Posted by Mona Chawla

Moving to America can be a long and cumbersome process or it can be manageable and straight-forward. This mainly depends on whether you are getting good advice enabling you to take initiatives that demand foresight, careful planning, and considerable self-confidence. One of the most critical matters to deal with involves selecting the appropriate immigration lawyer along with the proper visa tailored to your particular circumstances.

Selecting the Right Visa

It is important to recognize that U.S. immigration law is extremely fact-specific, and that each person's circumstances are unique. Two cases can appear, to the untrained eye, to be identical in all relevant respects, and yet they can differ in ways that are very subtle and at the same time utterly decisive. You may be baffled with all the visas options available - ranging from B, E, H, L to K, S, P, and V visas - that sound more like alphabet soup than immigration categories. There are different visas for doctors, nurses, athletes, writers, scientists, 'outstanding researchers,' IT professionals, and so on. However, the two forms of visa which remain popular with British people intending to move to the U.S. and establish a business include:

  • The L-1 visa, suitable if you own a U.K. based business, which is going to continue to trade whilst you are in the U.S. L-1 visas are typically designed for executives and managers who are coming as transferees or to set up a new branch office in the United States. Although the American business that you are buying must be affiliated to the British company through ownership, it does not have to be the same type of business that you are operating in the U.K.
  • The E-2 business investor visa, which requires an investment in a business 'substantial' enough to support you and your family, and employ U.S. workers. You need to be particularly cautious when promises are made tying in visas with the purchase of a business in terms of the suitability of the business in satisfying the necessary criteria for the granting of a visa. Beware of any claims that guarantee a business's qualification for an E-2 visa. Initially, E visas are granted for a two-year period. Holders of E visas may reside in the United States as long as they continue to maintain their status with the enterprise.

Ultimately, most people in the U.S. are interested in obtaining a green card. A Green Card gives you the right to live and work anywhere in the U.S. and the opportunity to become a U.S. citizen. The green card can be obtained through various paths, including family sponsorship or five separate employment-based categories. Priority is given to people who possess skills that are considered in short supply.

Selecting the Right Lawyer

The immigration process is often riddled with contradictory and ever-changing procedures. As federal judges have written, "The statutory scheme defining and delimiting the rights of aliens is exceedingly complex. Courts and commentators have stated that [U.S. immigration law] resembles 'King Mino's labyrinth in ancient Crete,' and is 'second only to the Internal Revenue Code in complexity'." An experienced immigration lawyer will be able to guide you through this labyrinth right from the outset till the day you get the visa stamp in your passport.

For further information on US visas and the specific criteria expected, please visit the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services website and contact a qualified US lawyer.

Mona Chawla is a licensed U.S. Attorney and a member of the New York Bar. Ms. Chawla is also a practising solicitor and member of the Law Society of England and Wales with many years of experience in practising Immigration Law. Mona is currently based in the United Kingdom, and can be contacted on + 44 (0) 203 709 5472 or