Category: Employment Visas

Yusuf’s Yankees Come To Town

The New York Yankees came to town last week.  In 2013, baseball held a farewell tour for longtime closer, Mariano Rivera.  This year, his former shortstop, Derek Jeter, has announced his own plans to retire.  The Yankees only play in St. Louis every six years, so this was definitely a high point on the schedule.
 
My middle son, Yusuf, is 10 years old and is (much to my chagrin) a huge Yankees fan.  Not entirely sure how this happened, but we believe it stems from the fact that his early childhood friend, Leo moved to the Empire State when the 2 boys were 5.  I also suspect that the Yankees’ storied history of 27 world championships has contributed somewhat.
 
Last year, Yusuf read Derek Jeter’s autobiography, The Life You Imagine, which was a terrific book about life, sportsmanship, hard work and a championship mentality.  Yusuf is a second baseman and not a shortstop, so Jeter is not his favorite player, but everyone in our house respects the dedicated, no-nonsense professionalism that Jeter has exhibited for the past two decades playing for the Yankees.
 
Yusuf and his two brothers (Cardinals fans through and through) really wanted to see the Yankees.  Yusuf has been waiting his whole baseball life to see the pinstripes in person.  So before the season began, I bought seats from some season-ticket holding fans.
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As game day approached, the boys kept asking me if we had been able to score tickets.  About a week before the game, I couldn’t take the abuse any more so I confessed that we had 4 tickets to the game.  I told them our seats were way up high in right field, but they were still super excited to see the big game.
 
I left work early that day so we could get to Busch Stadium for batting practice.  As we entered the gate, I casually mentioned that our seats were not up high, but rather six rows behind the Yankees’ dugout.  The boys went crazy.
 
We got great pictures of Jeter, coach Joe Girardi and another favorite player, Ichiro Suzuki from Japan.  Fortunately for the three Cardinals fans in the group, the home team won 6-0.  One brother got a ball from catcher Brian McCann, the other brother got a ball autographed by Cardinals reliever, Randy Choate.  But it was Yusuf’s biggest smile that made the evening so special.  Even though he was sad the Yankees lost, we all had a very entertaining night.
 
Throughout the game, I did notice a surprising number of Japanese reporters.  Yusuf reminded me that the Yankees had three players from Japan – Ichiro and pitchers Masahiro Tanaka and Hiroki Kuroda.  Turns out they have 10 players from overseas.
 
It dawned on me that night that each of these players would have worked with an immigration lawyer to help them get their work visas to play professional baseball in the U.S.  If the players have not already become US citizens or green card holders, they would need employment visas in order to play ball in the States.
Of course, my dream as an immigration lawyer is to represent the St. Louis Cardinals and help them obtain work visas for their international players.
 
These days, most major league teams have players from throughout the world playing in their ranks.  The world is shrinking and that includes the world of Major League Baseball.  So glad we were there to witness this special game.
 
Thanks for reading.
 
Jim
jim@hackinglawpractice.com
 
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VIDEO: Can I work on two jobs with a single H1B visa?

A foreign worker in the U.S. must have employment authorization in order to work.  Typically, this is obtained through the H1B visa process.  An employer obtains a prevailing wage determinatioin and LCA through the Department of Labor.  An I-129 application is then filed with USCIS and the employer must show that the employee has the proper qualifications for the job.

Individuals working on an H1B sometimes ask if they can work for a separate employer on the side or as an independent contractor.  This video explains how such an employee can work for two employers at the same time – namely, by obtaining separate H1B visas from both employers.  Absent that, the employee is typically limited to working for the single, sponsoring attorney.

VIDEO: OPT – Optional Practical Training for F1 Students

When a student studying in the U.S. on an F1 visa completes their studies, the law allows for the student to obtain optional practical training.  This is permission to work for an outside employer on a full time bases for up to 12 months.

This video explains the OPT process and provides guidance on what students and employers need to know about the OPT process.

VIDEO: What is the St. Louis Mosaic Project and How Can We Boost the # of Immigrants in St. Louis?

I attended a meeting this morning at the World Trade Center in Clayton.  The meeting was part of the St. Louis Mosaic Project, a group dedicated to boosting the number of immigrants in St. Louis by 2020 in order to make St. Louis the fastest growing city in the U.S. when it comes to the number of new immigrants.

Betsy Cohen, who heads the Project, invited me and several other business immigration lawyers to the meeting to discuss how we can help students stay in the region after the completion of their studies and how we can help immigrant entrepreneurs.  It was a lively discussion and a lot of good ideas were hatched.

TRANSCRIPT:

What is the St. Louis Mosaic Project? Hi, I’m Jim Hacking, immigration attorney here in St. Louis Missouri. You know, the St. Louis Mosaic Project is a group that’s trying to boost immigration and the number of immigrants to the St. Louis area, to get people to locate here or relocate here in order to build businesses and create jobs. Their marching orders are to be the fastest growing immigrant community by 2020, and they’re working really hard to get that goal achieved. My main contact at the St. Louis Mosaic Project is Betsy Cohen, a very, very nice lady that I met at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce a few months ago. She’s working very, very hard with business leaders, religious leaders, community leaders to try to help the St. Louis bi-state region really boost immigration and the number of people working and settling here in the St. Louis area.

We had our meeting today of many of the top business immigration attorneys in town, and we sat and talked and went around the room to talk about ways that St. Louis can become more hospitable to immigrants. I think it’s a great sign that this activity is going forward. You know, just a couple of years ago, the Missouri Legislature and other state legislatures were all trying to outdo each other in being as hostile to immigrants as possible. We had the laws that got passed in Arizona and Alabama that were very draconian, very anti-immigrant, and now we see political leaders understanding the importance of immigration and trying to do everything they can to boost the number of immigrants and to make their cities as accepting as possible.

We’ve heard stories out of Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, other areas in the country that are really trying to do what St. Louis is doing, that is make the area in which they live an area hospitable to immigrants. We talked about two main issues today. How do we go about doing that? The first issue was students and how to keep students in the St. Louis area, and we talked about the major universities in the area and how so many times, we have these excellent students coming from overseas who leave to go back home to their home country or to another country that’s deemed more hospitable to entrepreneurship and innovation. We talked about ways that we can try to keep those people here.

We talked about how some employers are not familiar with optional practical training (OPT), and how OPT can be a bridge between a student being here on an F-1 visa and getting an H-1B through the employer, and how OPT allows employers to sort of see if the employee works out for them, and it also helps an employee make connections in the business community. We talked about ways to work with the local universities to really boost OPT and to raise awareness from employers of this possible avenue to finding good foreign talent.

We also talked about entrepreneurship in general, and how St. Louis can work towards increasing the number of new business startups in the St. Louis area, and we talked about a wide range of companies, not just the high tech but also the mom and pop stores started by immigrants that employ two or three people, because in this economy these days, the major employer coming to town is not really happening as much as it used to, and jobs are really being formed by smaller companies devoted towards helping people in a smaller scale.

The last thing we talked about was the EB-5 center here in St. Louis, and how that’s working towards connecting people who are interested in investing in St. Louis or in projects that would allow them to get a green card for the EB-5 investor visa program. Very nice fellow named George Bailey was there and he was explaining to us all the good work that St. Louis has done to become a center for EB-5 visa type activity.

We’re really excited about the work that the Mosaic Project is doing. We’re excited to be able to be a part of it on a very small way. We’re going to do everything we can to help immigrants feel welcome here in St. Louis. If you have any questions about the St. Louis Mosaic Project, or if you want to just talk generally about St. Louis and immigration and how those two things interact, give us a call (314) 961-8200 or you can shoot me an email, jim@hackinglawpractice.com. Thanks.

 

VIDEO: Are there special employment visas in the U.S. for people from Canada and Mexico?

Are there any special visas available for citizens of Canada or Mexico who want to come to the United States and work? I am Jim Hacking, immigration attorney here in St. Louis, Missouri. There is a special visa called the TN visa which was created as part of the North America Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA back under President Clinton, that allows citizens of Canada and Mexico to come to the United States and work on a special visa program known as the TN visa.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that the TN visa is not for everyone. You have to be in one of the listed qualified professions in NAFTA. These include all the professions like engineering, accounting, legal, education, medical type jobs, scientist type jobs, a lot of the health care industry is covered by NAFTA and the TN visa so you have to check to make sure that yours is one of the listed professions.

Generally, you’re going to need a bachelor’s degree and you’re going to have to show that you have a pre-arranged full-time job in the United States and that you have the qualifications to do the job. Now, the process works a little bit differently for Canadians and it does for Mexicans. If you’re a Canadian, you can actually gather up all the documents and process right through at a registered customs, board of control facility, that is you don’t necessarily have to go and get your TN visas approved ahead of time.

Now, in our experience, it’s a much better approach to file the I-129 which is the form you do to get the TN visa and to have that all approved before you try to come through customs because you’ll never know what’s going to happen when you meet with a customs official and whether you have all the documents.

In our recommendation, the better approach is to file the I-129, pay the filing fee and to get it approved before you come through customs. That way you can bring your approval notice with you and the documents that you submitted in support of the TN visa application so that you’ll hopefully sail right through. If you’re a Mexican, you have to apply for the I-129 ahead of time. You cannot simply show up at customs and come across to work in the United States on a TN visa. You have to get the approval, the I-129, ahead of time.

TN visa last for up to three years. It can be renewed under certain circumstances and it’s actually an expedited procedure for renewing the TN visa. If you have any questions about the TN visa, if you’re from Canada or Mexico and would like to come to the United States to work under TN visa, please feel free to give us a call, 314-961-8200 or you can shoot me an e-mail, jim@hackinglawpractice.com. Thanks.

VIDEO: How does an employer get the H1b process started?

The first part of the H-1B visa process is to obtain a Labor Condition Application for the position with the Department of Labor.  When dealing with H-1B visas, you have to calendar carefully and work your way backwards from the filing date.  H-1B visas become available every year on October 1st.  There’s typically a lottery because the Immigration Service receives more H-1B applications than they have spots for.

There are 65,000 H-1B visas available every year and if you want to obtain one, you have to make sure to get it then 6 months ahead of time or April 1st.  Immigration lawyers are typically very busy in February and March of each year in order to comply with that April 1st deadline.  If you don’t get your application along with everyone else, you won’t be able to participate in the visa lottery and your employee will probably not be able to come and work for the employer.

How do we do that?  If we know that we have to file this on April 1st, we look at the whole process and we work our way backward.  The first part of the process is to file for a Prevailing Wage Determination through the Department of Labor and even before that we have to post the job position.  You have to do some research into what the job duties and job descriptions going to be.  There’s a website on the Department of Labor that allows you to figure out what the prevailing wages for that position.

For instance, if someone wants to hire an engineer and to sponsor them for an H-1B, then you have to look in the geographic area in which the job will be and determine through the website what the prevailing wage is going to be for that position.  Once you have that information, you can post the job with the notice of the job and that’s part of the filing with the H-1B application.  You have to certify that you posted it for 10 calendar days prior to filing the LCA.

You get the prevailing wage.  You file a notice at the employer’s place of business.  You post it in two spots.  If there’s a union, you would advice the union of the posting of the position, the thought being that American workers can apply for the position as well.  Once the employer has posted the job for 10 days in 2 places in the office, they can then remove that and keep that in their file.

You then file the LCA with the Department of Labor.  The Department of Labor says it takes them about 7 days to approve this and you need to make sure to stand top of it and to keep track of the filing deadlines and the filing processing times to make sure that you get everything done before that April 1st deadline.  If you haven’t gotten the Prevailing Wage Determination, if you haven’t gotten the posting of, you’re going to be in real trouble to meet that April 1st deadline and there’s a good chance that the employers are going to be barred or not able to get H-1B for their employee.

So that’s the main gist of it.  If you have any questions about the LCA or its role in the filing of the I-129, which is the second part of it with the Immigration Service, give us a call at 314-961-8200 or you can shoot me an email jim@hackinglawpractice.com and we’ll be happy to help you out.

Thanks.

VIDEO: What visas are available for international athletes who want to work or compete in the US?

What visas are available for athletes who want to come to the United States and work in their field? Hi, I’m Jim Hacking, immigration attorney practicing law here in St Louis, Missouri.

Our office has handled some athlete visas in the past, and we get questions from time to time from people about how does the athlete visa work? What kind of visas are available? There’s basically 5 different kinds of visas and they sort of go in the hierarchy of how exceptional the athlete is. With baseball or football, you’re going to have varying degrees of an athlete’s ability and expertise and that’s going to impact what visa might be available to them.

If we just talk about baseball, which is one of my favorite sports and one of my favorite things to talk about, we can go through the hierarchy of baseball, and where different athletes are in the baseball system, and use that as an example to talk about the different types of visas.

Let’s say that there’s a baseball team from the Dominican Republic or Venezuela who want to come to the United States and have their baseball players participate in a tournament at the amateur level, these baseball players would come to the United States on a B2 Visitor Visa. They would not be coming to earn a living or to make any money. They would not be here competing for cash prizes, so they would have a B2 Visitor Visa. It would just be for the length of the tournament and maybe a little bit longer, so that they can go around and visit various parts of the United States as regular tourists would be.

If athletes are professional and want to come for a specific sporting event, and let’s say they’re a professional team out of Mexico or Venezuela and these athletes are playing and being paid, then they would come on a B1 Visitor Visa if it’s just for a short tournament or a short competition. Then, if they are baseball players who are going to come and play in the Minor Leagues … They’re not good enough to play in the Majors … They’re going to be here on a seasonal basis, on a H2B Visa. That’s the visa that would be available to them, to Minor League players who don’t rise to the exceptional level of professional baseball.

For professional baseball players, if they want to come from Japan or the Dominican Republic or whatever country they come from, they would come on a P1 Visa. Those are the visas too that we handle sometimes with some of our circus acts. We’ve brought various circus performers that come for a set period of time on a P1 Visa.

The last visa that is available for truly exceptional, really gifted athletes, superstars like Wayne Gretsky or … Who else? Really exceptional baseball players … These players would come on an O1 Visa. That would be for someone who you can demonstrate has exceptional ability in their given field. That would be an O1 Visa.

Athlete visas are a lot of fun. It’s really interesting work to be engaged in and to help athletes come to the United States and work in their given field. If you have any questions about athletes visas or about these different visa classifications, be sure to pick up the phone and give us a call: 314-961-8200. Or you can email me at jim@hackinglawpractice.com.  I’d be happy to answer any questions that you have. Thanks.

VIDEO: St. Louis R-1 Religious Visa Attorney Jim Hacking

What visas are available for religious workers who want to come to the United States and work? Hi, I’m Jim Hacking, immigration attorney here in St. Louis, Missouri. Our office has handled a fair amount of religious or R-1 visas over the years and they’re actually very interesting and fun visas to work on. We really enjoy being able to work with churches and mosques and synagogues and helping them bring people to the United States to work in their house of worship as a religious worker.

The visa that you use for religious workers is an R-1 visa. An R-1 visa is a visa that allows someone to come to the United States and work in a religious institution, in a religious job or vocation. One thing you need to keep in mind about the R-1 visas is it can’t be used for simple tasks at a church or synagogue or mosque.

For instance, you couldn’t get an R-1 visa for a custodian or for a grounds keeper or for people who just sort of maintain the church. An R-1 visa is limited to religious jobs, say a priest, a rabbi, or an imam, a perhaps a liturgical worker or people that are actually involved in the religion of the church or the mosque or synagogue. You can’t just assume an R-1 visa is going to be available for anyone that works at a house of worship.

R-1 visas are available for three years and there’s not a cap on the number of R-1 visas that can be awarded each year, so there’s not a delay on these. If the religious worker is married they can bring their spouse or children to the United States on an R-2 visa. So, an R-1 visa lasts for three years and it can be renewed for up to two additional years.

An R-1 visa also allows a house of worship to get to know someone that they might want to sponsor for a green card. Getting a green card for a religious person is a much higher burden than getting an R-1 visa, but both are actually pretty difficult to get.

R-1 visas take a lot of work, because you have to establish two things: The first thing that you have to establish is that this particular employee has the background to fulfill the religious job. So, USCIS is going to spend a lot of time looking at their credentials, looking at the job itself and trying to figure out what capabilities the person brings and whether it jibes with the job and whether the job is sufficiently religious. The other thing about R-1 visas that make them very time consuming from an immigration attorney standpoint is you have to spend a lot of time establishing the bona fides or the credentials of the church itself, or the religious institution.

It seems that over the last five or six years, USCIS has been much more vigilant and much more stingy in handing out R-1 visas. One of the ways they do that is checking on the validity of the house of worship. We did an R-1 visa a few years ago for a church that had been around for almost a hundred and twenty years and USCIS sent out a site investigator to look at the church. We pointed to the cornerstone on the church that was from the early nineteen hundreds. It was ultimately kind of ridiculous that we were having to go through all of this, but because of fraud in the R-1 visa context, USCIS is much more vigilant and they typically send out an inspector for a site visit at the house of worship.

This makes it true that if a church or religious institution hasn’t been around too long or if it’s relatively small, if USCIS thinks that the church is not legitimate or that they’re not sufficiently connected to other types of congregations of the same type, then it’s going to be a little bit more difficult to get an R-1 visa approved.

I can almost guarantee you that you’re going to get a request for evidence on an R-1 visa. Then there’s going to be a lot respond to. While, as we always say, there are some things you can do without an immigration attorney, an R-1 visa is not something that you want to do alone. It’s one of the more time consuming things that we do here. We enjoy working on them, but you really need to get your ducks in a row in order to get an R-1 visa approved.

A couple of years ago, we were doing an R-1 visa for a Bosnian mosque in St. Louis and the immigration service required us to go back three levels in the hierarchy of the mosque. We had to establish the Bosnian mosque, the affiliation with other Bosnian mosques in St. Louis with a parent organization in Chicago, then back to Bosnia and even back to Turkey. It was a hard fought case. It took a long time to process. We ultimately got it approved.

These cases are not easy and they are not simple. If you have a question about R-1 visas or about trying to sponsor a religious worker to come serve at your house of worship give us a call: 314-961-8200 or you can email me, jim@hackinglawpractice.com. Thanks a lot.

 

VIDEO: St. Louis Employment Visa Attorney Jim Hacking Explains How the H1B Visa Cap Hurts America

How is the cap on H-1B employment visas screwing America?

Hi, I’m Jim Hacking, immigration attorney practicing law here in St. Louis, Missouri. The visa that’s used to allow employers to have foreign workers work for them for up to six years is called an H-1B visa. There is a cap on H1-B visas that Congress allows the Immigration Service to issue every year. That cap is 65,000 visas. This is a real problem for many employers and here’s why.

Because only 65,000 visas are available, and that means that’s the most number of people that can come to the United States and work on an employment visa. There is a lottery every year that’s held to allow employers the chance to have a foreign worker work here. Last year the Immigration Service received almost twice as many applications for H-1B visas than it did have visas available.

Now this means that employers spend a ton of money on immigration fees, immigration attorneys, and they do a lot of work to get the application on file. There’s a whole series of filings that have to be done, both with the Department of Labor and the Immigration Service that must be done before you can file an H-1B.

Let me describe the process a little bit, because it’s really complicated and it really shows how much work goes into one of these applications. If an employer has a foreign worker that they want to sponsor for an H-1B, the first thing they have to do is ascertain what that person’s prevailing wage is. An employer has to pay a foreign worker the prevailing wage. The Department of Labor has a website that allows you to look that up. After you determine the prevailing wage, you then file a form called the Labor Condition Application with the Department of Labor. That takes a couple weeks for them to process it.

Once that’s done, then there’s a rush to file everyone’s applications by April 1st. Because the Immigration Service’s fiscal year starts on October 1st every year, the visas run from October 1st to September 30th, three years later. You have to get your applications in six months ahead of time. There’s always a mad rush in the last parts of March to get these thing on file. Because if you don’t get there by the 1st of April your application will not be included in the lottery and you might as well not even have sent it.

Last year like I said, they received 120,000 of these and almost half of them went in the reject pile, just because there were not enough visas available. That’s a real problem. Employers need certainty in hiring. Employers need to know that the person that they want to hire is going to be able to work there.

Now a lot of people will say, the H-1B system protects American workers, but it really doesn’t. If an employer is willing to go to the extra lengths and extra costs that it takes to sponsor an employee from overseas, then that demonstrates to me that there really is a need for these workers, because the cost is around $7,000, $7,500 if you do it right. Above and beyond that, all the work that the employer has to do and all the rigmarole that the Immigration Service makes them go through, employers aren’t  going to do that for just any old sad sack employee. They’re really only going to it if it’s an A+ candidate.

We really urge to contact Congress to ask them as part of Comprehensive Immigration Reform to inflate the number of visas available. The 65,000 number is an arbitrary number that was picked out of whole cloth. There’s no real reason or definite reason why that has to be the number. Congress operates under this fiction that 65,000 is the magic number; when in fact employers need a lot more.

Now if the economy is bad, as we saw five or six years ago, these visas weren’t all being used. It’s a supply and demand situation where an employer self-selects out if they don’t need the employees and then the visas aren’t going to be as necessary. It just doesn’t make good sense for the American public and for American employers to have this cap at 65,000.

We really hope that if Comprehensive Immigration Reform passes that the number of employment visas available for these foreign workers increases. So that we can all benefit from the insight, the intelligence and the hard work that immigrants from overseas bring to the United States.

If you have any questions about this or if you’d like to get involved in the Immigration Reform Movement, pick up the phone and give us a call 314-961-8200. Or you can e-mail me, jim@hackinglawpractice.com. Thanks and have a good day.

VIDEO: St. Louis Immigration Attorney Jim Hacking Discusses the P1 Entertainer Visa

What visa is available for entertainers from overseas who want to come to the United States and work in a show? Hi, I’m Jim Hacking, immigration attorney practicing law here in St Louis, Missouri. You might be surprised to find out that our little immigration office in St Louis, Missouri, has handled a fair amount of entertainers visas over the years. We’ve had clients in the past who support touring shows from Bosnia, musical performers who want to come to the United States. We’ve worked on a lot of those cases. Lately, we’ve been working on a lot of cases involving the P1 visa.

The P1 visa allows an entertainer or an entertainment act to come to the United States and to work for a limited period of time performing in a show. Lately, we’ve been doing a lot of work for Circus Flora and that’s a really exciting part of our practice. We’ve been really lucky to partner with Circus Flora and to help them bring the performers that they need here to perform in their annual show. Let me tell you a little bit about Circus Flora. Circus Flora was started almost 20, 25 years ago and they perform every year back behind Powell Symphony Hall. They raise a big red top.

Circus Flora is named after the elephant that used to perform; her name was Flora. The circus is one of St Louis’ best fine art traditions. Kids and adults alike really get excited about Circus Flora. We look forward to going to Circus Flora every year. It’s a very small intimate show. You’re right up there where the action is and there’s all kinds of trapeze artists and jugglers and animal acts. We have been lucky enough to help bring in performers 3 of the last 6 years. We’re working on our third application now. In the past, we brought in a guy named Julian Posada who was a low-wire act, who could walk across a wire and do flips, all kinds of amazing things.

We were also able to help bring in Ariel Mirror from South America. They were twin sisters who did a show balancing high above the ground and it was very, very exciting. This year, we’re working on a P1 visa for Kate and Pasi. They’re an act from Finland. We think it’s really going to be an exciting addition to this year’s show. If you have any questions about the P1 visa, the way it usually works is that you file a I129 with the immigration service. Before you do that, we have to get clearance from the American union that governs circus workers to make sure that they certify that there aren’t any Americans who are capable of performing this type of a performance.

We got that letter and we sent off the application here very recently. We’re very hopeful that it gets approved. We’re confident that it will. We’re glad that we’re able to help Circus Flora and that our clients are able to bring the acts that they want to the United States, so that everyone in St Louis and the surrounding areas can see these great performances. It’s a real hoot to work on these cases. They’re exciting. We were able to develop good evidence that these guys are the only ones who can do this do this show. Not only did we get the letter from the union, we also got an affidavit from a circus expert. If you can believe that; there are circus experts.

We feel confident that the immigration service is going to approve the application. If you have any questions about Circus Flora or about how P1 visas work, feel free to give us a call: 314-961-8200 or you can email me jim@hackinglapractice.com. We will also put a link to Circus Flora’s website and to this year’s show, which is called The Pawn, on our website. Thanks a lot. Have a good day.