September 22, 2018

H-1B Visa and Green Card Rules Clarified by Obama Administration

Looking to attract foreign entrepreneurs and investors, the US government is ‘clarifying’ the rules regarding green cards and H-1B visas.

While the White House isn’t proposing new regulations regarding visas, it is adjusting requirements, possibly making it easier for a foreign investor to qualify for a visa. Specifically, it is aimed at start-up companies or ‘founders’.

While a US employment visa is normally sponsored by the company that hires someone, an ‘immigrant founder’ would not qualify for the visa. Under the new guidelines, a company founder could qualify for an EB-2 Green Card visa if their position reports to a board of directors, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Along with this, the person applying for the visa needs to have “a degree of expertise significantly above that ordinarily encountered in the sciences, arts, or business”.

There is already a green card visa for a foreigner who founds a business with a minimum start-up investment of $500,000 and can create a minimum of 10 jobs. This is the EB-5 visa, but it has a two-year conditional period to ensure that jobs are actually created. A maximum of 10,000 EB-5 visas can be issued annually, but at present only about half of them are actually used.

The H-1B visa is available to highly skilled immigration workers. Under current guidelines, the cap us 140,000 per year, including spouses and children. The number of H-1B visas issued per country is no more than 7% of the total amount available. With a country such as India where the demand is great, the wait can be as long as 10 years. While H-1B visas are currently available for a wide range of people such as writers, musicians, accountants and models, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) has suggested that they be restricted to tech professionals. This would reduce competition for the H-1B visa, which has seen nearly 35,000 applications this month alone.

Foreign investors will find it easier to work with the USCIS when it comes to expediting the process of EB-5 visas, and outstanding issues will be resolved with a USCIS panel of experts.

Director of liaison and information for the Immigration and Lawyers Association, Robert Deasy, said of the changes: “not hugely substantive” but the administration is trying to “send a message of welcoming” to new start-up companies.

Read more:
Policy shift will help more immigrants get Green Cards
A guide to H-18 green card reform – Computerworld
USCIS – Green Card Overview
USCIS – Green Card Processes and Procedures