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    Edmundo Daco Jr.

    Yes, H-1B visa holders are allowed to buy and sell Bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies. However, this must not be done as a part of another employment or in any form that the non-immigrant will receive wage or salary. This is because an H-1B visa holder is only allowed to work for the company that sponsored the visa.

    Buying and selling of cryptocurrencies are legal just as long as it is done for personal purposes, like as source of passive income and as a hobby. Also, it should be noted that the activity should not be hindering your work with your employer and that you are still performing your job well and continuously.


    How many months does it take for an H-1B visa transfer to be approved?

    All non-immigrants in valid H-1B visa status can change jobs and have their visa transferred to another employer as long they have not engaged in any unauthorized employment from the beginning of the visa effectivity. The H-1B transfer procedure usually takes 1-2 months (4-8 weeks) to be completed after the application is submitted to the USCIS. Although, it could take longer for some cases. This transfer time differs for every application, which depends on the employment location, the corresponding USCIS visa processing office’s location, and the USCIS office’s processing schedule.

    Remember that H-1B visa holder can start working for the new employer right after the petition is received by the USCIS. There is no need to wait until the transfer permit is issued.

    Does an H-1B visa transfer need to go through lottery process?

    No, an H-1B visa transfer doesn’t need to go to the lottery process again. The procedure for the visa transfer is much easier compared to acquiring a new H-1B visa. It starts with the new employer filing for a petition to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office near the place of employment and waiting for 4-8 weeks until the transfer is issued. The processing time is different for every application. However, the H-1B visa holder can start working for the new employer right away after the submission of petition to the USCIS.

    H-1B transfers are infinite and are not counted against the H-1B visa quota for that particular fiscal year. H-1B visa transfers can be requested anytime of the year.


    Am I allowed to immediately join a new company holding just an H-1B visa transfer receipt?

    Yes, you can immediately start working with your new company even as soon as the H-1B visa transfer has been petitioned to the USCIS. There will be no problem, as long as you are in a valid H-1B visa status and you have not engage in any unauthorized work during H-1B tenure. There is no need for you to wait until the transfer is released. The H-1B transfer procedure usually takes 1-2 months (4-8 weeks) to be completed after the application is submitted. So waiting for it will just totally waste the time that you could have been working and earning money.


    What is the tax imposed on H-1B visa holders in California?

    The US tax code is very strict on all individuals earning money while staying or living in the country. That is why H-1B visa holders are not any different from US Citizens and Permanent Residents in terms of paying taxes. They have to pay the same State tax in California. They have to pay as well for Medicare, which is 1.45% of the salary, and Social Security taxes which is 6.2%. Aside from those, H-1B visa holders need to pay Federal Income Tax, which is the same rate range as the citizens (10%-39.6%).

    All of these taxes should be taken in consideration when negotiation for your salary during a job application. However, despite the requirement to pay SSN and Medicare taxes, H-1B visa holders will not be eligible for the benefits until they get the green card or citizenship.


    How long can an H-1B visa holder stay in the US?

    H-1B visa, being a temporary permit to work and live in the US, has a limited validity. It is only usable for up to six years. The initial approval for the visa is valid for three years, then it can be renewed for three more years. After that, the individual will have to stay outside of the U.S. for full year before he/she is permitted to apply for another H-1B visa. The only exception to this rule is if the non-immigrant has a pending Labor Certification approval from USCIS for a permanent worker visa status.

    However, if the individual has spent a certain time travelling outside the U.S. during the six-year period, he/she may appeal to recapture the travel time period. This will help extend the validity of the H-1B visa.


    What are the limitations of an H-1B visa?

    The H-1B visa has a number of limitations that need compliance.

    • The initial validity is only for three years, which can be renewed for three more. Afterwards, the individual will have to go out of the U.S.
    • The individual may not start working for the employer while the H-1B visa petition is still pending for approval by the USCIS.
    • The H-1B visa holder can only work for the employer that petitioned for the visa.
    • The H-1B visa holder can change employers but a new H-1B petition is required. However, the individual can already start working for the new employer right after the petition is submitted to the USCIS. There is no need to wait for the approval.
    • The H-1B visa may not be converted to permanent residence status automatically. Green card application has a separate process.
    • H-1B visa dependents (spouse and children) are not allowed to work in the U.S., unless they acquire authorization from the USCIS or they get their own working visa.
    • The H-1B visa holder may work for multiple employers, but multiple H-1B visas are required to be petitioned.
    • The H-1B visa employment may be terminated at any time for any given reason. When the termination is already effective, the visa is no longer valid as well. The USCIS only allows a period of 10 days for the terminated employee to stay in the US. Afterwards, he/she needs to go out of the country.
    • The H-1B visa holder deployed to a new work location other than what is petitioned to the USCIS, unless a Labor Condition Application (LCA) is filed and permitted, or an H-1B Visa Amendment for Employment Relocation is approved.
    1. The H-1B visa holder cannot have another non-immigrant visa. However, he/she can have multiple H-1B visas.


    What is the downside of having an O-1 visa compared to H-1B visa?

    The main disadvantage of O-1 visa when compared to H-1B visa is the high standard of requirements. O-1 visa application requires “extraordinary ability” from applicants, whereas anyone who just graduated from college can pass for an H-1B visa. O-1 visa has much stricter application. There are two types of O-1 visa, O-1A and O-1B visas. O-1A visa requires extraordinary ability from applicants in areas such as sciences, education, business and athletics. On the other hand, O-1B visa requires extraordinary ability in the fields of arts, motion picture, and television.

                To show that applicants have “extraordinary abilities”, they must have a sustained national and international acclaims in their respective fields. They could also show a high level of achievement, especially for the fields of arts, movies and television. Being prominent and well-know is a big help to prove an applicant’s worthiness of an O-1 visa.

    What is the process of applying for an O-1 visa in the US?

    The employer or petitioner must file a Form I-129 (Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker to the appropriate USCIS office near the employment location. The form should be filed not less than 45 days, but not more than a year from the employment starting date.

    Along with the Form I-129, the petitioner must also submit other requirements like consultation results, a copy of written contract, itineraries, and Agent information. Aside from these, petitioners need to submit supporting evidence to prove “extraordinary ability”, like international awards, publications, membership in associations, major contributions, and many more.

    After the O-1 visa petition is approved by the USCIS, the beneficiary must apply at the US embassy or consulate for the visa. After the application is permitted, the O-1 visa holder can initially stay in the U.S.A. for 3 years, which can be extended for a maximum of one year.

    Yes, H-1B visa holders can own and register a business in the U.S.

    Before 2010, there is no clear rule on whether or not H-1B visa holders can build a business in the US. Therefore, people understood that non-immigrants on H-1B visa can build a business as long as they don’t violate any H-1B visa rule. Everyone also thought that H-1B visa holder cannot work for their own company.

    In 2010, the USCIS made a memorandum to clarify the H-1B visa rule on business. They made it clear that an H-1B visa holder can build a businesses in the US and also work for it, given that he/she is not the sole owner of the business. Also, H-1B visa holder should be treated as an employee despite being a co-owner and there exist a board of governors or CEO that can hire and fire the non-immigrant.

    The position that will be occupied by the H-1B visa holder should really exist, and not just for the sake of getting an H-1B visa. This position should also require at least a Bachelor’s degree. Lastly, the company should have a business plan to employ American workers.


    Can an international business owner in the US sponsor himself for an H-1B visa?

    No, an international business owner cannot be its own petitioner for an H-1B visa. According to the memorandum released by the USCIS back in 2010, there must be a separate entity that will petition on the business owner’s behalf to be a self-employed H-1B visa beneficiary. This means that the H-1B visa applicant cannot be the sole owner of the business and that there exists a higher authority that will hire, pay, or fire the non-immigrant.

    Remember that many individuals have tried to petition for H-1B visas on their own but were declined because of this rule. The USCIS is making sure to examine every application so that no one can take advantage of the self-employed H-1B visa program.

    How can I apply for EAD as an H-4 visa holder?

    The application for Employment Authorization Document is very simple. You must file Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization) to the USCIS and wait for the approval. Make sure to complete all the information needed in the form, or else it will be sent back to you. Also, ensure that you send the application form to the correct filing location for Form I-765. There will be a filing fee and a biometric services fee (for some applications only), which can be paid by money order or credit card.

    Remember that in order to qualify for an EAD, the H-4 visa holder must be a spouse to an individual with a valid H-1B visa status to the US and, a beneficiary of an approved Form I-140 or has an extended H-1B status beyond 6 years.

    Can an H-4 visa holders start a business in the US?

    Yes, H-4 visa holders can start a business in the US, but only if they have an approved Employment Authorization Document (EAD).  An EAD will not only enable the H-4 visa holders to build any type of business they want, it also allows them to work part-time or full-time for any employer in the US with any type of jobs.

    To qualify for an EAD, the spouse of an H-4 visa holder must have a valid H-1B visa status and, an approved I-140 (Petition for Immigrant Worker) or an extended H-1B visa status beyond the initial 6 years. The H-4 spouse will file Form I-765 to the USCIS, pay the processing fee, and wait for the approval of EAD.

    Is it possible to study PhD in the US while on an H-4 visa?

    Yes, an H-4 visa holder can study PhD will staying in the US because H-4 visa holders are allowed to study in any school or university in the US. Education loans, grants and scholarships are also available to H-4 visa holders to help support their expenses while studying.

    However, many PhD programs in the US requires part-time work or practical training, which an H-4 visa holder cannot do unless he or she applies for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). If you are an H-4 visa holder and aiming to complete a full PhD program in the US, make sure to apply beforehand for an EAD. It will also enable you to find part-time employment, which can help you finance your education.

    What are the H-4 visa laws and regulations?

    H-4 visa is given to the spouse and unmarried children (below 21 years old) of an H-1B visa holder. H-4 visa holders are admitted to the US at the same period for which the H-1B visa holder is admitted. Laws and regulations surrounding H-4 visa include the following:

    1. H-4 family members may study in any schools and universities in the United States for any educational level/degree.
    2. H-4 visa holders cannot participate in any form of employment, except for H-4 spouses, who are able to obtain Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from the USCIS.
    3. H-4 family members who are not permitted to work cannot be issued with a Social Security Number, but they can get an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).
    4. H-4 visa holders are allowed to open bank accounts with credit unions and some banks in the US.
    5. Family members with H-4 visa are also allowed to get a driver’s license.

    Do TN visa holders have a chance for permanent residence in the US?

    No, TN visa holders can’t get permanent residence in the US. Having a TN visa does not give an individual dual intent. This means that a TN visa holder can’t get a green card while under the TN status. After the TN visa validity, he/she must return to Canada or Mexico. There is no direct path from a TN visa to permanent residence. So don’t bother asking your employer to petition a green card for you, or you’ll risk losing your TN visa by having violations.

    However, this should not hinder your dreams of getting a green card to the US. There are other steps which you can take, one of which is getting a sponsor for an H-1B visa instead. The H-1B work visa to the US allows you to state permanent residence as a dual intent for the purpose of your entry during the application process.



    How long does an OPT approval take?

    It takes up to 3 months (90 days) for OPT applications to be approved by the USCIS. There could be delays but normally, you will be able to know the results within that time-period. If you wish to start working right away, then you should apply for OPT in advance.

    You can apply 90 days before you complete your last academic year, but should not be more than 60 days after completing your degree (post-completion OPT). These deadlines works for both STEM OPT and non-STEM OPT. You can start working as soon as the Form I-765 is approved and you receive your Employment Authorization Document. After the approval of OPT, you must be employed within 90 days after your start date. If you fail to find employment within that period, then your OPT will be cancelled.

    Aside from post-completion OPT, there is also a pre-completion OPT wherein F-1 students who were able to complete one full academic year in a US college or university can already apply for OPT. The number of months that you worked in a pre-completion OPT will be deducted from the 12-months OPT validity. The remaining months is what you can use for the post-completion OPT.

    If I have used my OPT from my Bachelor's, can I get another OPT after my Masters?

    Yes, you can get another OPT for your Master’s even if you have used OPT during your Bachelor’s Degree Studies. In fact, F-1 visa holders can apply for OPT for every level of education taken in US Colleges or Universities. That means you can get another OPT during your PhD studies, if you decide to study further.

    However, if you decide to take another Master’s degree but in a different field, you can only use the remaining months from the 12-month OPT validity for that level. For example, you studied Master in Computer Science and worked on OPT for 8 months. Then you decided to take MBA and apply again for OPT after completion of the degree. This time, you can only work on OPT for 4 months since you already completed 8 months.

    You can only extend this OPT validity if you are eligible for STEM OPT. As of March 11 2016, F-1 students with STEM OPT can apply for extension of up to 24 months.

    What are the differences between CPT and OPT?

    Optional Practical Training (OPT) and Curriculum Practical Training (CPT) are USCIS programs wherein international students are permitted to get off-campus work after completing one academic year with a US college or university.

    OPT allows F-1 visa holders to work for 12 months with any US company that is related to their majors. OPT can be used both pre-completion and post-completion of the degree, but the duration should only equal to 12 months when combined. However, for F-1 visa holders in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), the OPT validity can be extended for up to 24 months.

    On the other hand, CPT allows F-1 visa holders to get practical experience through employment or internship that is directly related to their majors. CPT should be a part of a recognized curriculum. It should be done before the completion of the degree. F-1 students with CPT have an option to work for part-time (20 hours per week) or full time (more than 20 hours per week). Those who will take full-time CPT for 12 months are no longer eligible for OPT after graduation.

    The differences between CPT and OPT are:

    1. CPT should be completed before graduation while OPT can be taken before or after completion of the degree.
    2. CPT is part of the curriculum and should be a requirement in order to finish the degree, while OPT can be taken even if it’s not part of the course requirement just as long as the work is related to the major.
    3. CPT is employer based, while OPT is not. This means that F-1 students can take CPT with specific employers, while OPT can be done with any employers in the US.

    What could be the reasons why my OPT application was rejected?

    Optional Practical Training applications are rejected for various reasons.

    1. Your application was done beyond the allowed time-frame. That is, 90 days before the completion of the degree and up to 60 days after graduation. For new F-1 visa holders, your OPT application will be rejected if you haven’t completed a full-academic year of education in the US yet.
    2. You have already worked for 12 months on CPT. For an education level (i.e. Bachelor’s, Master’s, PhD), only a total duration of 12 months is allowed for both CPT and OPT per F-1 student.
    3. You have already taken 12 months of OPT for the same education level. Only one OPT is allowed per level of study.NNM
    4. The employment that you applied for your OPT is not related to your major. Even though, OPT is not necessarily a part of your curriculum, it should at least be related to your major.
    5. Incomplete applications, errors on the form, incomplete documents or missing photographs will not get you an outright rejection. However, you will receive a Request for Evidence which you will have to complete.

    There could be other reasons why an OPT application is rejected. If so, the USCIS will send you a letter notifying you about the rejection and the reason for it.



    What are the requirements in an L-1 visa application?

    L-1 visa permits employees of an international company which has an operation inside the US to be transferred to the US branch. The application for an L-1 visa has a number of requirements:

    1. The company inside the US must have a relationship with the foreign company where the L-1 visa applicant has been working with. The relationship of the two entities should be one of the following:
    • Parent and Subsidiary
    • Headquarters and Branch
    • Sister Companies owned by a Parent Company
    • Affiliates owned the same people

    Corporations, non-profit, charitable and religious organizations can qualify to sponsor an L-1 visa.

    1. The company should operate as an employer in the US and in at least one more country during the validity of the L-1 visa.
    2. The applicant should have worked for the international company as an executive or a manager to qualify for L-1A visa or has specialized knowledge to qualify for an L-1B visa. The applicant should be transferring to the US branch to perform the same position.
    • The applicant relocating to the US should have worked for the international company for at least one continuous year within the three years before his application.
    • The applicant should have qualifications for the position based on his/her educational background and work experience.

    All these requirements must be fulfilled in order to qualify for an L-1 visa application.

    Note: This is not a legal advice.

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