Knowing Your Business Visas
By Anish Vashistha
Los Angeles , CA
Oftentimes, after being in the United States for a few months, visitors from Pakistan decide they would like to stay in or return to the United States for a longer period and want to pursue a “business visa.” However, many such individuals are not aware that such visas are for the most part available only to individuals with offers from prospective employers. Therefore, unless s/he has the capital to invest in and to start his own business in the United States, a Pakistani national could only pursue a business visa once s/he has found a company willing to hire him/her.
With an offer in hand, the Pakistani national will then need to traverse the maze that plagues the employment-based immigration system in the United States. Two of these complicated employment-based visa categories are the H-1B and the L-1. Understanding these two visa categories and the complexities in obtaining them will help individuals and prospective employers meet the requirements for such visas.
Generally, for someone who wants to be a working professional in the United States but is not a citizen, s/he obtains an H-1B visa. Before a visa can be issued, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services has to approve a petition filed for the Pakistani national by his/her prospective employer. Before filing the petition, the employer must file a Labor Condition Application with the United States Department of Labor, which must approve the Labor Condition Application. The Department of Labor’s approval is a certification that there are not enough United States workers to fill the position the employer wants the individual to fill.
Once the Labor Condition Application is approved, the employer can file the H-1B petition with Citizenship and Immigration Services. However, obtaining approval from Citizenship and Immigration Services can be difficult because the agency frequently requests further documentation requiring that the employer provide additional evidence that both the employer and the individual meet the requirements to have the petition granted.
Despite complying with these requests by Citizenship and Immigration Services, many employers and individuals find that the petitions still get denied.
An alternative option would be for the Pakistani national to remain employed by his/her employer in Pakistan and to transfer to the company’s offices in the United States. In such a situation, the individual would pursue an L-1 visa. The L-1 visa category is specifically for assisting foreign companies that want to establish or expand their United States offices with their own managerial personnel. However, as with H-1Bs, Citizenship and Immigration Services first must approve a petition in the United States prior to issuance of such a visa. Difficult requests from Citizenship and Immigration Services for further documentation are also prevalent in the L-1 context, and on-site confirmation of the existence of the company’s United States facilities by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement are increasingly common.
Given the complexities of these two employment-based visa categories, an individual and his/her prospective employer are well advised to obtain competent legal counsel to ensure an approval is obtained.
(The author, Anish Vashistha, is a licensed attorney with a nationwide immigration-law practice. He is a graduate from Georgetown University Law Center and Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. He has helped several Pakistani nationals obtain or maintain legal status in the United States. He may be contacted toll-free at 1 (866) 433-7016 or by email at Anish@HazanyLaw.com)