the American economy. Chang & Yoo LLP can assist you in taking advantage of these exciting and unparalleled business opportunities.

  • Short-Term Business Visitors

For foreign nationals seeking to temporarily visit the US to engage in a short-term business activity, B-1 visas are available for an initial period of 1 to 6 months, with the possibility of one 6-month extension. B-1 visa holders are not permitted to have gainful employment in the US, but may instead participate in activities such as consulting with business associates, meeting with customers, selling a product or service, attending a convention, conference or trade show, settling an estate or negotiating a contract, and receiving short-term training. Applicants for B-1 visas must prove to immigration officials that they have employment and a permanent residence abroad to return to after their B-1 visa expires.

Not all foreign nationals are required to obtain visas. Canadians may stay in the US for up to 6 months without needing a visa, and citizens of 38 countries, including most of the EU, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, may visit the US for 90 days for any purpose at the discretion of US immigration officials without a visa, provided they obtain prior electronic authorization.

  • Employees

US employers who are interested in sponsoring their foreign employee’s move to the US may choose from a wide variety of immigration options. The most popular program is the H-1B visa, which allows recipients to live and work in the US for an initial period of 3 years, with the possibility of an additional 3 year-extension. To qualify for an H-1B, the foreign employee must have at least a bachelor’s degree in their field of work. The US employer must be willing to pay the prevailing wage for comparable American workers, and must demonstrate to the US Department of Labor that admitting the foreign employee into the US economy will not adversely affect the employment conditions of similarly-qualified Americans.

Unlike most visa categories, H-1B visa holders may apply for permanent residency (green card) while living in the US on their H-1B. Interested applicants should be aware, however, that regulation of the H-1B application process, particularly by the Department of Labor, is highly stringent. Additionally, there are a limited number of H-1B visas on offer each fiscal year, and due to the popularity of the program, these visas are usually all claimed within a matter of days. Compounding matters, employment-based applications for permanent residency are now so backlogged that it can take longer to petition for a green card than there is time remaining on the applicant’s H-1B. Timing the application and any extensions correctly, therefore, is crucially important. Chang & Yoo LLP can advise you on what steps to take and when, so as to ensure as few disruptions to your life as possible.

If an employer interested in sponsoring an immigrant worker is a multinational company with subsidiary, parent, affiliate, or branch offices in the US, or else is trying to establish a US office, they may be able to apply for an L-1A visa if the employee in question is a manager or executive whom the employer needs to transfer to the US. Depending on country of origin, L-1A visas are valid for an initial period of three months to 5 years, and may be extended to a maximum continuous stay of 7 years. If the foreign employee is not a manager or executive but has “specialized knowledge” valuable to the company’s US operations, he or she may be eligible for an L-1B visa, which is valid for, with extensions, a maximum continuous stay of 5 years. L-1A and L-1B holders may apply for permanent residency while still living in the US on their L-1 visa. New companies or companies with a newly-opened American office face greater scrutiny from USCIS than more established employers do, but Chang & Yoo LLP can help you navigate these complicated regulatory processes.

Several employment-based visas are reserved for citizens of specific countries. Foreign workers with Canadian or Mexican citizenship may apply for a TN visa at the US border, or their employer may petition for a TN visa on their behalf. A TN visa is valid for an initial period of 3 years and, in theory, may be renewed indefinitely. Renewal may be denied, however, at the discretion of immigration officials if they determine that the TN visa holder has made the US their de facto permanent home.
Foreign workers with Australian citizenship may seek an E-3 visa, which is like an H-1B and has similar requirements, but differs in not requiring an employer sponsor, and in having a shorter initial validity period of 2 years, which may be renewed every 2 years indefinitely. E-3 visas are also more plentiful and processed more quickly than H-1B visas are, but unlike the H-1B visa, an E-3 visa holder may not apply for permanent residency.

Singaporean and Chilean citizens or their employers may apply for an H-1B1visa, which also has similar qualifications as the H-1B, except with an initial validity period of 1 year, which may be renewed annually with no maximum limit. Like E-3 visa holders and unlike the H-1B visa, H-1B1 holders may not apply for permanent residence.

Generally, foreign workers interested in obtaining a green card, whether they are already in the US on another visa or living abroad, must have their US employer file a petition for Second Preference (EB-2) or Third Preference (EB-3) Immigration on their behalf, unless the foreign worker meets the “extraordinary ability” requirements of First Preference (EB-1) Immigration (see below) or qualifies for a National Interest Waiver (see below) with their EB-2 petition. EB-3 petitions have similar requirements as the H-1B visa, requiring that applicants have a bachelor’s degree or at least 2 years of training or experience, and Department of Labor verification that their participation in the American economy will not adversely affect comparable American workers. EB-2 applicants, on the other hand, must possess an advanced degree in their field of work, or else a degree of expertise significantly above ordinary in the sciences, arts, or business. EB-2 applicants must also obtain the Labor Department certifications as EB-3 applicants, unless they are able to successfully apply for a National Interest Waiver, which requires proof that their exceptional abilities serve the national interests of the United States. The EB-3 program has the most number of applicants of any employment-based green card application, and depending on country of origin, wait times for green cards through EB-3 can take up to 12 years.

Employers of foreign workers in certain occupations, such as physicians, religious workers, broadcasters, and employees of international organizations may apply for Fourth Preference (EB-4) Immigration on behalf of their employees, and will not be required to obtain certification from the Department of Labor.

Employer-sponsored immigration is often immensely complicated and rigorously scrutinized. Chang & Yoo LLP has the experience and dedication to provide foreign national employees and their employers with high-quality legal advice, so that they foreign workers can bring their valuable skills and take advantage of a new life and new opportunities in America.

  • Accomplished Individuals

Foreign nationals who possess “extraordinary ability” in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or who have extraordinary, nationally recognized achievements in film or television may be eligible for the O visa. Successful applicants must be travelling to the US to engage in activities related to their field of expertise, but once approved, may stay in the US for an initial period of up to 3 years, with the possibility of extending their stay indefinitely. O visa holders may apply for a green card while in the US. Foreign nationals with “extraordinary ability” in their field of work or who are “outstanding” professors or researchers or are multinational managers or executives may apply for green cards through First Preference (EB-1) Immigration. Applicants applying on the basis of their extraordinary ability may file their petition themselves, while all other EB-1 applicants must be sponsored by their employer. Unlike other immigrant categories, EB-1 applicants do not need to obtain Labor Department certification.

  • Investors/Traders

Entrepreneurs who are citizens of certain treaty countries interested in investing in a business in the US may be eligible for an E-2 investor visa. E-2 visas are valid for 2 years and may be renewed indefinitely, though E-2 visa holders are not entitled to apply for permanent residency during that time. Qualifying treaty countries for E-2 visas include Canada, Mexico, most of Europe, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, and Australia. For a completed, updated list of all treaty countries, please see the State Department’s website. An E-2 applicant must demonstrate to USCIS that he or she is making a substantial capital investment in a new or existing profit-generating US business venture. The requisite investment amount depends on the specific circumstances of the foreign national’s case, including the overall capital costs of starting the business, but is usually understood to be at least $100,000-$150,000. The capital investment must come from the applicant’s own funds, must be from traceable, legitimate sources, and must be irrevocably committed to the business venture. Additionally, the foreign national must have ownership of at least 50% of the business venture or possess operational control. The application process for the E-2 visa requires extensive and meticulous documentation. At Chang & Yoo LLP, our immigration lawyers are ready to assist any enterprising foreign entrepreneurs get their American business off to a bright and promising start.

Another, more permanent, option available to foreign investors is Fifth Preference Immigration, or EB-5, is an immigration program that allows foreign investors, their spouses, and their unmarried children under 21 years of age to apply for permanent residency in the United States. Obtaining a green card through the EB-5 program provides an opportunity for foreign citizens and their families to live and work in America indefinitely, without needing to rely on sponsorship from a US-based employer or family member.

EB-5 applications are complex processes that can take 3-5 years to complete, with many different components to keep track of. At Chang & Yoo LLP, our immigration lawyers will help shepherd you through the application process, advising you on how to fulfill your requirements, preparing documentation to submit to immigration officials, and strategizing to find the best legal solutions for you.

In order to qualify for an EB-5 green card, the applicant must make a capital investment in a new business project in the US. For projects in low employment areas, an investment of $500,000 is currently required, while projects in areas with higher employment rates bear a required investment of $1,000,000. Once USCIS approves this investment (a 12 to18-month process), the foreign investor may apply to become a conditional resident in the US (6 to 12-months processing time). The foreign investor is then required to physically reside in the US for 2 years before he or she can apply for an unconditional green card, which is typically processed in 6-8 months. Five years after becoming conditional residents, the foreign investor and his or her family will become eligible for US citizenship.

The EB-5 visa program is particularly popular among East Asian investors; in 2015, 84% of all EB-5 visas issued by the US government were allocated to citizens of the People’s Republic of China, while nationals of Vietnam, Taiwan, and South Korea rounded out the rest of the top four jurisdictions with the most recipients of EB-5 visas. Chang & Yoo LLP has years of experience working extensively with clients from the Asia-Pacific region, and is exceedingly well positioned to help make a move across the Pacific as smooth as possible.

Like the E-2 investor visa, foreign nationals of certain treaty countries who wish to come to the US to engage in commercial trade between the US and their home country may be eligible for E-1 visas. Just like the E-2, E-1 visas are valid for two years, with no limit on extensions. Applicants for the E-1 visa must engage in “substantial” trade, which can include the commercial exchange of goods, services, banking, insurance, transportation, tourism, and technology, and at least 50% of their overall trading activity must be between the US and their home country. Whether or not trade is “substantial” depends on the monetary value, volume, and number of transactions over time.

Interested foreign traders may be self-employed, or they may be employees. If they are employees and their employer is an individual, the employer must have the same nationality as the E-1 applicant. If, however, their employer is an enterprise of organization, the employer must be at least 50% owned by people with the same nationality as the E-1 applicant and living in the US on their own E-1 visas. The E-1 applicant employee must be an executive or supervisor, or else have skills which make their services essential to the business’ operations, including proven expertise or unique skills.

  • Entertainers/Athletes

Foreign nationals seeking to enter the US to perform in the arts, entertainment, or sports industries may be interested in the P visa, which allows the visa holder to remain in the US for the duration of their competition, event, or performance. Successful applicants must be an internationally recognized athlete or entertainer (P-1 visa), be performing as part of an arts or entertainment exchange program (P-2 visa), or be engaged in a culturally-unique performance or presentation (P-3 visa). Essential support personnel may also enter on a P visa. P visa holders, excluding support personnel, may apply for permanent residence while their P visa is still valid.


Family Immigration

Inscribed on the State of Liberty is the cry, “Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp! Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” Bringing American families together with their relatives abroad, no matter their class or social status, has long been a cornerstone of the US immigration system. Accordingly, family members of US citizens and permanent residents (green card holders) have a wide variety of unique options for entering, living, and working in the United States.

US citizens may petition for their spouse, children, parents, and siblings to join them in America as green card holders, while permanent residents may do the same for their spouse and unmarried children. If these family members are not already in the US, K-3, K-4, and V visas are available to bring them stateside. Meanwhile, fiancé(e)s of US citizens and permanent residents living abroad may enter the US on a K-1 visa, obtain a special time-limited green card after marriage, and then eventually become unconditional permanent residents.

In addition, immediate family members of some recipients of business-based visas may also enter, and sometimes work in, the US as dependents of the visa holder. The spouse and unmarried children under 21 of an EB-5 investor may acquire green cards simultaneously with the investor. H-4 visas are available for the spouse and unmarried children under 21 of an H-1B holder, L-2 visas for L-1 holders, O-3 visas for O-1 and O-2 holders, TD-1 and TD-2 for TN holders, P-4 visas for P-1, P-2, or P-3 holders, and E-1 and E-2 dependent visas for E-1 and E-2 holders. Each of these dependent visas carries different rights and privileges, and careful planning is highly advised.

In 2013, 66% of all immigrants to the US were admitted on the basis of family ties, far more than any other immigration category. Nevertheless, due to overwhelming demand, coming to America on a family-based visa can sometimes be a long, complicated, and daunting process. If you are a foreign national interested in making a new life for yourself and your family in the United States, Chang & Yoo LLP is here to guide you in your time of momentous change and to help you and your loved ones become part of the ever-evolving American family, together.


Other

  • Personal Visits

Foreign nationals who wish to travel to the US for short-term, personal visits, such as for tourism, visiting family members, or obtaining medical treatment, may apply for a B-2 visa. Visitors on a B-2 visa may stay for a maximum of 6 months.

Just like with short-term business visits, not all foreign nationals are required to obtain visas. Canadians may stay in the US for up to 6 months without needing a visa, and citizens of 38 countries, including most of the EU, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, may visit the US for 90 days for any purpose at the discretion of US immigration officials without a visa, provided they obtain prior electronic authorization.

  • Students/Educators

Through the J-1 visa, US educators may sponsor a foreign student, professor, or research scholar who wishes to enter the US to participate in an educational program. The J-1 visa is valid until 30 days after their program has ended. A successful J-1 applicant must be fluent in English, have sufficient medical insurance and funds to cover his or her expenses. J-1 visa holders may not apply for permanent residence in the US during their stay. J-1 visa sponsors are required to submit annual reports to the Department of State, monitoring the progress of the J-1 visa holder and their educational program.

If you are a student, researcher, or educator interested in participating in some of the world’s most highly ranked research organizations and institutions of higher learning, we at Chang & Yoo LLP can assist you on your scholarly journey.


Naturalization

Permanent residents (green card holders) who have been in the US for 5 years (or 3 if married to a US citizen) may be eligible for US citizenship. The naturalization process requires passing an English, US history, and civics test, and in some cases, attending an interview with immigration officials. Let Chang & Yoo LLP help you on your path to becoming a full American citizen.

*All of the above information is subject to changes in legislation and federal regulations. Individual cases will vary, and the user agrees that nothing on this page may be construed as legal advice.