American Employers and Immigration Law

The New York Times has an article about the various efforts that US businesses are mounting to combat tougher enforcement of immigration laws. Read the article here.

No one seems to be happy with the current system, which penalizes too harshly, but doesn’t give enough leeway to hire legally the personnel that they need. The article touches on the problems that some US employers have filling positions in labor intensive jobs with residents and/or citizens.

There is some discussion of the H2-B visa, which is a seasonal visa available for temporary work. There are two kinds, agricultural and non-agricultural. Resorts and farms tend to rely on them accordingly. However, legislation lapsed which made made the number of H2-B visas shrink, putting many US companies that rely on the seasonal visas in a very tight spot. And they are having a hard time finding workers to replace the seasonal workers, which in turn jeopardizes the business that has permanent American workers.

Keep in mind, this is all in the middle of an economic recession. The NY Times article sums up in part:

The offensive by businesses has been spurred by the federal enforcement crackdown, by inaction in Congress on immigration legislation and by a rush of punitive state measures last year that created a checkerboard of conflicting requirements. Many employers found themselves on the political defensive as they grappled, even in an economic downturn, with shortages of low-wage labor.

Using the B-1 Visitor Visa to “do” business in the US

Using the B-1 Business Visa

The B-1 Visitor Visa (for Business) can be used for certain business activities in the US. It can be a very cost effective way to scout out business opportunites and to engage in very limited business activities. The B-1 is a temporary visa which requires you to stay only temporarily in the United States.

The B-1 should be distinguised from the B-2, which is the more common “Tourist Visa” — please don’t mistake the two. And if you’re on the Visa Waiver Program, you should always be careful to treat it as a tourist visa and not as a “business” visa.

The B-1 Visa strictly prohibits any sort of employment and/or working. That is very clear.

However, the B-1 does allow:

  • negotiation of contracts
  • consultation with business associates
  • litigation
  • survey potential lease sites and/or lease premises for potential business (cannot stay to manage)
  • participation in scientific, educational, professional or business conventions, conferences or seminars and other legitimate activities of a commercial or professional nature.

Again, it is important to emphasize that the above activities, even if permitted, can NOT be part of any employment.  You should be be self-sufficient or be in the employ of a foreign company.

A very important point is that you should never be paid with funds from a US source while on a B-1 Visa. That is the fastest and surest way to violate the terms of the B-1 Visa. If you take orders for a parent company overseas while on a B-1, the parent company must pay you when you return to your country of origin.

Otherwise, a B-1 Visa is a good fast way to scout out business locations, do research, and talk to people in the US in anticipation of a larger venture.

Starting a Business in the US

The sky line of Los Angeles

When we think of immigrant entrepreneurs, we all think of scrappy immigrants coming to the US with $50 in their pockets and starting up a business on their own. That’s what I believed growing up because that what’s happened with my parents.

However, more and more it seems that today foreign entrepreneurs are saavy, well-educated, and somewhat well funded. And they want to come to the United States. We all win, because despite all that’s gone on, this is still the place to be innovative, daring, and bold. This helps our economy and all the goodness that flows from that.

Even this new generation of desirable overseas entrepreneurs are facing difficulties.

The following is a blog entry about an entreprenuer from England who went through the process of getting a visa to open his business in the United States. Peter Nixey talks about his experience at Tech Crunch:

“The visa application process is expensive, very time consuming and very energy consuming. It saps time, attention and energy away from the core thing that any young business needs to do which is to grow.
There are many companies for whom that distraction simply doesn’t make sense. For us though I have no doubt that it was essential. Only weeks after launch, Clickpass is seeing thousands of registrations a week and the influence, support and partnerships that the company made in Silicon Valley were critical to that early success.
Although my first choice of base would always be London, I have no doubt that as a young technology team we would not have had the success we did had we stayed. Getting the visa was not a whole bundle of fun but if I had to go back and do it again I wouldn’t hesitate for a second.”

The read the entire post, go to Coming to America: Getting Visas to do Business in Silicon Valley.