The Visa Challenge

Moving abroad begins with the notion of a better life, either financially or personally. Some look for better pay, a new job, perhaps a different geographical environment, independence, religion, social class or simply an endeavor.

The notion of travel has multiple meanings for so different people; it’s in many stories and books. They come from all over the world, Albert Einstein did it, so did Patrick Ewing, Alfred Hitchcock, Anthony Hopkins, Celine Dion, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Joseph Pulitzer, Rita Rodriguez, David Ho and many more.

Unfortunately, it is not as easy as pick up your belongings and go. Certain countries are more flexible when it comes to granting a visa, others are extremely difficult. Many of the reasons vary on multiple tangibles such as population, labor, location and even accessibility. But how does this affect a country? Well, there is this notion that an open door policy cannot exist, especially if there is high demand for entry; however, money can facilitate visa programs.

Then, who gets granted a visa? There are many types of visas, H-1B, E-2, EB-5, L-1, O-1, and Student Entrepreneurs.

H-1B: During the past 3 years, application for this type of visa almost doubled. This is a visa used for skilled foreign workers. The U.S. has a ceiling on the number of this visa granted to 85,000 per year. Some companies, such as Microsoft and Google, have a median salary for foreign workers ranging over $100,000.

E-2: This is a visa for individuals with a sizeable investment in a company. This does not establish you as a permanent resident, but there is no set limitation on how many years you can reside in the country. The investment needed for this type of visa, ranges as follows: 75% investment on a company valued at $500,000 or less; 50% between $500,000-$3,000,000 and 30% for one over $3 million. Today, if you are from Brazil, Russia, India and China, you do not qualify.

EB-5: This is also an investment visa; the difference is that the company in which you invest has to create at least 10 jobs. This is highly used by Chinese individuals. This visa was barely used in 2003 and jumped to almost 10,000 by 2015. It is estimated that this visa creates around 30,000 jobs yearly. In 2015, the quota was reached by August. During 2016, it was reached as fast as May.

L-1: This works best for individuals already working for the parent company in another country. Some of the requirements needed are at least one year outside of the United States. If approved, it will grant you seven years of a temporary work visa.

O-1: A specialized visa for special skills. Usually, this is given to scientists and athletes. You will need proof from experts in the field that such skills are rare.

Student Visa: This visa is what I consider to be the biggest flaw in our immigration system. A pool of talent obtaining higher levels of education and possibly acquiring a set of skills that can be useful in any enterprise has minimal time to seek employment in the US. A student visa expires shortly upon graduation. This visa system does not allow a student to seek permanent or temporary long-term employment. On the other hand, it forces them out of the country and into the international community after obtaining an American education. All students who overstay their visa can be penalized by making it difficult to obtain a new one.

Sectors benefiting by the visa programs EB-5 and E-2 are widely reaching multiple sectors.

Real Estate: deals related to real estate reached $87 billion in 2015 when compared to $5 billion in 2005. The hottest market for real estate is New York, attracting a quarter of investment money. Chinese investors are playing a major role on this increase. Their inflow of capital has skyrocketed from $200 million in 2006 to over $15 billion today. The purchases range from apartments and houses to hotels and warehouses. In Miami, the chunk of investors is coming from Latin American countries such as Argentina, Mexico and Venezuela. High price real estate sold to international investors in Miami is as high as 50%. According to statistical data, we might be reaching a peak due to the urgency of some of these foreign investors looking to sell.

Private Equity: Ultra-wealthy individuals looking for alternative investments outside of real estate are getting creative with private equity offerings. These deals are ranging from Hollywood productions to healthcare. We are reaching pre-recession levels of investments surpassing $2.4 trillion.

Fixed Income Investments: All else aside, the interest rate levels during the last few years have been awful for fixed income investors. Foreign money feels the same way; nevertheless, the United States is not the only one in the game with low levels of interest rates. Actually, we have higher interest rate levels than many other countries that carry percentages as low as zero and even negative yields (Japan and Germany). Due to this, long-term U.S. debt instrument reached over $9 trillion. It is true other countries offer high levels of interest, but there are other risk factors to consider such as political and home currency.

This article by no means covers all demands of applicants and/or the immigration system, but merely highlights many of the attributes it uses to weigh in on whether or not to grant a visa. In the end, immigration is a complex subject and covers a wide range of needs. As you can see, the ultimate benefactor is the government and its economy by defining if an applicant is worthy of a visa.

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