Archive for the 'Investment Visa' Category

EB5 Visas- Unavailable for China

Copied from AILA:

Practice Alert: China EB-5 “Unavailable” for Remainder of FY2014: What Does This Mean?
On Saturday, August 23, 2014, at the AILA EB-5 Conference in Chicago, Charles Oppenheim,
Chief of the Department of State Immigrant Visa Control and Reporting Division, announced
that effective immediately, the EB-5 preference category had become “unavailable” for Chinese
applicants. This practice alert provides additional information and discusses some of the
practical implications of the announcement.
 It is important to note that a China EB-5 cut-off date has not been established and the
Visa Bulletin for September 2014 (which states that China EB-5 is still “Current”) has not
been amended. Therefore, this is not a visa retrogression.

 “Unavailable” simply means that for the first time since the EB-5 program was created
almost 25 years ago, the maximum number of EB-5 immigrant visas which are available
for Chinese applicants for fiscal Year 2014 has been reached, while sufficient numbers
for all other countries remain to ensure compliance within the annual Fiscal Year 2014
 A new allocation of about 10,000 visas will be available on October 1, 2014, which is the
first day of Fiscal Year 2015. As a result, there will be virtually no impact on most China
EB-5 visa applicants who complete processing within the next 6 to 8 months.
 Visas have already been allocated for individuals with EB-5 visa interviews at the U.S.
consulates in August and September 2014 so interviews will proceed as scheduled and
visa may be issued to qualified applicants. A technical exception to this involves
applicants with August or September “comeback” interviews (a “comeback” interview is
scheduled for individuals who failed to prove themselves as documentarily qualified at
an earlier interview). If approvable, they will have to wait until at least October 1 to
obtain a visa.
 Immigrant visas will continue to be valid for 6 months from the date of issuance.
Applicants should be sure to enter the U.S. before the expiration date of their immigrant
visas, as requests for replacement visas to accommodate travel to the U.S. outside of
that 6-month period may not be possible.
 USCIS does not request immigrant visa numbers from the Department of State for I-485
adjustment of status applications until the time of adjudication. If visa numbers are

unavailable at the time of review, USCIS will hold the application in abeyance pending
availability of visa numbers.
 USCIS processing of EB-5 adjustment of status applications will proceed. However,
issuance of immigrant visas to China EB-5 applicants will be authorized effective October
1, 2014, when the new Fiscal Year 2015 allocation is available.
 Applicants chargeable to China who are also cross-chargeable to another foreign state
(e.g., Hong Kong, Macau, Canada, France, etc.) based on marriage or other claim1
request that they be cross-charged in an effort to receive a visa in August or September,
but this is not assured as the annual allocation for all foreign states is almost depleted.
 The Visa Bulletin has not been amended (i.e., visa numbers are still listed as “available”),
so eligible China EB-5 applicants may continue to file for adjustment of status in August
and September 2014.
 Though other employment and family visa categories already have waiting lines, this
announcement is significant because this is the first time the EB-5 category has reached
the annual limit. The State Department appears to be providing a warning that the China
EB-5 category will become oversubscribed and require the establishment of a cut-off
date, possibly as early as May 2015, near the end of the third quarter of Fiscal Year
 The announcement is also significant because it provides clear evidence that EB-5
demand, which has increased 700% since 2007, will certainly result in the establishment
of a China cut-off date in Fiscal Year 2015.
 It is impossible to determine what the “date gap” will be when a cut-off is announced,
most likely in May 2015. There are estimates that the wait time will be approximately 2
years. Since most I-526 petitions are presently taking 15 to 16 months (Requests for
Evidence are commonplace), an additional wait of about 6 months does not yet appear
to be unduly worrisome. The concern is that once a cut-off date for China EB-5 is
established, the Department of State may have to retrogress that date, depending on
the number of petitions approved, and the cut-off date may not move forward every
month. With over 10,000 petitions currently pending with USCIS and about 3,000 filed in
the last quarter ending June 30, 2014, this wait time is likely to increase.
 Consequences may include age-out of derivatives, and complex issues regarding the
timing of job creation, the requirement for which is currently set artificially at 30
months from approval of the I-526 petition (at the I-526 stage), and 36 months from the
time of acquisition of conditional permanent residence (at the I-829 stage).


Tahmina Mentioned in CNNMoney

CNNhomepage pic

Image courtesy of CNNMoney

Thank you to CNN and Reporter Sara O’Brian for reporting on an issue that I care so deeply about and mentioning my work. My regular readers will know how strongly I feel about these issues.

The article highlights the frustration that I and many of my colleagues face helping startups get visas. Hope this will shed light on the problem, particularly at a time when the White House is hoping to find immigration solutions for entrepreneurs through executive action.

If you are a startup hopeful, or someone invested in the startup community, your voice is important. Make an appointment with your local House/Senate Representative and explain why this is important to you.  Everyone needs to speak up for things to change. Enjoy the article!

Here is a link to the article. 

CNN Discusses the Startup Visa

cnnmoney article stillToday, CNNMoney reported on one of our favorite subjects, the Startup Visa. Reporter Sara O”Brian discusses specific examples of talented people moving to Canada to launch their startups since they were unable to do so in the US due to immigration obstacles. We are honored that the article provides a link to this blog.  Thank you CNNMoney for covering this important issue and raising awareness.  Here is a link to the article. 

We Need Better Immigration Policies for Startups and Entrepreneurs

 We Need Better Immigration Policies for Startups and Entrepreneurs

- Tahmina Watson

“USCIS intends to revoke your H-1B visa because we have discovered you are a co-founder.” Yes. That is indeed what my client learned one morning.  USCIS learned during the renewal process of my client’s previously approved H-1B case that he was an original co-founder.  While my client never intended to hide it, the information was not specifically mentioned in the initial filing.  After a series of requests for further evidence, the final request was regarding the relationship between my client and his company.

My client, a co-founder of his company – who has garnered much praise in the tech industry, employs seven full-time American workers, and has helped create several indirect jobs by virtue of those who use and sell his product – was facing imminent departure from the U.S. His business, business partner, employees, and clients all were also put into limbo as a result.

Why? Don’t we want companies to start here? Well, currently, U.S. immigration law does not have a specific visa category for Startup founders, and the available visa options are far from ideal.  A very strict policy was laid down in a memo on January 8, 2010 by Donald Neufeld, Associate Director of Service Center Operations of USCIS. That memo made some drastic changes in the way H-1B cases would be adjudicated and put immense restrictions on the employer-employee relationship, causing adverse effects to petitions by founders.

To successfully apply for an H-1B as a co-founder, one must categorically prove that the company controls the founder’s employment.  To prove such control, the USCIS expects an onerous amount of corporate documentation, including articles of incorporation, board meeting minutes, shareholder agreements, stock ledgers, etc.

It was my privilege to help my client win this case.  As a team, we brainstormed the type of documentation he would be able to provide.  We decided to send many internal, otherwise confidential, documentation to demonstrate he was always given direction in his work and he was not the one making decisions.  We submitted emails, client contracts, employee information, payroll evidence, references and much more.  It was a challenging request to say the least.

Startups by their nature operate lean and mean.  Startup founders/entrepreneurs are known to work around the clock to ensure their products are successful.  In the efforts to have a successful company, they have employees to supervise and clients to keep happy.  Instead of using all his energy to build the business, my client was anxious and worried about providing enough of the right kind of information to respond to a challenging and burdensome request.  I am sure that during this intense period, my client suffered loss both emotionally and financially.

Lessening the efficiency of a person while they’re trying to get a business off the ground makes no sense. One should not have to defend oneself for being a founder of a company; it should be a matter of pride.  Luckily we were able to successfully demonstrate that his employment was controlled by the company.  Many founders are not so lucky and end up cut off from the start up they helped create by our irrational immigration laws.

We cannot have rhetoric from our government that calls for entrepreneurs and the need to keep high-skilled workers in the U.S., while that same government acts against implementing that ideology.

In the absence of a Startup Visa, I suggest that two changes are made to existing policy with immediate effect.  Firstly, eliminate the use of the Neufeld Memo, at least for founders and co-founders of startups utilizing H-1B visas.  Founders need to operate their businesses.  Often they will have many roles in addition to their primary H-1B job description.  For example, as a business owner, I am not only a lawyer, but a human resources manager, marketing manager, bookkeeper, supervisor and countless others.  To have my company control my job would impede my success.

Secondly, allow the use of cash substitutes such as stock valuation, convertible notes, and other such regularly used methods instead of cash wages.  Startups generally cannot afford high wages, particularly in the early stages.  They need the opportunity to get their companies to the stage where funding can be obtained from investors.  While the policy argument against cash substitutes may be fear of the entrepreneur becoming a public charge, USCIS should impose policy to prevent that and revoke someone’s visa if he or she resorts to public assistance.  Entrepreneurs are resourceful people who do not want handouts from the system.  Give them the chance to start their companies, contribute to the economy, and create jobs for American workers.  After all, America is a nation of immigrants.

**Copyright 2014 by Watson Immigration Law. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

EB5 Processing Times

The USCIS published current processing times for EB5 applications.  Currently, this is how long it is taking for the following petitions:

13.2 months to process I-526 petitions

7.9 months for I-829 petitions

5.4 months for I-924- applications for regional center status.

Successful event by and @RenewOurEconomy!

On April 22, 2014, and Bloomberg’s Partnership for a New American Economy held an event at Techstar Seattle premises to discuss immigration reform.  The event had a panel of 4 distinguished guests- Jack Chen, Senior Immigration Policy lawyer at Microsoft, Michael Schutzler, President and CEO of Washington Technology Industry Association, Avi  Cavale- CEO of Shippable.  I was very honored to part of this panel also.  The event was moderated by Andy Sack, Techstar Seattle.

The stimulating discussion on immigration reform included the current status of immigration reform and why we should all be actively engaged in the call for immigration reform.  The discussion included reasons why America is losing talent, what other countries are doing to find and retain talent, the current H1b cap situation, the cap-exempt H1b work around in Massachutetes, the Startup visa and much much more.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


We all emphasized the need for the American people to speak up and have their voices heard.  My regular readers may recall my article 12th Man for Immigration Reform- we discussed again why that is important.   To make it simple for you, has many simple tools to help contact your representative at a click of a button- here is a link to take action. 

Immigration reform is important- for the American people and for the economy.  Be the 12th Man for immigration reform and contact your House of Congress Representative asap!

Tahmina to Speak at event by and Bloomberg’s Renew Our Economy

Event Organized by The Partnership for a New American Economy and

I am so honored to be invited to speak on immigration reform issues at an exciting event organized by Bloomberg’s Partnership for a New American Economoy and Thank you for the honor! To anyone interested in immigration reform- this is a must-attend event! #iCodeImmigration: Join us for a stimulating discussion from different perspectives from experts in our local community. With immigration reform stalled, now is the time to get your voice heard! This is your opportunity to be the 12th Many for Immigration Reform! We look forward to seeing you there!

Event Details copied below: 

Venue:  Techstar: 511 Boren Avenue North, Seattle, WA 98109.     Time: 6pm – 8pm PST

Join a group of leading entrepreneurs, investors, technologists and policy experts for a discussion on why immigration reform is critical to the tech and start-up community in Seattle and across the country. Speakers will include:

  • Avi Cavale, CEO, Shippable
  • Jack Chen, Senior Attorney for Labor, Employment & Immigration Policy, Microsoft
  • Michael Schutzler, President & CEO, Washington Technology Industry Association
  • Tahmina Watson, Immigration Lawyer, Watson Immigration Law

RSVP now and we will follow up with additional information about the program.  Refreshments will be provided.

More information about the organizations:

The Partnership for a New American Economy brings together more than 500 Republican, Democratic, and Independent mayors and business leaders who support immigration reform as a way of creating jobs for Americans today. is an organization started by key leaders in the tech community to promote policies to keep the United States and its citizens competitive in a global economy—including comprehensive immigration reform and education reform.


H1b for Entrepreneurs- New Developments Hopefully

The Puget Sound Business Journal reports on possible new developments for entrepreneurs using the H1b visa.  Read the full article here.  Thank you to the PSBJ and Emily Parkhurst for reporting on this important matter.

PSBJ 4.11.14

PSBJ 4.11.14




H4 work authorization soon? The White House is working on it!

On April 7th, the White House made several announcements including that current regulations will be reviewed to create new rules for work permits for spouses of certain H1b workers and to make visas for entrepreneurs more efficient using existing visas.  See below for text of the White House press release from the website. While this is promising news, and certainly within the authority of the President’s powers, we will be watching this space closely. For all my H4 and Startup clients and readers- sign up to our blog if you haven’t yet.  This news will be important for you. Stay tuned!


The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

FACT SHEET: Strengthening Entrepreneurship At Home and Abroad

“Let’s do more to help the entrepreneurs and small business owners who create most new jobs in America.”

– President Barack Obama, State of the Union, January 28, 2014

Entrepreneurs play a critical role in expanding the economy and creating jobs.  President Obama is committed to increasing the prevalence and success of entrepreneurs across the country, including through the White HouseStartup America initiative, an “all-hands-on-deck” effort to expand access to capital, accelerate innovation, and promote private sector efforts to strengthen the Nation’s startup communities.  The United States also runs and funds hundreds of programs to support entrepreneurs globally and maintains a broad coalition of governments, business people, civil society, investors, and academics to educate and support entrepreneurs around the world.

Building on these efforts, today the Administration is announcing a series of new steps to accelerate the success of entrepreneurs in the United States and across the globe:

Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship: Today, President Obama hosted the inaugural meeting of the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship (PAGE), a group of successful American businesspeople who have committed to sharing their time, energy, ideas, and  experience to help develop the next generation of entrepreneurs at home and abroad. The group is chaired by Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, and the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) are also partners in this effort.

Attracting the World’s Best and Brightest: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will soon publish several proposed rules that will make the United States more attractive to talented foreign entrepreneurs and other high-skill immigrants who will contribute substantially to the U.S. economy, create jobs, and enhance American innovative competitiveness.  These proposed regulations include rules authorizing employment for spouses of certain high-skill workers on H-1B visas, as well as enhancing opportunities for outstanding professors and researchers. These measures build on continuing DHS efforts to streamline, eliminate inefficiency, and increase the transparency of the existing immigration system, such as by the launch ofEntrepreneur Pathways, an online resource center that gives immigrant entrepreneurs an intuitive way to navigate opportunities to start and grow a business in the United States.

Accelerating Biomedical Entrepreneurs from Lab to Market:  The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) are launching a new collaboration to empower entrepreneurial scientists and address the critical gap between fundamental research and the development of a commercial entity.  Academic researchers and entrepreneurs who receive Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) funding from NIH will be eligible to pilot a new version of the NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program that is specially tailored for biomedical technologies.  This intensive, mentor-driven experience is changing the way that NSF-funded researchers think about the commercialization process.  NIH will also help scale up I-Corps by augmenting existing NIH-funded programs, such as the NIH Centers for Accelerated Innovation (NCAI), that focus on promising technologies developed by academic researchers.  Faculty and students who participate in these new I-Corps programs will receive mentorship opportunities, entrepreneurial training, and modest funding to enable them to move their ideas from the lab to the market.

Energizing Entrepreneurs to Help End Extreme Poverty: Fostering entrepreneurs and strengthening entrepreneurial ecosystems are vital elements of USAID’s newly launched U.S. Global Development Lab (The Lab).  The Lab will empower a global network of individuals to help create, solve and scale innovative solutions to global challenges by applying rigorous scientific, business, research, and technological expertise. In the next five years, scientists and technology experts at The Lab will create a new global marketplace of innovations and take them to scale to reach over 200 million people worldwide. The Lab is pioneering open-source development models like Development Innovation Ventures and Grand Challenges that nurture new solvers and players in emerging markets and spurring innovation. The Lab is expanding a Global Development Alliance furthering LGBT equality through entrepreneurship and small and medium enterprise growth in Latin America.  A new USAID Research and Innovation Fellowships Program will send more than 60 young U.S. leaders in science and technology to universities, NGOs, and companies in 12 developing countries this year.

Bolstering Exchanges and Training for Entrepreneurs in the Western Hemisphere: This fall, the State Department will host TechCamps for women in El Salvador, Colombia, and Argentina. These camps will bring together hundreds of women across the region over the course of the year and provide them training to address key challenges in business formation, from financing to marketing. Additionally, the State Department will be launching two new exchange programs for entrepreneurs in the Western hemisphere. The Small Business Network of the Americas (SBNA) Fellowship Program will connect incubators across the hemisphere to share best practices in entrepreneurial development and unlock market access for small businesses across the region. The Professional Fellows Program will bring Salvadorian, Guatemalan, and American officials together for a six-week internship and training program focuses on professional development, problem-solving, and networking.

E2 visa now available to citizens of Israel

Image courtesty of internet

Image courtesty of internet

The E2 visa, which is country specific Treaty Trader visa, was extended to citizens of Israel in 2012 by the US government. However, that needed to be approved by the Israeli government too.  On March 30, 2014, the government of Israel finally  approved the Treaty provisions and as of this week, citizens of Israel can apply for the E2 visa.

The E2 visa will give those citizens one more option to live and work in the US, while bringing much needed investment into the US with promise of more job creation.

Watson Immigration Law assists with E2 visas frequently and would be happy to help with these visas.



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