YourABA May 2012 Masthead

Lawyering here and abroad:  Immigration visas for attorneys

While the job market is not lacking for lawyers, there are many times law firms must find attorneys with a particular expertise outside the United States.  In his article, “The Globalization of American Law Firms: A Quick Guide to Attorney Immigration,” attorney Gregory Siskind, a board member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, outlines available non-immigrant visas and their purposes.

“Law firms transferring in attorneys from an overseas office can take advantage of the L-1 intra-company transfer visa,” explains Siskind.  These types of visas can be secured for five years for employees with specialized knowledge, or seven years for executives or managers.

One requirement for such a visa is that the transferring attorney must have one year of work within the last three years with the transferring employer.  The U.S. and foreign offices must also be related, for example, either as a subsidiary or having common ownership.

To meet the executive, managerial or specialized knowledge requirement, Siskind points out that a firm will want to show that the lawyer for whom it is applying for the visa will be managing paralegals and, where applicable, other attorneys; or in charge of a function as opposed to personnel.  Firms showing that there is no one in the local market with the necessary skills can meet the specialized knowledge threshold.
Visiting attorneys—those in the United States to attend a conference or to assist a client with negotiating a contract, for example—can come to the United States with a B-1 business visitor visa, continues Siskind.  The B-1 applicant must show permanent employment, meaningful or financial connections or close family ties, which would indicate a strong reason to return to his or her original country.

There are also treaty visas allowable for attorneys from specific countries; and a limited number of H-1B visas for university-educated professionals.

“The Globalization of American Law Firms: A Quick Guide to Attorney Immigration” is found in LawPracticeToday, a publication of the Law Practice Management Section.

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