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Immigration Considerations for Singaporean Companies and Individuals Doing Business in the United States

Posted by James Burns | Oct 16, 2019

U.S. immigration laws provide a multitude of options for Singaporean and U.S. companies and individuals to engage in trade and commerce.  These options may also allow for individuals and employees of corporate entities to seek permanent residency in the United States.  The corporate client may wish to pursue various non-immigrant visas suited for business or pleasure, attending or participating in a school or exchange program, invest in a new or existing business, or engage in temporary work. Individuals seeking permanent residency in the United States can do so through a relationship with a qualifying family member, a job offer, or an investment.

  1. Non-Immigrant Visas

Non-immigrant visas are issued to those who intend to enter the U.S. for a temporary stay and who intend to depart the U.S. at the end of their stay.  U.S. law establishes separate classifications of non-immigrant visas for tourism, business, temporary employment, study, transit, investment, training, and other purposes.  The “B” visa is the most common type of visa issued worldwide.  The flexibility of the B visa allows travelers to temporarily visit the United States for vacation as well as a multitude of business related endeavors.  The B-1 “Business Visa” allows individuals to travel to the U.S. to attend conventions, conferences, consultations, and other legitimate activities of a commercial or professional nature.  This may include taking steps to establish a branch office of a foreign company or set up an investment in the United States.

Treaties between the United States and many countries allow foreign nationals to come to the United States to conduct trade or to manage substantial investments.  A treaty between the United States and Singapore allows for Singaporean individuals and companies to seek E-1 Treaty Trader and E-2 Treaty Investor visas.  The E-1/E-2 visas are non-immigrant visas, but have many similarities to lawful permanent resident status. 

Many executives, managers, and employees with specialized knowledge can come to work in the United States using the L-1 intracompany transferee visa.  The L-1 visa is available for employees who have been employed by a multi-national company abroad that seeks to open new business operations in the United States or transfer the employee to an existing business that is related to the company abroad.  L-1 regulations also recognize a visa may be issued for opening a “new office.”

There are a variety of visas available to U.S. employers seeking to employ foreign nationals temporarily in the United States.  Several “H” non-immigrant visa categories used for this purpose include visas available for professional workers, temporary workers in shortage occupations, nurses and trainees.  The H status is designed primarily to help employers meet an immediate and temporary need for labor.

  1. Immigrant Visas

Immigrant visas, or visas issued to those who intend to reside permanently in the U.S. (“green card” holders) are generally reserved for individuals who are close relatives of either U.S. citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) in the United States, or for people hired to work in jobs in which it has been determined that there are not enough skilled Americans to perform.

Employment-based (EB) immigrants must qualify for one of five preference categories.  The various preference categories include priority workers, professionals holding advanced degrees, skilled workers in short supply, professionals holding baccalaureate degrees, religious workers, and a fifth preference category (EB-5) for immigrant investors.

The “Immigrant Investor” EB-5 visa is an option for individuals seeking permanent residency (“green cards”) by investing in the United States.  The U.S. Congress created the EB-5 immigrant visa category in 1990 for immigrants seeking to enter to engage in a commercial enterprise that will benefit the U.S. economy and create at least 10 full-time jobs.  The basic amount required to invest is $1 million, although that amount may be $500,000 if the investment is made in a “targeted employment area” or in a Government designated regional center.

By Mike Dye - Of Counsel for Immigration matters.

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James Burns

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