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The Visa Process

Who needs a visa?

To live and work in the United States non-US citizens need a visa.  Where do you begin? The process can be daunting and there are severe consequences to violating US immigration laws, so it is wise to seek qualified immigration advice.
 
Seek Counsel from a Qualified Immigration Attorney

First, you need an immigration attorney to determine which US visa category you might qualify for. There are many different visa categories under US immigration law and special provisions for Canadians and other nationalities, so it is very important to have a qualified immigration attorney analyze your individual facts. Laurie Volk’s intimate knowledge of all the horse sports allows her to identify the visa that suits your needs. Most immigration lawyers know nothing about the horse world and the nature of your job and can offer only limited solutions to your situation.  Laurie brings a lifetime of experience to bear on your case and she has an outstanding record of success because of her expertise. 

Whether you are an Employee or Employer Laurie can Assist

If you are an employee, you need to identify a job and an employer. Almost all work visa categories require that you have an employer willing to submit a visa petition on your behalf; you cannot be self-employed. (There are exceptions for those rare individuals who have “extraordinary” ability; can make a substantial investment to establish a US business; or who engage in substantial international trade.) If you are an employer, Laurie will work with you and your potential non-citizen employee to identify the type of visa required and make certain the employer is in compliance with US immigration laws at every step of the process. Laurie’s extensive knowledge of the horse industry and her personal experience as horsewoman make her exceptionally well-qualified to handle every aspect of the visa process for you and your employee.

Short-term Travel to US for Business or Tourism

If you come from a select group of countries, you may be able to enter the US for a temporary visit up to ninety days on the Visa Waiver Program. The Visa Waiver Program is not the same as a B-1/Business or B-2/Tourist visa, although you can engage in activities permissible under a B-1 or B-2 visa. However, you cannot be employed in the US and paid from a US source while visiting on the Visa Waiver, and must return to your home country to obtain a visa that allows you to work.

If you do not come from a country that permits you to enter on the Visa Waiver Program, you must apply for a B-1/Business or B-2/Tourist visa beforehand at a US Embassy in your home country.  Again, you cannot be employed by a US employer while traveling in the US on a B-1 or B-2 visa, however if you subsequently identify a US employer, in certain circumstances you can apply for a change of status, and may not have to return to your home country before starting work for your new employer. An immigration attorney can advise exactly what kind of activities are permissible on the Visa Waiver Program and the B-1/B-2 visa.

Basis for Visa

There are two common means of obtaining a work visa: based on a family relationship, or based upon employment. Our firm’s expertise is based on employment-based visas.  There are short-term work visas, called nonimmigrant visas that allow you to live and work in the US for a period of years, with the assumption you will eventually return to your home country. If you want to remain in the US permanently, you would apply to become a permanent resident, frequently called a “green card.” Many people enter on a nonimmigrant visa but later apply for permanent residence because their needs and desires change.  Laurie can help you with all of these situations.

Typical Situations Laurie Handles Successfully:

- Riders who come to train and compete;
- Trainers who train horses for others to compete;
- Skilled grooms who have cared for high-level competition horses;
- Hunt staff, huntsmen or whipper-in for a hunt club;
- Foreign veterinarians who want to work at a US equine facility;
- Working students seeking US experience;
- Individuals with nonimmigrant visas who seek to obtain a green card; and
- Foreign nationals who marry a US citizen.

Initial Consultations

Once you have identified a job and an employer, Laurie will review your individual background and proposed job duties and suggest the best course of action. Unlike most immigration lawyers, Laurie does not charge for preliminary consultations. After identifying the most appropriate visa category, Laurie will send you and your employer confidential questionnaires and an engagement letter outlining what she will do for you, how much it will cost, and how long it will take. You will be asked to sign the letter and return it with an advance of fees. You will receive copies of everything filed on your behalf. You can speak with Laurie or her staff at any time during the visa process.

Step 1- Obtain Approval of Petition from USCIS

The visa process usually involves two steps. Step 1, our office prepares a visa petition that includes the necessary forms and a detailed letter from the employer explaining why you qualify for the particular visa, along with documentary evidence required to support your petition.  It usually takes several weeks for our office to assemble the entire petition that is filed with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), a division of the US Department of Homeland Security. When filing the petition, we strongly recommend that you pay an additional $1,225 to the USCIS for Premium Processing.  Thereby, we receive an answer on your petition within 15 days of filing. Most of Laurie’s petitions are approved within 15 days or less. However, from time to time, the USCIS replies with a Request for Further Evidence (RFE) that can delay final approval by several weeks. 
 
Step 2- Have Interview at US Embassy in Your Country

After obtaining an approval from the USCIS in Step 1, in Step 2 you apply for the visa at the US Embassy in your home country, unless you are already in the US in another valid visa category that allows you to qualify for a change of status. Step 2 is administered by a different branch of the US government, the Department of State, and requires that you submit a different set of forms for its review. Our office assists you with the forms and other requirements.  You will then schedule an appointment at the US Embassy in your home country where you will have a brief interview with a consular officer. The Department of State generally accepts the approval from the USCIS as sufficient. In Step 2 the primary concern at the consular level is whether you have obeyed US immigration laws on any prior visits, have the intention to return to your home country eventually, and have no criminal record or involvement in terrorist activity. After the interview, the Embassy retains your passport, enters the visa in your passport and returns it to you several days later. At that point you are free to travel to the US on your new visa.


"I am a jump jockey. Laurie got me an athlete's visa to ride races. She also helped my girlfriend, who is now my wife, and she will guide us through the green card process. If you work with horses she is the best immigration lawyer you will find."

- Jeff Murphy (IRE), steeplechase jockey

 


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