Applying for a U.S. visa for yourself or your company does not have to be a daunting task.
If you plan well and choose the right visa, you can expect the process to go smoothly.
This spring we had Amcham partner and experienced immigration lawyer Ceridwen Koski of Ogletree Deakins at our Helsinki office for a session on getting in the U.S. in the most cost and time efficient way.
Here are the basics of what she had to say.
In general, people tend to wait too long to start researching the processes needed for their visa or immigration needs.
Give yourself about 6 months lead time, as the average turnaround is about 3 months for visas to be granted.
The different types of American visas can seem never-ending.
To make it simple, these three visas are most applicable to Finnish companies and individuals looking to go to the U.S.:
- L-1 visas are for employees of international companies with offices in the U.S. and abroad. They are also the best choice for foreign companies who are in the planning stages of entering the U.S. market. The L-1 visa gives representatives of the company the right to travel to the U.S. to work on establishing a U.S. office.
- E visas are for investors and traders, and are a great option for companies that are already well-established with plans to transfer, for example, 5-10 Finnish nationals to the U.S. per year and whose employee share the same nationality as the employer.
- O-1 visas are for individuals of extraordinary ability, at the top of their field, who have made a contribution to that field.
The U.S. Department of State has uniform laws and rules, but they are implemented differently around the world.
In Finland, E visas are good options for established companies and more challenging for startups. The U.S. Consulate in Finland wants to see that the company has an existing payroll, is generating revenue, and has a local workforce.
So, how does the whole process begin?
The First Steps
- Don’t jump the gun. Focus on establishing your company and getting traction. The market demand needs to originate in the United States if a company is seeking to obtain a visa to locate there.
- Have everything in order. Having the company incorporated, a bank account with business transactions, initial investments – whether they come from Finland or local venture capital in the states – and then having customer relationships are great things to have to ensure your visa is granted.
- Sustain business activity. After you become eligible for a visa, make sure you continue your operations in the U.S.
Crossing the Border
If you’re travelling to the U.S. on business, one of the best things you can do is to bring a letter written by your company stating why you have been invited and what you will be doing there – provided that everything is compliant with visa guidelines.
Try to arrive to the airport during normal working hours. The most-trained border officers are on duty Monday through Friday from 8 to 5.
Recently, the Department of States has begun to automatically revoke visas where the visa holder has had a DUI (Driving under the Influence).
This is a new development that is worth being aware of to avoid sending employees to the U.S. only to have them be denied entry.
For more information, contact: