Visa & Immigration | Moving to America Series

Visa & Immigration | Moving to America Series

Possessing a joint. No big deal, right? Wrong. 


Aside from the potential health implications of cannabis use. A citation or arrest of marijuana possession – and you can kiss your US visa goodbye (unless you have a one-time conviction of a small amount and then you might just have a chance!). Even though use of the drug is now legal in various states across the US, federal law still classifies marijuana as a schedule one drug meaning it is illegal, regardless of state laws.  


That’s not the most ground-breaking take-away from my chat with Philadelphia-based attorney, Y. Jessica Choi. Just an interesting way to start blog #2 of my ‘Moving to America’ series. The entrepreneurs in our SBE community, who are planning to take their business to the US, are my motivation for this series – if I can provide one tip to help you on your journey into the world largest economy, I will be a happy woman. 


Jessica Choi is Partner at Landau Hess Simon & Choi – one of the oldest law firms in the US with an exclusive practice in immigration law (and a majority women-owned business). Jessica has been practicing for fourteen years, representing individuals and corporations in all types of US immigration matters, including non-immigrant visas, immigrant visas, PERM applications, EB-5 investor visas, as well as family-based cases and naturalisation. 


I had a Zoom chat with Jessica and asked her a bunch of questions…


Where should people start their education around immigration laws and visa types?


Jessica’s advice: There is a lot of information out there so make sure the information you read is up-to-date and from a reputable source. Immigration laws change so quickly (particularly in the current administration) so you need to be certain that the information you are receiving is current. 


Make sure the information you read is from reputable sources. There are a lot of scam websites about visas and immigration. The US Department of State and the US Citizenship & Immigration Services (www.uscis.gov) websites are your safest online research tools. 


Talk to an attorney early. Visa requirements are very intricate and your options (based on your background) will be very different to the next Aussie. Your best route can be very hard to determine without professional advice. And you don’t want to do a bucket load of work on an application only to find you need to take a different path!


What are some common types of visas Aussie businesses apply for?


Jessica’s advice: A hard question to answer. What’s right for one person can be very different to the next as visa applications depend on both the professional and personal background of the applicant. An attorney might find one little detail in your life that will prompt an entirely different route. But some common visas include:


Australian Professional Specialty Visa (E-3 Visa)

According to www.ustraveldocs.com (another reputable source) this E-3 visa classification applies only to nationals of Australia as well as their spouses and children. E-3 principal applicants must be going to the United States solely to work in a specialty occupation. 


Treaty Trader (E-1) or Treaty Investor (E-2)

According to www.travel.state.gov Aussies can obtain an E-1 Treaty Trader or E-2 Treaty Investor visa if the individual is coming to the United States to: 


  • Engage in substantial trade, including trade in services or technology, in qualifying activities, principally between the United States and the treaty country (E-1); or 
  • Develop and direct the operations of an enterprise in which the individual has invested a substantial amount of capital (E-2). 

According to Jessica, applicants, especially E-2 Treaty Investor visa applicants, will need a 5-year business plan including (not limited to) a detailed market research analysis, opportunities for expansion and employment forecasts. 


Employment-Based Immigrant Visas (EB1 to EB5 Visas)

According to www.travel.state.gov every fiscal year, approximately 140,000 employment-based immigrant visas (permanent residents) are made available to qualified applicants under the provisions of US immigration law. Employment based immigrant visas are divided into five preference categories:

  • E1 – Priority Workers (persons with extraordinary ability, outstanding professors and researchers, or multinational managers or executives) 
  • E2 - Professionals Holding Advanced Degree and Persons of Exceptional Ability 
  • E3 - Skilled Workers, Professional, and Unskilled Workers (Other Workers)
  • E4 - Certain Special Immigrants (including religious workers)
  • E5 - Immigrant Investors 

Person in Specialty Occupation Temporary Work Visa (H-1B Visa)

According to www.travel.state.gov the general criteria for about an individual to qualify for this category are:

  • The offered position must be a specialty occupation which requires at least a baccalaureate degree or equivalent in a specific field.
  • The individual possesses a baccalaureate degree or its equivalent in the required specific field. 
  • The individual must be paid a wage which is no less than the wage paid to similarly qualified workers or, if greater, the prevailing wage for the position in the geographic area.
  • Includes fashion models of distinguished merit and ability and government-to-government research and development, or co-production projects administered by the Department of Defence.

Intracompany Temporary Work Visa (L Visa)

According to www.travel.state.gov the general description of an individual who qualifies for this category is:

  • An individual who is coming to work at a branch, parent, affiliate, or subsidiary of the current employer in a managerial or executive capacity, or in a position requiring specialized knowledge.
  • Individual must have been employed by the same employer abroad continuously for 1 year within the three preceding years in a managerial or executive capacity, or in a position requiring specialized knowledge.

Individual with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement Temporary Work Visa (O Visa)

According to www.travel.state.gov the general description of an individual who qualifies for this category is:

  • For individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement in the sciences, arts, education, business, athletics, or extraordinary recognized achievements in the motion picture and television fields, demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim, to work in their field of expertise. 
  • Includes individuals providing essential services in support of the above individual.

Early on in your plans to move across the globe, it might be a good idea to squeeze in a few short trips (less than 90 days per trip) to do some research. In this instance, if you’re an Aussie, you should be able to visit pursuant to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) with an ESTA authorization - which is super easy, cheap and quick. The Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) is an automated system that determines the eligibility of visitors to travel to the US under the Visa Waver Program. You can apply for an ESTA at  


Where do people go wrong with their visa applications and/or immigration? 


Jessica’s advice: Visa recipients must appreciate that any personal and/or professional changes they make (for example, address or company name) can impact their visas status. It is therefore very important to declare such changes and if you have an immigration attorney – talk to them about the potential changes before taking any action. 


During the application process, applicants must be diligent with the information provided in any application. Spend time on the numbers and make sure they add up and are realistic.


Applicants must not forget their personal lives. It’s important to understand that an incident (even if it has been expunged) that happened in your personal life, even many years ago, will impact your ability to migrate to the US. Such incidents must be addressed in the application. 


And one more piece of advice from me (Olivia)… Don’t forget the Diversity Visa Lottery. It is actually a thing and people do actually win it – my wife was one of those very lucky people and is now based in Washington DC, working her dream career. Importantly, be careful – there are a lot of scam diversity visa lottery websites out there. Correct website here: www.dvlottery.state.gov 


Thanks for reading! I do hope you found this blog, and Jessica’s insights, useful. If you are planning a move to the US and need advice from a rockstar attorney, reach out to Jessica at jchoi@lhscimmigration.com and please share with anyone who may benefit.


See you in a couple of weeks for blog #3 of my ‘Moving to America’ series. 


Olivia Doherty 

National Program Manager

SBE Australia 

Related Tag: Female Entrepreneurs Australia