Since Nicolas Maduro assumed power in Venezuela in 2013, more that 4 million Venezuelans (a tenth of the population) have left their country – an outpouring almost on a par with Syria. They are fleeing one of the highest crime rates in the world, rampant hyperinflation, a lack of medicine in hospitals and a lack of even basic food security.
Yet before Maduro came to power and the crisis faced by Venezuelans became acute, people were already leaving the country. They started leaving all the way back in 1999 when Hugo Chavez was elected president, because they could see the writing on the wall even then. These migrants tended to be the educated and wealthy, with the most to lose from a collapse of society.
While Venezuela is now in full-blown crisis, there are also other countries heading down the same path, facing the specter of instability and chaos. Brazil, for example, has been in a political crisis for years as the far-reaching ‘Carwash’ anti-corruption investigation led to the impeachment of one president (Dilma Rousseff), and the jailing of another (Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva). A crime wave has swept the country, the recession continues unabated, the Brazilian Real continues to devalue, and the normal political parties have been hit hard. Now a truckers strike is playing havoc with the national economy.
These are just two examples of the instability rocking our world, making it a messier and scarier place. So, what are people to do when their livelihood and security is threatened?
United States Immigration As A Back-Up Plan
Despite much of the inflammatory rhetoric that has surrounded the immigration debate in the USA since the election of Trump, the United States remains a welcoming place for those with means seeking to make their new life here. Those facing political turmoil overseas, such as investors from Venezuela and Brazil, may find U.S. immigration options valuable as contingency plans for themselves and their family members.
As the EB-5 visa program has long been backlogged, with applications at times taking years to process, other options, like L-1 visas, offer a much faster way for people to bring themselves and their families over to the USA. They are especially attractive because spouses can get permission to work and because they allow children to study in the USA often eventually finding jobs with paths to a green card and citizenship.
For an L-1 visa, the requirements are that a person would need to have a preexisting company in their home country. The usual L-1 example one thinks of, is a manager transferring from a Toyota office in Tokyo to a branch plant in California. The prospective immigrant would has to have worked for that overseas company in some sort of managerial or executive capacity (quite easy to prove for owners of businesses) for one year of the past three years. (There is a lesser technical L-1 visa category, but it is not germane to this discussion.) The overseas company will have to have existed for say, five years, and have employed say, at least 5 people continuously during that time, in order to assure immigration officials that it will not disappear upon that manager’s transfer and entry into the United States.
An L-1 visa can be issued for people coming to start up a new branch office of the company in the United States. Dependents can be brought along, and after a year’s time of all goes well, an L-1 visa holder can apply to renew his one-year start up L-1 visa and also even apply for a green card, bringing with it all the benefits of permanent residency. In the meanwhile, children can go to school paying domestic tuition rates. An alternative could involve the overseas company buying a U.S. subsidiary business and thereby avoiding more rigorous scrutiny involving start-ups.
As for what types of start-ups qualify, any business similar in nature to what the applicant was doing overseas could work. Or, for instance, I have in the past written about how a filmmaker or musician might use the L-1 visa, as an example. The spouse of the L-1 transferee could even go to work for the company. Much depends on what business the foreign investor is in overseas. A good business plan involving the immigration component is critical.
It’s never too early to think about immigration
The decline of the security of wealth in a society rarely happens overnight. It took Venezuela nearly two decades to reach its current state. Other examples such as the Cuban Revolution, did not happen overnight either, but only after many years of guerrilla fighting.
For the inhabitants of countries on the precipice of losing their prosperity, it behooves us to remember that the United States exists to provide opportunities to people fleeing oppression. Rich and poor alike have the right to seek out greater opportunities. This article detailed the L-1 visa as just one possible way of establishing a foothold in the United States for families seeking more stability and future safety.
This article is reprinted from an article formerly published in the Forbes.