Work Visas and Immigration Options for Real Estate Professionals

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US Visas for Real Estate Professionals

The real estate industry in the United States has been experiencing rapid growth in the last several years. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the New York City metropolitan area. This seemingly limitless growth and influx of capital is attracting the attention of international real estate management and development companies seeking to cash in on this post-recession fervor.

The nature of these companies give rise to a variety of possibilities for employment based visas and green cards. The massive scale and complexity of these projects require professionals who excel in areas such as financial analysis, engineering, architecture, accounting, business, operations, project management, and other related fields.

Most professionals start off on a nonimmigrant temporary work visa, and later on transition to a green card. For more info on common work visas used in the real estate industry, please see the following:

    • H-1B – The H-1B visa is available to those who will be filling a “specialty occupation” role that require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree (or equivalent) in a specific field. Examples of specialty occupations for real estate professionals include financial managers, project managers, financial and budget analysts, engineers, architects, and accountants.
    • L-1A – The L-1A visa is for managerial or executive level intracompany transferees. This visa is for management-level or executive level professional seeking to temporarily work in the US in a role similar to their role abroad for a US employer that that is legally related to their employer abroad. Examples of a situation suited for an L-1A include a manager coming to the US to open a branch of an international company, or to expand an existing real estate company to the US to pursue real estate investment or development projects here.
    • E-3, H-1B1 – These are two visas that are similar to the H-1B in that they are reserved for individuals in specialty occupations, but unlike the H-1B visa they are country specific. The E-3 visa is reserved for Australian citizens, and the H-1B1 visa is reserved for citizens of Chile and Singapore. The E-3 and the H-1B1 are generally easier to obtain than the H-1B.
    • O-1 – The O-1 visa is specifically set aside for foreign nationals who demonstrate extraordinary talent and aptitude in the arts, sciences, athletics, or business by sustained national or international acclaim, and who are coming temporarily to the United States to continue to work in the area of extraordinary ability. Professions in the real estate industry well suited for the O-1 visa include architects and designers, but it can also be used in some cases for highly accomplished project managers.
    • TN – The TN visa is reserved for Mexican and Canadian nationals seeking to fill an occupation in the US that is specifically enumerated in the North American Free Trade Agreement (“NAFTA”). NAFTA professions applicable to the real estate industry might include Architects, Economists, Engineers, Landscape Architects, Urban Planners, Statisticians, and Management Consultants. For a more detailed list of NAFTA occupations, please see the following:
    • J-1 – The J-1 visa is for participants in a training or internship exchange visitor program. The J-1 is a good option for individuals seeking to learn about the real estate industry through internships or training programs with real estate development or management companies.
    • E-2 – The E-2 visa is an investment based visa that allows individuals who are nationals of certain treaty countries to management and direct their investment (business) in the US. It also allows other individuals, who are nationals of the same country, to come over and work for the business in the US.

The following is an overview of employment based green card options. It’s important to understand that these options require sponsorship from an employer.

    • EB1 (first preference category) – For multinational executives seeking to work in a managerial or executive capacity for the same employer. Most individuals start on an L-1A and then transition to a green card via this category.
    • EB2 (second preference category) – Reserved for members of professions holding advanced degrees or aliens of exceptional ability in the fields of arts, science or business. This category is for roles that require a masters degree or higher or a bachelors plus five years of progressive work experience.
    • EB3 (third preference category) – This category is reserved for roles that do not meet the first or second preference categories.
    • EB5 (fifth preference category) – Investment-based green card option giving permanent residence to investors and their families. Applicants must invest $500k or $1m into a project that creates at least 10 full-time US jobs. The investment projects on the receiving end of EB-5 capital are almost entirely real estate development projects such as hotels, residential apartment complexes, and casinos.

For more info about work visa or immigration options related to the real estate industry or immigration in general, please contact the award-winning Lightman Law Firm of New York at one of the following: 212-643-0985; email us; or submit a contact form.

Lightman Law Firm was recently honored as New York’s 2015 Immigration Law Firm of the Year by Acquisition International. Additionally, founding attorney, Douglas Lightman, was named a “Rising Star” by Lightman Law Firm also carries a 4.9 rating on Google Reviews.