If you are a foreign film student in the United States or Canada, (or a parent of such a student,) this article will be of interest to you. It addresses the immigration question that many foreign film students have once they have graduated and completed their one-year, so-called, Optional Practical Training (OPT) work permit. Foreign film students from colleges like U.S.C., N.Y.U., U.C.L.A., Chapman or N.Y.F.A., in other words, from top film schools in the U.S., face this challenge every year. Reaching the end of their period of authorized stay, the question arises how can they continue pursuing their film interests and avoid deportation.
There is a lot at stake. After all, they have invested a lot of time and money in pursuing their studies and usually have built up a good network of film contacts that it seems a shame to just abandon by leaving for home. Is there a way where such graduates can continue their interests and make use of their talents to help them advance in their film career and also help build up the film industry in their country of origin?
For some film students, those who can afford it, there is a very viable and practical solution. It is to invest in an indie film project where the film graduate would now enter the marketplace as a film maker to remain in the USA. In a recent article I illustrated this option by outlining a project involving David Ward as a film maker. The essence of the plan laid out there was simple, but new: invest in a script to become eligible to get a U.S. visa (either an L-1 or E-2 visa depending on the country of origin). The plan further entailed setting up a new American company for the graduate to run to work on the film project with an accomplished American film maker counterpart. This plan involves a quick processing time of a few months at most, is way less expensive than other investment options such as the Eb-5 direct investment route and when done right, keeps the foreign investor free of U.S. estate taxes and income taxes on worldwide income. My previous articles go into details on these benefits. They can be found here, here, and here.
Briefly summarized an L-1 visa involves the transfer of someone who was a manager or executive overseas for a company for a year to a U.S. company to work as a manager or executive. Think Honda sends a manager from Tokyo to its Honda office in San Francisco, for example. That’s a L-1 inter-corporate transfer work visa. The E-2 visa involves someone who is coming to the USA to work as a manager or executive in a U.S. company – with no overseas company tie in. Think a Canadian investor buys a Best Western Hotel in Phoenix, for example. That’s an E-2 treaty investor work visa. However, in the case of this article, we are talking about film making as the subject matter of either one of these new visas for the investor.
The film-related plan works best for E-2 visa applicants since they are not required to have previously worked overseas as a manager or executive. To be eligible to obtain an E-2 visa, the student would need to be from one of the counties that has an investment treaty with the United States. Many countries qualify, although Brazil, India, Russia and China (BRIC countries) as well as Israel do not. However, in those instances where the film student comes from a BRIC country and worked overseas as a manager or executive before arriving in the U.S., the L-1 visa would also work. Note the applicant must have worked as a manager or executive overseas for one year in a related company before coming to the USA for this plan to work in the L-1 visa case. The advantage of the L-1 visa could be that other family members or colleagues might be similarly transferred to the USA from overseas.
To summarize, whichever visa might be used, the foreign film school graduate would invest in a script of an American film maker and set up his or her new company in the USA to work with that film maker and others in developing films and selling them to overseas markets, including the graduate’s home country. With the help of professionals, the graduate would incorporate a new U.S. company, register it with the I.R.S. for tax purposes, open a bank account, deposit money in the account, set up an office and prepare a five year business plan. With these items worked out, the graduate would apply for the work visa to start the project. More details can be obtained from reading the previous articles I wrote on this subject. Once again, they can be found here, here, and here.
This article is reprinted from an article formerly published in the Forbes.