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Immigration & Naturalization

In the parlance of Thomas Friedman, the popular columnist for The New York Times, the world is now “flat” thanks to the rapid pace of globalization in the 21st century. Amid this interconnectedness, a growing number of American companies, universities, non-profits and other employers are tapping international talent to fill positions in science, medicine, technology, engineering and more. Likewise, more foreign firms now seek to cross borders and set up U.S. operations, often run in part by key personnel from back home.

If the world is flat, however, America’s laws and policies related to immigration might be likened to a Himalayan landscape marked by imposing barriers. Some of these peaks truly are “vertical climbs” that are far easier to scale with the help of experienced guides. LeClairRyan’s Immigration & Naturalization team offers precisely this kind of know-how—after all, our attorneys have been traversing this complex territory for more than a decade.

Our team routinely helps American employers of all types and sizes secure valid and appropriate employment authorizations for prospective international employees, and has helped a number of foreign-based corporations and entrepreneurs secure temporary employment status for personnel on assignment in America. We understand the critical importance of securing just the right type of work-visa or permit solution for our clients, and of avoiding any negative repercussions or penalties associated with lack of compliance with U.S. laws and regulations.

Rancorous political debates and tight scrutiny of U.S. immigration policy after 9/11 make “getting it right” on employment status more important than ever. Our full-service Immigration & Naturalization team is licensed and fully trained in the intricacies of U.S. immigration law and policy. We understand the legal, political and industry-specific marketplace dynamics involved in hiring and employing non-U.S. citizens, and routinely advise and assist a wide range of clients on immigration law, compliance and naturalization. This work might involve helping an academic institution secure a visa for a renowned researcher or representing an employer before a federal immigration panel. We might expedite a client’s application for American citizenship, or assist his family members in their efforts to join him in the United States.

Whatever our clients goals, we use our well-worn maps of the laws, rules, systems and processes of U.S. immigration to guide them to success—and we do so with maximum speed, efficiency and cost-effectiveness. 

Our Immigration and Naturalization services include:

  • Employment Based Immigration
  • Family Based Immigration
  • Employer Compliance, Training and Audits (I-9s, e-verify, etc.)
  • Immigration Litigation

Businesses, Colleges and Universities and Other Organizations

Our Immigration & Naturalization team has more than a decade of experience in working with employers to secure valid and appropriate employment status for their employees, and for their employees’ qualified family members. In this time of heightened scrutiny of immigration practices in the United States, our team provides comprehensive immigration consultation services designed to help clients achieve their goals, comply with all applicable rules and regulations and thereby avoid immigration-related penalties such us the federal government’s I-9 sanctions, which target employers that fail to meet strict work-authorization requirements for new employees.

We assist foreign-based corporations and entrepreneurs who need to send certain key personnel to temporarily staff their U.S. operations, and frequently counsel domestic employers such as colleges and universities, corporations, medical institutions and non-profits that temporarily employ foreign nationals in various scientific, engineering, technical, medical and other highly specialized professional positions. Colleges and universities, in particular, frequently require legal services related to immigration. Our Immigration & Naturalization Law team has worked extensively with a variety of academic and research institutions, both to establish exchange programs for international students and visitors and to help secure visas for professors and researchers from other countries.

We authorize and obtain various types of temporary and permanent visas for a variety of professionals, including:

  • Foreign executives 
  • Managers 
  • Researchers and professors 
  • International students 
  • Foreign medical graduates 
  • Exchange visitors 
  • Professional and essential technical personnel

There are numerous ways in which non-U.S. citizen workers can be placed in positions with domestic U.S. companies and organizations, and it is therefore critical that the most appropriate and cost-effective paths be identified and taken. Our team has the knowledge and experience to secure the proper type of work visa/permit solution with respect to clients’ long- and short-term goals. Furthermore, we offer our clients direct and easy access to an online case-management system so that they can track the real-time progress of their cases.

Often, the most appropriate initial path for non-U.S. residents is to obtain temporary status, with a subsequent transition to permanent status as needed. With proper foresight, this can be done smoothly and efficiently. There are numerous categories of temporary nonimmigrant visas, each with various sets of qualifiers, specifications and requirements. Our Immigration & Naturalization Law attorneys are thoroughly versed with each type and will identify the solution that is most appropriate. The various nonimmigrant temporary visa types include: 

  • B-1 business visitor visas 
  • H1-B visas for degreed professionals 
  • E1/E2 treaty trader & investor visas 
  • L1-A/L1-B multinational employees 
  • J-1 waivers and H1-B visas for medical professionals and academic personnel 
  • Treaty NAFTA (TN) visas 
  • J-1 and H-3 trainees 
  • O-1 for individuals with outstanding abilities

There are many benefits of seeking permanent immigrant status via the permanent green card. The process can be arduous. However, it can be greatly facilitated through close coordination with qualified, ethical and licensed legal professionals. Our Immigration & Naturalization Law attorneys conduct the application process correctly the first time, thus enabling our clients to manage their time and money with confidence. There several categories of permanent immigrant visa/work solutions, including: 

  • Extraordinary ability 
  • “National interest waivers” 
  • Outstanding professors and researchers 
  • Multinational executive/managers 
  • Extraordinary ability and advanced degree employees (EB2) 
  • PERM labor certifications for managers and skilled workers 
  • Optional special recruitment for university teaching faculty 
  • Family-based green cards 
  • Green cards for investors

Compliance

 

The Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigates employers to determine whether they have violated prohibitions against knowingly employing unauthorized aliens and failing to properly complete, present or retain the Employment Eligibility Verification form (Form I-9) for newly hired individuals. Employers found to have hired unauthorized foreign nationals can pay steep fines—up to $2,200 per violation for first-offenders and up to $11,000 for certain multiple offenders.

Our Immigration & Naturalization Law team regularly works with employers to help them avoid such penalties. We review clients’ policies and procedures in order to troubleshoot compliance-related problems, and where necessary help them develop new approaches geared toward full compliance with the intricate I-9 completion and recordkeeping rules. This includes teaching employers how to properly use the government’s E-Verify™ system (formerly known as Basic Pilot Program), and training them on the proper way to respond to “SSN No-Match” letters and other enforcement-related challenges. When companies are subjected to government audits, our attorneys step in to help them avoid or minimize immigration-related fines, and they aggressively defend clients’ interests in any subsequent formal administrative hearings.

Our Immigration & Naturalization Law attorneys are deeply committed to helping clients achieve their employment goals while also fully adhering to all U.S. laws and regulations. Toward that end, they conduct full evaluations of employers’ employee handbooks, written and non-written policies and immigration sponsorships. They also work with employers to draft or revise detailed immigration policies, train staffers on I-9 compliance, develop overall employment strategies, and adopt proven “best practices” for full compliance.

Family Sponsorship

Our attorneys advise, counsel and represent individuals with a wide range of often-challenging issues pertaining to U.S. citizenship and legal permanent residency. When international professionals or employees come to work in the United States, for example, their family members frequently require assistance in order to join them. Our Immigration & Naturalization Law team has years of experience in handling applications for both temporary and permanent visas. We know precisely how to work through bureaucratic channels in order to obtain work authorizations for eligible family members such as spouses, sons and daughters, parents and siblings. Hidden pitfalls and roadblocks lie in wait for newcomers to the immigration process. In an accurate and expeditious manner, our veteran Immigration & Naturalization Law team verifies eligibility, files the appropriate paperwork and monitors each case in order to make the process as easy as possible for our clients.

Naturalization

To change one’s citizenship or to obtain naturalization in the United States is a commitment that must be undertaken with diligence, seriousness and, ideally, legal guidance. Becoming a U.S. citizen has long been difficult. In recent years, however, heightened security and the sometimes rancorous political debate over U.S. immigration policy have led to much closer scrutiny of the naturalization process. A veritable bottleneck in citizenship applications is one result. Those who would seek to obtain U.S. citizenship would do well to employ the professional and ethical services of licensed attorneys with years of experience in negotiating the immigration process. The same applies to those who would change their citizenship status through existing bureaucratic channels.

Our Immigration & Naturalization Law attorneys are committed to absolute adherence to U.S. immigration law and policy. We guide applicants through the naturalization process and prepare them for each step along the way. Our goal is simple: to use our knowledge, resources and experience to expedite our clients’ applications—and help them to realize their dreams of becoming American citizens.

Representation

Our Immigration & Naturalization Law attorneys routinely represent clients’ interests in the proceedings of various federal courts and administrative agencies. Our team has broad experience in representing clients before The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services, Immigration & Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs & Border Protection. We also frequently represent clients in the immigration-related proceedings of the Department of Justice, the Department of Labor, the Department of State, U.S. consulates abroad, and the Executive Office for Immigration Review and its immigration courts. In business cases, our team draws on the multidisciplinary knowledge of colleagues throughout LeClairRyan to gain a clear understanding of the industry-specific nuances of each situation. The sheer complexity of immigration law and the high stakes it often involves for our clients underscore the wisdom of one of LeClairRyan’s foundational principles—to thoroughly and diligently prepare every case.

Representative cases: 

  • Act as national immigration counsel for a large, publicly-traded media services company, providing immigration advice and services to the corporation and its numerous subsidiaries 
  • Serve as exclusive U.S. immigration counsel for a European-based pharmaceutical company, assisting in transferring key executives and technical employees from Europe to the U.S. 
  • Advise a Canadian-based telecommunications tower construction company on transfer of key employees to the U.S. 
  • Represent many physicians and other health-care workers seeking employment opportunities in the U.S. 
  • Serve as immigration counsel to a Virginia medical college for both its faculty and students 
  • Assist investors who have purchased businesses in the U.S. to obtain visas to permit them to work in U.S. and ultimately to obtain U.S. permanent residence status 
  • Provide immigration advice to a performing arts organization regarding visas for internationally renowned artists to perform in the U.S. 
  • Assist an international construction company based in Canada with the transfer of key managers and skilled employees to the U.S. 
  • Provide immigration advice to local colleges, both public and private, regarding employment of foreign faculty members