Question: I have a business that I have started in the U.S. I am from the Philippines and my business partner is from Mexico. We would like to petition someone from Mexico and another person from Singapore. Can you give me an option of what needs to be done?
Answer: Prior to January 1, 2004 there was what was known as NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement.) While it still exists, there are some changes which have just gone into effect. This will answer your question on how to petition the person from Mexico. Mexican Nonimmigrants ("TN") Professionals have newer, easier and faster procedures for coming in under this type of visa.
Under the new provisions of the NAFTA, the petition requirements employers wanting to hire Mexican professionals under the provisions of the NAFTA will no longer be required to obtain a certified labor condition application from the US Department of Labor or file Form I-129 with the USCIS. In many cases, this procedure would take six months to one year. Now, Mexican professionals desiring a free trade visa will apply directly to a US Department of State consular office in Mexico for the visa. This will allow you to petition for him/her much quicker as the application can be sent directly to the U.S. Consulate.
Question: What if one of the Mexican nationals I cam considering hiring is already in the U.S. on another status. Must he leave the U.S.?
Answer: No. Extensions and changes of nonimmigrant status for NAFTA professionals in TN classification will continue to be processed by the USCIS. Extension and change of status applications for TN nonimmigrant professionals must be submitted to the Nebraska Service Center for processing, accompanied by a letter from the US or foreign employer stating the activity to be engaged in, the anticipated length of stay, and the arrangements for remuneration.
Question: Do these new NAFTA provisions apply to my prospective worker from Singapore?
Answer: No. 'TN' visas under NAFTA apply only to persons from Mexico and Canada. However, there has been an implementation of New Chile and Singapore Free Trade Agreements as of January 1, 2004. Under the immigration provisions of these agreements, as approved by Congress in Public Laws 108-77 and 108-78, a new H-1B1 nonimmigrant category has been created for professionals from Chile and Singapore. For purposes of the trade agreements, a professional is defined as "a national of [Chile or Singapore] who is engaged in a specialty occupation requiring (a) theoretical and practical application of a body of specialized knowledge; and (b) attainment of a post-secondary degree in the specialty requiring four or more years of study (or the equivalent of such a degree) as a minimum for entry into the occupation."
In addition, the two agreements allow for the presentation of alternate educational credentials in the case of certain Chilean citizens seeking admission as H-1B1 Agricultural Managers and Physical Therapists. Further, in the case of both countries, the two agreements allow persons seeking admission as Management Consultants to present alternative documentation reflecting experience in the area of specialization. By statute, Chile will be allocated a maximum of 1,400, and Singapore a maximum of 5,400 H-1B1 nonimmigrant visas annually for professionals from these countries.
Question: Where must the people from Singapore apply?
Answer: Citizens of Chile or Singapore must apply directly to the US Department of State overseas for an H-1B1 nonimmigrant visa to be eligible for admission to perform professional services for a US employer pursuant to the two trade agreements. As with the provisions of the NAFTA, the USCIS will only process requests for extensions and changes of nonimmigrant status to H-1B1 nonimmigrant professional for citizens of Chile and Singapore. USCIS will not accept initial requests for H-1B1 status under the two Free Trade Agreements.