• Coming To America Webinar – Thursday, August 17, 2017

    Aug 16 • US Immigration News • 93 Views

    Coming to America: Legal and financial planning challenges faced by practitioners when advising immigrant clients Thursday, August 17, 2017 | 2pm ET / 11am PT

    This webinar will review the legal issues/challenges to becoming a citizen and then discuss the financial and tax planning issues, including:

    • Income taxation of non-U.S. citizens

    • Treaty planning for the income tax implications

    • Tax reporting requirements International estate planning issues

    • How clients should handle assets in their home country

    • Use of offshore funds

    • How taxes relate to portfolio management and cultural differences (different financial/objectives based on culture and upbringing).

    Register Here

     

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  • Can Your Business Investment Bring You to the United States? Steve Maggi

    Can Your Business Investment Bring You to the United States?

    May 15 • E-2 Visa Attorney, H-1B Visa Attorney, L-1 Visa Attorney, O-1 Visa Attorney, SMA Immigration Law Frim Featured, Steve Maggi, Steven Maggi, US Immigration News, US Visas • 1093 Views

    Business owners and investors are using Treaty Investor visa, also known as the  E-2 visa, to set up shop in the US.

    The E-2 visa allows passport holders from any of the 80 E-2 countries that have treaties with the US to set up businesses in the US. Those businesses can be franchises or operations that the foreign national purchased.

    In the majority of cases, the foreign national launches a business that is brand new, or transitions an extension, or shifts an existing business from their country to the US.

    There are no limits as to what kind of business can apply for an E-2 petition, as long as they are operating legally. This creates a situation with a limitless number of options. Individuals can take their passions and previous experiences and mold them into a business they would like to operate.

    Below are a few examples of businesses that SMA has worked with in the past year:

    — A Mexican national purchased the franchise rights to Crunch Gym and set up various Crunch Gymnasiums.

    — A German national signed a franchise agreement to set up a retail store for an Asian-based bath and body product company.

    — An Italian social media marketing company launched US operations to essentially transition their business to the US.

    — A Danish start-up that reminds patients of dental and doctor appointments, in order to maximize revenue and minimize cancellations, set up shop in New York.

    — A Norwegian entrepreneur bought a Federal Express shipping route and set up a company to run all deliveries for that specific route in northern California.

    — A UK national launched his own financial advisory company.

    — A French father and son formed a joint venture to run an escape-room business in New York.

    — A Dutch company opened a US construction and design management office in order to build out a new hotel in New York City.

    — An Israeli national with French nationality funded an Israeli bakery.

    — An Egyptian national opened a project management company.

    — A Turkish national launched a ceramic tile and kitchen appliance company.

    — A Lithuanian entrepreneur opened a 3D-imaging business.

    — An Australian woman launched a real estate and investment flipping business.

    — An Italian woman launched her own fashion design business.

    What business idea might you bring to the US on an E-2 visa? Contact me today with questions or comments smaggi@smalawyers.com.

    Steve Maggi, Esq.Steve Maggi, Esq.
    SMA Law Firm
    U.S. Immigration & Consular Law
    212-402-6885

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  • Trump’s Vague and Empty Executive Order on H-1B

    Apr 27 • america immigration, H-1B Visa Attorney, H1B Visa • 480 Views

    President Trump signed a new Executive Order on April 18, 2017, two weeks after the H-1B season opened for Fiscal Year. The executive order commissions the Department of Homeland Security, to review the way the visas are processed and issued.with the goal of future H-1B visas going to highly paid, specially skilled applicants, and not foreign workers who might be paid less than their U.S. counterparts.

    Here are my thoughts on the executive order:

    • It’s vague, as are most executive orders signed by Trump. They espouse defining the current climate around an issue and the goals of the new directives but provide no clear path of implementation. The H-1B process/system has been under heavy scrutiny for many years and nothing has changed. Trump’s executive is just another example of the Big Bad Wolf huffing and puffing but no H-1B house will be blown down any time soon.

     

    • They say timing is everything and timing this AFTER the H-1B lottery for this year was already conducted renders it nothing more than symbolic.

     

    • Proposed changes are nonsensical: Trump’s idea is rewarding employers who pay top dollar for highly professional jobs to be able to hire foreign nationals. That means involving some analysis of the merits of each case, or implementing a pre-filing screening of the salaries being offered for every case. This is akin to the PERM process used for employment-based green cards, which takes a long time and involves Department of Labor. Essentially, Trump’s idea for change would add layers of complexity which require more manpower and more bureaucracy. Perhaps that is the end goal: Make employers wait so long and jump through so many hoops that they simply can’t wait anymore.

     

    • Implementing the above change would require removing the annual cap on H-1B visas (only 85,000 per year) and perhaps removing the first Monday in April date to file petitions each year, which would lead to a year-round open process that many feel would be the fairest way of allowing employers to truly fill staffing needs year round.

     

    • Rewarding employers willing to outbid others is designed to price employers out of the foreign professionals hiring market, but what it will actually do is price out all the young companies and  startups, and only bolster the use of the H-1b visas by the big IT and tech companies. Yes, the same companies that are supposedly abusing the H-1B system, the reason cited for the need for reform. Upping the ante does not make the crooked players stop, it just makes for a table with less players at it.

     

    Click and post on our Facebook Fan page or email me smaggi@smalawyers.com

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  • The H-1B Visa under Trump

    Feb 21 • H-1B Visa Attorney, H1B Visa, SMA Immigration Law Frim Featured, Steve Maggi, Steven Maggi • 1293 Views

    President Donald J. Trump recently announced plans to issue an executive order which would change the way the H-1B visa is used by U.S. employers. The “specialty occupation” visa is essentially used by U.S. employers to hire foreign nationals to occupy professional positions that generally require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent in work experience. Why are changes needed and what changes can be expected, and what effects will this have on U.S. employers?

    In theory, the H-1B category is crucial to the U.S. because there are very few temporary (“non-immigrant”) visas available for professional-level foreign nationals in general.

    What is also true is that H-1B enforcement needs to be changed because the visa is abused by some U.S. employers, who undercut the market by paying foreign nationals less than the market bears to widen their profit margin, and this can have the collateral effect of making higher-paid U.S. workers expendable. This has been well-documented and the flaws in the system are exposed.

    How is this done by employers?

    (1) Employers sponsor candidates under categories that meet minimum H-1b requirements but actually employ the candidates in other positions which should require a higher salary.

    (2) H-1B petitions list the jobs as part-time, which is permitted, which allows the employers to pay much lower salaries, while requiring the workers to work full-time and overtime as well, with no additional compensation.

    (3) Employers list the offered positions at lower experience levels in order to pay lower salaries more experienced U.S. workers, even when foreign workers are more experienced. This leads to displacement of U.S. workers by lower-paid foreign workers.

    (4) Because there are always more applications filed then there are spots (85,000 total, 25,000 of which are for U.S. Masters’ degree holders), bigger employers often file multiple petitions for the same candidates to help their odds, as well as flooding the pool with thousands of applications, which minimizes chances for smaller companies to hire employees.

    So what does this all mean for the future of H-1B?

    I believe that the H-1B program could be changed into one closely resembling the one for employment-based green cards, involving a preliminary labor certification process, documenting that the positions were advertised and recruiting was done to fill the positions with qualified U.S. citizens and green card holders.

    The reality is that is highly unlikely that the changes will be implemented in time for 2017, but there will be a directive from up on high to increase the level of scrutiny to look for red flags of the above indiscretions by employers. I also anticipate there being a sharp rise in “site checks” and perhaps even inquiries in collaboration with Department of Labor as to wage payments being in line with prevailing wage. Employers who commit repeated infractions will be subject not only to fines but to being red-flagged and perhaps even blacklisted.

    No matter what your opinions, the bottom line is that for the U.S. employers to compete globally, the U.S. needs to continue to employ the best and brightest minds, and those individuals should be paid what the market bears, thus not making U.S. workers indispensable. H-1B can be a win-win for all involved if it is not abused by U.S. employers. It cannot be shut down completely. We can never lose sight that this great country was built in equal parts by hardworking foreign laborers, as well as the world’s most brilliant minds.

    What are your thoughts? What should be changed? Please post your comments on our facebook fan page or email me smaggi@smalawyers.com

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  • Building the Mexican Wall and Why It Won’t Solve America’s Illegal Immigration Problem

    Jan 30 • america immigration, SMA Immigration Law Frim Featured, US Immigration News • 778 Views

    Building the Mexican Wall 
    and Why It Won’t Solve America’s Illegal Immigration Problem
    One of the hot topics in the U.S. presidential campaigns was what should be done with America’s illegal/undocumented immigrants, and President Trump repeatedly promised that a wall would be built between Mexico and the U.S. Before Trump, both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama both recognized the need to secure the border and limit illegal entry into the U.S. by foreign nationals Through the U.S.-Mexico border.
    There are entire books and treatises on this topic, documenting the business that smuggling has become, of journeys of people from South America and the Caribbean traversing thousands of miles, just to get to the U.S.-Mexico border and how many of them were exploited or left for dead. The situation on a humanitarian level is tragic and untenable, and that is just on the “other” side of the U.S. border.
    From the Trump Administration’s perspective, building a wall is a great infrastructural project which would require voluminous American workers to be hired to undertake and complete the project which would be akin to the 21st century version of the Great Wall of China. Leaving aside whether the actual completion of such an ambitious project would even be reasonably feasible, I would argue that the main justification for building the wall is flawed, and that is the belief that it will somehow solve the U.S.’s illegal immigration problem.
    On January 26, just one week into his presidency, President Trump signed an executive order entitled “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements,” as his first concrete step  to deliver on his campaign promise to build a “big, beautiful wall” along the southern border with Mexico.
     
    What are the supposed problems caused by illegal immigration? How can Trump’s wall solve these problems?

    (1) Illegal immigrants use up state and federal resources without contributing to the economy – Estimates are that illegal immigrants with children do apply for welfare at a higher rate than U.S. citizens, so this could be true to a certain degree, except that many illegal immigrants do pay their taxes, and The truth is that undocumented immigrants contribute more in payroll taxes than they will ever consume in public benefits.

    In addition to that, illegal immigrants contribute to the U.S. economy in a much more impactful way: Labor. In 2012, researchers at the Cato Institute estimated that a mass deportations policy would reduce economic growth by around $250 billion per year. 5% of the U.S. labor force is made up of illegal immigrants, working in jobs that are oftentimes underpaid, thus creating an additional “invisible” profit margin for employers which would disappear if they had to hire Americans.

    (2) 

    Building a Wall would somehow help solve the issue of what to do with foreign nationals currently in the U.S. These are obviously completely separate issues. There is, in reality, no solution to what to do with all the people currently illegal in the U.S. due to sheer numbers and the fact that it currently costs the U.S. $23,000 for each person that is deported. Multiply that times 13 million people and….well it’s impossible.

    (3) 

    Building a wall would somehow stem the flow of illegal immigration going forward. First of all, assuming the wall was actually completed, it would take years to do. Once the first new brick was laid the amount of people desperate to enter the U.S. would escalate, sensing that it is “now or never”. This would lead to an increase in illegal traffic and more chaos on the border. The cost that smugglers would rise, many more lives would be lost, but in the short term, the illegal immigration flow would go up drastically, and this would certainly outpace what the U.S. government would be able to expel from the U.S., thus increasing the overall number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. Second, it is a misnomer that all illegal immigrants gain access through the U.S. Mexico border.
    The U.S. border with Canada is much more extensive than Mexico and is much more open than its Mexican counterpart. The Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico provide a combined shoreline bigger than the U.S.-Mexican border, which can give seafaring intending immigrants access to the U.S. Lastly, many people from all over the world also enter the U.S. with legitimate documents (passports and visas) of other people and enter the U.S. that way as well. Building a wall might reduce the most common method of illegal immigration, but that is only ONE method and there are many more available which will then become more attractive and feasible alternatives.
    So, does building a wall send a message that illegal immigration is not OK? Yes. Does it solve the U.S.’s current illegal immigration problem? Not in the least.

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  • Steve Maggi - Trump Administration - The Trump Administration and the Effect on the E-2/E-1 Treaty Investor/Trader Visas

    The Trump Administration and the Effect on the E-2/E-1 Treaty Investor/Trader Visas

    Jan 4 • america immigration, E-2 Visa Attorney, EB-5 Visa, H-1B Visa Attorney, L-1 Visa Attorney, O-1 Visa Attorney, SMA Immigration Law Frim Featured, Steve Maggi, US Immigration News, US Visas • 1589 Views

    Since 1815, the U.S. has been signing bilateral treaties, including the E-1 treaty trader and E-2 treaty investor treaties, with other countries, that are ratified by Congress which allow citizens from other countries to get visas based on the establishment of businesses in the U.S. Essentially individuals from many of those 80 countries are eligible to get a visa and to run a business that they set up in the U.S., due to their nationality, based on the existence of these treaties.

    So what happens under the Trump Administration? I do not believe that these treaties will be revoked, because, while another country may pull out unilaterally, in the U.S.’s case it has to be done through a vote by Congress, and these visas lead to job creation for Americans.

    The chances of these treaties being repealed are very slim, because, as I mentioned in a recent article about the EB-5 Visa, the Trump administration’s chief focus will be on creating generations of new jobs in the U.S. for U.S. citizens. E-1 and E-2 visas represent a mechanism by which new companies are created in the U.S., and in order for those companies to function and prosper (and in order for the visas to be approved and later renewed), there must be job creation for Americans. Given the spirit of these visas is to generate and increase business between the two countries, and the end result of the visas being the generation of new jobs, the E treaties should not be changed whatsoever.

    There’s one more aspect of these visas that’s important: the concept of reciprocity. Reciprocity is essentially a mechanism by which the U.S. government can adjust or minimize the maximum times, or the validity, of the visas that the government issues. Right now, the maximum period for E visa is 5 years, with unlimited renewals. As long as the business that has been established to support the E visa and to sponsor the visas exists and continues to generate revenue and maintain or create jobs in the U.S.,, then the nationals of those E visa countries are always eligible to renew.

    Some nationals are limited through reciprocity, where the U.S. government essentially minimizes the maximum term to 3 months, 6 months, 12 months, or 2 years, depending on the country and the political situation. It’s easier for the government to modify the maximum period of time allowed through the process of reciprocity. But, as I mentioned earlier, pulling out of a treaty and revoking it unilaterally would require a congressional action, and revoking a mechanism that creates jobs would not make sense to Trump nor a majority of Congress.

    In order to maximize the potential of job generation, it’s more likely under the Trump administration that these maximum periods would actually be increased for some countries, as opposed to minimized. The take-home lesson is that  anyone who holds a passport from any of the 80+ countries on the Department of State website’s list should be encouraged to continue to invest in the U.S. and to set up their companies, which will in turn help the U.S. economy through the creation of jobs.

    Steve Maggi, ESQ
    Founder / SMA Law Firm

    Contact us today with questions or comments.

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  • Looking Forward to the Trump Era: U.S. Immigration

    Dec 13 • SMA Immigration Law Frim Featured, Steve Maggi, Steven Maggi, US Immigration News • 1128 Views

    Steve Maggi - Trump Era - Looking Forward to the Trump Era: U.S. ImmigrationPart I: The Future of Investor Visas

    Trump Bay Street development in Jersey City, New Jersey, a project of Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, is supposedly using $50 million from EB-5 investors. Why is this relevant? It signals that Mr. Trump is a proponent of foreign investment in the U.S. and that even his own projects have always been happy to allow foreign money into the U.S. In the case of Trump Bay Street, the $50 million invested, at $500,000 per investor, means the creation of 1,000 jobs for U.S. citizens or permanent residents (green card holders). Continue Reading

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  • Steve Maggi - Visa Petitions - Time to File Visa Petitions is Now: Fees Going up December 23rd

    Time to File Visa Petitions is Now: Fees Going up December 23rd

    Nov 23 • america immigration, SMA Immigration Law Frim Featured, Steve Maggi, Steven Maggi, US Immigration News • 646 Views

    {2 minutes to read} For the first time in many years, applicants will need to pay substantially higher fees for certain visa petitions. The fees are set to increase on December 23, 2016.

    If you file anytime before that date, you will only have to pay the current, less expensive fees.

    All documents submitted with an incorrect fee starting on the 23rd of December will be returned. You will not get a letter from USCIS asking for the difference in the amounts owed. Instead, you will simply have your entire petition rejected. This can result in loss of status if current status is set to expire. Human error is not accepted as a justification for maintaining the original submission date.

    The fee increases are quite significant. They range from 17% all the way up to 250% of the fees that are currently charged.

    Below, I’ve included some of the major fee increases that will go into effect on December 23, 2016:

    blog-pic-2

     

    If you are thinking about, or are eligible for certain visa petitions, make sure to submit them before the 23rd of December to obtain significant savings in filing fees. Please contact me today with questions or comments at smaggi@smalawyers.com.  

     

    Steve Maggi, Esq.Steve Maggi, Esq.
    SMA Law Firm
    U.S. Immigration & Consular Law
    212-402-6885

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  • H-1B Transfer Season is in Full Swing!

    Nov 21 • H-1B Visa Attorney, SMA Immigration Law Frim Featured, Steve Maggi, Steven Maggi, US Immigration News, US Visas • 679 Views

    {2:25 minutes to read}  What is H-1B transfer season? An H-1B visa is the type of visa used by companies to hire people for professional positions.

    Each year, USCIS starts to accept H-1B petitions on April 1st. There’s a cap of 65,000 visas for non-US Master degree holders, and then 20,000 additional for US Master Degree holders. Because the cap is so low, this year USCIS only accepted petitions for 5 days. After that 5-day period, they counted the number of petitions that had been submitted and approximately 250,000 applications were filed for the 85,000 spots under the H-1B cap.

    Since there was such an abundance of petitions, they conducted a lottery, and essentially, blindly chose 85,000 petitions out of the 250,000. This left 165,000 petitions returned to the prospective employers6-8 weeks after the petitions were made.

    What happened to all those candidates left out in the cold? They have to search for other options, if there are any, such as the J-1 or H-3 visas.

    What about the employers? A lot of employers start looking for free agents and the possibility of H-1B “porting.” Porting is when you take an existing H-1B holder and you sponsor them to be transferred to your company.

    On October 1st of this year, the 85,000 new H-1B visa holders entered the market. Why is this significant? As soon as an individual enters the US on H-1B status, they are eligible to change sponsors—as many times as they have approved positions—over the course of the next 6 years. So the 2016 free-agent pool is available and free agency is in full force.

    If you are a current H-1B visa holder you can change sponsors. You can recruit as many H-1B free agents as you are willing to sponsor.

    Contact me today with questions or comments smaggi@smalawyers.com.

     

    Steve Maggi, Esq.Steve Maggi, Esq.
    SMA Law Firm
    U.S. Immigration & Consular Law
    212-402-6885

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  • Hiring Foreign Workers Means Proving Your Ability To Pay Them The Prevailing Wage

    Hiring Foreign Workers Means Proving Your Ability To Pay Them The Prevailing Wage

    Sep 13 • E-2 Visa Attorney, H-1B Visa Attorney, L-1 Visa Attorney, O-1 Visa Attorney, SMA Immigration Law Frim Featured, Steve Maggi, Steven Maggi, US Immigration News, US Visas • 836 Views

    E-2 Visa Attorney – H-1B Visa Attorney.

    Employers sponsoring foreign workers for green card employment must show that they have the ability to pay the new worker’s wages. When hiring through the EB-2 or EB-3 visa categories, employers must present all proposed job duties and minimum requirements for the position, and the Department of Labor will return a prevailing wage request with a minimum salary. If the employer moves forward with a labor certification, it must show that it is able to pay that salary when the new employee gets his or her green card, or the proffered wage, whichever is higher.

    Recently, The Department of Labor has been creating minimum prevailing wage numbers that are significantly higher than they are for the same exact positions under H-1B and other employment non-immigration visa categories. Continue Reading

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