When Immigration Matters

F-1 Student Visa Seminar : From F-1 VIsa to Green Card & Beyond

Posted by Karen-Lee Pollak on Mon, Sep 15, 2014 @ 3:01 PM

F-1 visa, green cardPlano Multicultural Outreach Roundtable to Present Fall Immigration Seminar

The F-1 Student Visa and Beyond: Creating a Game Plan for Working and Maintaining Status in the United States

       The Plano Multicultural Outreach Roundtable and Bell Nunnally & Martin, LLP will present their Fall Immigration Seminar, The F-1 Student Visa and Beyond: Creating a Game Plan for Working and Maintaining Status in the United States. This no-charge interactive seminar provides a comprehensive overview of immigration laws as applied to F-1 students. F Visas are a type of non-immigrant student visa that allows foreigners to pursue education in the United States.
       The keynote speaker at the seminar will be Karen-Lee Pollak. Pollak chairs Bell Nunnally & Martin’s Immigration Section. She was selected to D Magazine’s “Best Lawyers in Dallas 2014” list, featured as one of Newsweek’s Leaders in Immigration Law Showcase and listed as Texas Rising Star® by Texas Monthly, she provides full-service legal immigration counsel to large corporations, small businesses and individuals.

       F-1 students, prospective F-1 students and post graduate students are invited to attend. The seminar will help students develop a plan for maintaining immigration status and working in the United States. The seminar will cover various aspects about student visa status including:

  • Working while in F-1 status-when USCIS approval is and is not required
  • VISA Options after studying-DACA, H1B Petitions, “Cap Gap” relief and beyond
  • Avoid costly and often unfixable mistakes in maintaining Immigration Status
  • Develop strategies for maintaining status in the United States during and after study
  • Understand your options to remain in the United States after studying

      The seminar will be held on September 30, between 6 and 8 p.m. at Collin College, Spring Creek Campus, Room B124, 2800 E. Spring Creek Parkway, Plano, Texas 75074. Please RSVP to the event to [email protected]


Immigration 101: Moving to the US from Europe: A Checklist for Expats

Posted by Karen-Lee Pollak on Thu, Sep 13, 2012 @ 10:53 AM

visa, uscis, immigration In today’s world, many of us are psychologically attached to our belongings.  So, what does that mean when we need to move overseas? Do you take everything?

Moving from one country to another can be a real challenge, especially when you are moving an entire household.  There is no need to face an international move with anxiety or extra expenses as long as you do plenty of planning and preparing.

 As you plan your international move, there are many things to consider. Before you even choose a moving company, you need to figure out how you will be handling the move.  What will you do with all your stuff?  Will you have a garage sale?  Will you rent a couple of storage units?  What about getting a visa?  Do you have a job lined up?  What about the kids?  The list of questions goes on and on.  Read on for some helpful tips if you are planning on moving to the U.S. from Europe.

 What to move with you

 If you are making your move to the U.S. on a permanent basis, then you must decide what to pack up and take with you and what to leave behind.  There may be things you just can’t live without, such as family heirlooms and antiques – so inquire with your moving company as to how to best ship them overseas.  However, leave the appliances behind.  That includes ovens, refrigerators, DVD players, and other household appliances.  Remember, the U.S. and Europe have different voltages and plugs, which may not be compatible, even with an adapter.  Do your research before you move, because shipping appliances can also be very expensive.

 Getting a visa

 If you haven’t already heard, getting an American visa can be tricky.  The process is complicated and extremely technical.  It can be a good idea to file multiple visa petitions, especially if you are planning on getting a green card through a family member already in the U.S.  This can be useful if a waiting list gets long or your sponsor passes away.  It is also important to be prompt for every scheduled appointment involving your visa petition; arriving late can cause months of delays.

 As you are going through the visa process, it is crucial that you avoid visa violations, as the U.S. is very strict.  Always read the fine print on your visa, green card, or work permit and be sure to follow the rules.  Even the slightest violation can result in your deportation.  Throughout the process, it is a good idea never to leave any loose ends.  Keep a copy of all paperwork and track it.

 Be prepared for the tax system

 Did you know that the United States taxation system is one of the most convoluted in the world?  While some states have only one tax regime, others may involve up to four levels of taxes, all for individuals.  The tax rate that you will end up paying will be determined not only by your income over the tax year, but also where you live.  If you are new to the U.S. tax system when you arrive, you may want to seek the advice of a tax professional.



US Immigration Basics for South Africans | Nonimmigrant Visas (Part 2)

Posted by Karen Pollak on Thu, Sep 09, 2010 @ 4:33 PM

What is a Temporary (Nonimmigrant) Visa?

US ImmigrationPeople who want to come to the United States for a limited time need what is called a "nonimmigrant" visa. This lets them participate in specified activities (such as studying, visiting, or working) until their visa runs out. Students and businesspeople make up the largest groups of nonimmigrant visa holders. Nonimmigrant visas are also issued for tourists, exchange visitors, and workers with some kind of specialty that is lacking in the U.S. workforce.  Most South Africans obtain a nonimmigrant visa first.  Most of these visas are valid for three years and then may be renewed for three years.  During that six year period, most South Africans apply for a green card especially if they were not initially eligible for permanent residency when they applied for their nonimmigrant visa.

Applying for a U.S. Visa
After figuring out what type of visa or green card you're eligible for, you'll need to figure out how to get it. Most people must obtain a visa at a U.S. consulate in Johannesburg before departing for the United States. You will need an appointment at the Consulate.  If you're already in the United States legally, you may be able to apply to "adjust" your status to permanent resident, or "change" your status to another type of visa.

What are the most Common U.S. Visas issued to South Africans?

The Most Common Non-Immigrant Visas Issued to South Africans

B-1/B2 Visa Business or Tourism Visitors
These visas are issued to persons wishing to visit the U.S. or conduct business, including such things as a need to consult with business associates, negotiate a contract, buy goods or materials, settle an estate, appear in a court trial, and participate in business or professional conventions or conferences or, where an applicant will be traveling to the United States on behalf of a foreign employer for training or meetings. The individual may not receive payment (except for incidental expenses) from a United States source while on this visa.

The following activities require a working visa, and may not be carried out by business visitors:

  • Running a business 
  • Gainful employment
  • Payment by an organization within the US
  • Participating as a professional in entertainment or sporting events

Student Visas -The F or M Visa
Are granted to nonimmigrant’s coming to the US to participate in a full time course of study. As with all nonimmigrant classifications, the most important requirement to obtain a student visa is the demonstration of nonimmigrant intent. The student must maintain a home abroad that they have no intention of abandoning. The student must be coming to the US to pursue a full course of academic study at a community college or accredited university in order to qualify for an F-1 student visa and must pursue a full time course of study in vocational or other on academic programs, other than language training to qualify for an M-1 visa.  In either case, the student must demonstrate that they possess the financial resources to allow them to study without the need to engage in unauthorized employment. Most students are able to get approved for a stay equal to the duration of their studies in the US and can study in any pre-approved institution.

The H-1B Visa or Professional Visa
Is for foreign workers who will hold specialty occupations. Generally speaking, a specialty occupation is one which " which requires the attainment of a bachelor's degree or higher in a specific specialty as a minimum for entry into the occupation in the United States." However specialized knowledge may be acceptable in lieu of a degree. The foreign national must have the required degree, or its equivalent, in a subject closely related to the position.

You must have a job offer from a qualified U.S. employer for work to be performed in the U.S., The application process for the H-1B visa includes the employer filing a Labor Condition Application (LCA) with the U.S. Department of Labor certifying that the employer will pay the prevailing wage.  It also includes filing a petition with the USCIS. This process usually takes several months. However, the USCIS offers an option for premium processing. For a $1,000 fee, the USCIS will process the petition in 15 days or less.

The L-1 Visa or Inter-company Transfer Visa
Is granted to people who have worked outside of the U.S. as a manager, executive, or in a position involving specialized knowledge, and are now seeking to come to the U.S. to work in a related U.S. company in a same capacity. Many international companies use an L visa to transfer their executives, managers, or workers who are in position involving specialized knowledge, to the U.S.

L-1 Visa Requirements

  • Worker is an executive, manager, or in a position involving specialized knowledge, 
  • Worker has been employed continuously for at least 1 year within 3 years preceding the time of the L visa application, 
  • The company outside the U.S. is related to the U.S. company in some form (parent-company, branch, affiliate, subsidiary, etc.), 
  • Worker seeks to enter the U.S. temporarily, and 
  • Worker will continue to work for that company as an executive, manager, or in a position involving specialized knowledge

A spouse and minor children of an L-1 beneficiary may be granted L-2 visa status. An L-2 visa beneficiary may become a student in the U.S.  They also may work in the United States.

J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa (Cultural Exchange Training Visa)
In order to obtain a J-1 visa for an employee, a company must either become designated by the Department of State as a J-1 visa program sponsor or initiate an application through an approved third party training sponsor organization.

There are dozens of organizations that are authorized by the Department of State to act as a third party sponsor of J-1 training programs. These organizations review and approve the application and training program of a proposed employer and issue a Certificate of Eligibility for J-1 training. Each of the third party program sponsors has different requirements, filing fees and procedures. Almost all third party sponsor applications require that the employer submit a detailed training program. The training program must spell out in explicit detail the type and chronology of training which will be accomplished, even if it will take place through on-the-job training.

Since the J-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa, applicants must demonstrate that they have a residence abroad which they do not intend to abandon. As is the case with the F-1 student visa or the B-2 visitor visa, applicants for a J-1 visa must prove to the US Consulate that they have strong enough family, economic and social ties to their own country

The O Visa for Aliens of Extraordinary Ability 
Is for aliens with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, certain aliens accompanying or helping those aliens, and their family members. There is no quota on the number of O visas issued each year.  The O-1 visa can be given only on the basis of individual qualifications. There are three standards for the O-1 visa. The most difficult standard applies to those persons in the sciences, education, business, and athletics; a much less difficult standard applies to individuals in the arts, and a medium-level standard applies to those of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or TV industries.  This visa is usually issued for three years and may be renewed for three years. 

P Visa for Athlete/Entertainer
The P category covers entertainers and athletes who cannot meet the standard for extraordinary ability in the O category.  The P visa is given to athletes, artists and entertainers who compete individually or as part of a team at an national or internationally recognized level, and also to aliens who perform with, or are an integral and essential part of the performance of an entertainment group that has received international or national recognition as “outstanding” for a “sustained and substantial period of time.”  These visas are issued for the duration of the performance events. 

R-1 Religious Visa
This visa allows religious workers to come to the U.S temporarily to work in religious occupations. Examples of R visa religious workers are monks, nuns, missionaries, and religious brothers and sisters.

R Visa Requirements

  • The religious worker must have been a member of a religious denomination for at least 2 years immediately preceding the filing of the R-1 visa application
  • The religious denomination must have an affiliation in the United States 
  • The petitioning U.S. organization must be a non-profit religious organization that is tax exempt, or one that would be tax exempt if it had applied 
  • The religious worker must enter the U.S. to pursue religious vocation or occupation, and prove that there are sufficient funds to support the religious worker’s financial needs without recourse to employment other than the religious work for which the visa is granted
  • The R-1 visa is usually issued for 3 years with an option of one 2 year extension

H-3 Training Visa
Is issued to foreign nationals to receive training which is not available in their country.  These visas are issued to special exchange visitors to receive training in educating children with physical, mental or emotional disabilities and to Multinational companies to send their foreign employees to the U.S. for on-the-job training. 

Next up...The most common Green Cards issued to South Africans. 

US Immigration Basics for South Africans | Intro (Part 1)

Posted by Karen Pollak on Wed, Sep 08, 2010 @ 1:37 PM

Whether you plan to come to the United States for a short visit or a permanent stay, your first step is to apply for a visa.

Many people think they can show up at a U.S. embassy or border post, describe why they'd make a good addition to U.S. society, and be welcomed in.  Unfortunately, this is the exact opposite of how the U.S. immigration system works.

Instead, people who want to come to the U.S., whether temporarily or permanently, must determine whether they fit into certain eligibility categories for either "permanent residence" (a green card or immigrant visa) or for a temporary stay ("nonimmigrant visa").  Whether applying for an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa will depend on how quickly you want to come to the United States and what type of visa your U.S. sponsor will apply for.  In certain instances, you can get a visa approval in 15 days or less if you pay an additional premium processing fee of $1,000.00 to the U.S. Government.

Once you have decided on which visa to apply for your sponsor will submit an application -- in fact, often a series of applications -- to one or more of the U.S. agencies responsible for carrying out the immigration laws. These include U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which has offices across the United States, and the U.S. Department of State (DOS), which manages consulates and embassies around the world.

What is Permanent Residence (a Green Card)?
Green CardIf you want to be able to make your permanent home in the United States, you'll need what is called "permanent residence," or a "green card." Green card holders can live and work in the U.S. and travel in and out, with some restrictions (they should not be outside the U.S. for more than 180 days at a time,  they can't vote, and can be deported if they abuse their status). 

In order to obtain a Green Card you will need a sponsor to file an application on your behalf.  The sponsor may either be a U.S. employer or family member.  Family members of U.S. citizens make up the largest number of green cards issued each year. Others are issued to investors and workers who have been petitioned by U.S. employers or have special skills. Still other categories have a humanitarian basis, such as refugee or political asylum status (which can lead to a green card), for people who are fleeing persecution.  The time it takes to get a green card can range from 8 months to several years depending on who your sponsor is.  For example; a green card application for the parent, spouse or child of a U.S. citizen usually takes less than a year but the application for a sibling of a U.S. citizen can take more than ten years.  Permanent residents are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship after 5 years of maintaining permanent residency status (it is 3 years if your permanent residency is based on marriage to a U.S. citizen).

Next up....Nonimmigrant Visas

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