If you were planning to apply for one of the H-1B, H-2B, H4, L-1, or J-1 visas that President Trump just cancelled for the rest of this year, you are one of several hundred thousand people impacted by his decision. There is talk of even further restrictions coming. Consider that the U.S. issues some 85,000 H1B visas, 100,000 H-4 visas, 80,000 H2B visas, 100,000 L-1 visas, and 300,000 J-1 visas every year. That’s a lot of visas and a lot of disappointed immigrants. The question is: What other options do you have for coming to the United States or alternatives? Much depends on the visa being denied and your circumstances. Let’s consider some options for your “Plan B” purposes.
1. H1B Visa Applicants
There are some exceptions to the decree. According to a practice advisory issued by the American Immigration Lawyers Association, individuals with valid visas prior to the proclamation’s effective date (June 24, 2020, at 12:01 am (ET)) are not subject to the proclamation regardless of previous entry. In addition, Canadians entering as H, L or J nonimmigrants are exempt from the Presidential Proclamation.
2. TN Visas
If you are either Canadian or Mexican and have a job offer that involves one of the professions identified under the new NAFTA/USMCA agreement, you can apply for a TN visa. These visas include occupations like accountants, engineers, architects, lawyers, economists, various health care therapists, professors and the like.
3. E-3 Visas
If you are from Australia, you can apply for an E-3 visa. The criteria are virtually the same as the H1B visa but the visa was not named in the ban.
4. O-1 Visas
I have had clients in the past that were looking at applying for an H1B visa but who better qualified for an O-1 visa. For example, I had one client who was instrumental in establishing one of America’s biggest internet browser companies and who raised many millions of dollars to establish it. He was eligible for and obtained an O-1 visa because he was a person of extraordinary ability or achievement. Often your eligibility can be established by carefully narrowing the definition of your field or expertise and presenting you as being one of the very few who have risen to the very top of your field.
5. P Visas
If you are in the entertainment field, you may qualify for one of the P visas that enable you to come to the USA to perform at concerts and shows. The P visa field covers a broad range of entertainers and athletes as well as managers and coaches. It is worth exploring.
6. Spousal Credentials
Sometimes, if the principal applicant cannot qualify in any of these fields, it is worth asking what credentials your spouse has that may enable him or her to get a work visa that you cannot obtain. In some instances, that can open the door for you to enter the USA and then apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) because you are the spouse involved.
7. E Visa Options
If none of the previous options works for you, consider applying for an E visa. My favorite is the E-2 visa which can be used to get a work permit to start up a new business in the United States, or to buy an existing business. For example, buying a franchise, or say a hotel in the United States. The essential requirements are that you will make a significant investment, say at least $150,000 U.S. depending on the business, and operate it.
While this option is not open to those who are from India, China and most of the Arab states because there are no investment treaties between the U.S. and those countries, this obstacle can be surmounted by essentially purchasing citizenship in a treaty country, such as Grenada or Turkey for example, that offer citizenship by investment. Combining the Grenada citizenship by investment program with the U.S. E-2 visa program, for example, it is possible for you and your family to come to the USA on E-2 visas within say six months for a total of about say $ 350,000 U.S. While not easy, the programs are quick in terms of processing times and they get you a five-year E-2 visa that is renewable for as long as you own a business in the United States.
Individuals who are involved in international trade may also be eligible of E-1 visas and should explore that prospect.
8. Canada’s Express Entry And Other Programs
Supposing none of the foregoing options work for you, consider applying under Canada’s Express Entry program for permanent residence that can be obtained in less than a year. If you are under 30, have a master’s degree and speak excellent English or French and have at least one year’s work experience, this program is an excellent back up option. You and your family could be landed permanent residents in Canada in less than one year. There are also Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP), Global Talent, self-employed programs and significant benefit programs that enable applicants to gain work permits or even permanent residence.
9. Inter-Corporate Transfer
While America has shut down the L-1 visa, an almost identical program to the American one is available in Canada. A possible option would be to have an American employer open a Canadian subsidiary for use in bringing overseas talent into Canada for the time being. You would enter Canada and take on the work to be done through a Canadian office, traveling for meetings from time to time into the United States as a B-1/B-2 visitor. In time, you may be able to obtain a green card after things settle in the U.S.
10. Marriage To A U.S. Citizen And Immediate Relative Petitions
While getting married for the sake of getting a green card and staying in the U.S.A. is not a good idea, if you have a genuine relationship with a U.S. citizen spouse, marriage could be the way you would be able to remain in America permanently. A marriage-based application, or one to sponsor an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen could be the way for you to get your green card and stay in the U.S.
11. Diversity Green Card Lottery
I have always favored this lottery for individuals from disadvantaged countries that send few immigrants to the United States each year. While immigrants from countries like China, India, Mexico and the Philippines do not qualify, others do. It is always worth applying when your country is in the disadvantaged group even if you are in the U.S. on a work or study visa or if you are abroad. I have clients who live in the U.S. today because they won the green card lottery.
12. Last Hope Option
If you just cannot see yourself returning to your country of origin, and there is no way for you to stay in the United States nor to migrate to Canada, then a final hope would be for you to buy citizenship in one of the countries that offers citizenship by investment and move there, at least for the time being. Among such candidates are Antigua, St. Kitts and Nevis, Cyrpus, Malta, Portugal and those already mentioned in point 7 above. These programs offer swift citizenship or residence in exchange for an investment in a national fund or real estate. Their programs are accommodating in terms of bringing along family members and relatives and afford you travel options to many countries worldwide.
Since this may be just the beginning of President Trump’s immigration restrictions to the visas identified, it is worthwhile to explore a backup immigration plan for your family. Always consider both yourself and your spouse when reviewing eligibility criteria for any option, since family members are accorded the same status as that of the principal applicant. Keeping your options open will help you better weather the storm in these difficult days.