Growing Complexity of U.S. Visa Processing for Irish/NI Companies

U.S. visa processing is growing in complexity, with many new U.S. operations of Irish/NI parent struggling to qualify for classification to sponsor qualified professionals for work authorization in the U.S . New U.S affiliates usually do not qualify to sponsor foreign nationals for work authorization until they are fully established, with a lease for offices, investment, and in many cases U.S. personnel on payroll.

If a U.S. affiliate of an Irish/NI parent is not qualified to sponsor key personnel for work authorization, professionals may often qualify for a temporary professional visitor visa to travel to the US . B-1 visas and/ or B-1 in lieu of H-1 visas are alive and well at most European posts (including Dublin and Belfast) when a visitor can show that he or she is traveling to the U.S. for purposes of investing in a U.S. business, or engaging in professional services related to their employment outside the U.S. and their area of their expertise, provided they have earned a Bachelor’s degree equivalency. For example, an employee of an Irish/NI parent company may qualify for a B-1 visa to travel to the U.S. for up to 6 months in one stay to set up corporate operations. An IT professional may qualify for a B-1 in lieu of H-1 visa for purposes of setting up critical IT systems in the US to support operations.

 Documentation reflecting qualification is required, as is a prepared applicant. My partner, Teri Simmons (who wrote most of this post) is an expert in U.S. business immigration law and has advised many Irish/NI businesses on these issues. Reach out to her or me if you have any questions or need guidance.

 

You might be an Employee if….

On Friday, I used the phrase “Uber Settlement” as (maybe) click-bait to introduce an important, but hidden, issue facing Irish and Northern Irish companies operating in the US. As I noted in that post, many Irish and Northern Irish companies use a variety of ‘independent contractors,’ especially in the early stages of operating here—consultants and the like who are not intended to be employees. The risks associated with just labeling someone as an independent contractor can be significant, and very expensive. I’ve seen many Irish and Northern Irish companies make the same mistake—assuming that because the relevant contract states that someone is an independent contractor, such person is, in fact, an independent contractor and not an employee. Based on my experience, Irish and Northern Irish companies: Continue reading

What the Uber Settlement Means for Irish/NI Companies Operating in the US

Uber recently settled—for US$100 million—two class-action cases involving some of its drivers, and one of the issue points in the litigation was whether Uber drivers are independent contractors or employees under relevant US law. The contractor/employee distinction is a huge issue in the US, and it has flow-through effects on tax withholding, health insurance, employee rights, collective bargaining, employee eligibility for employment under US immigration laws, etc. It is one area where the US Department of Labor is focusing its compliance efforts. In the Uber case, the distinction was important because if an Uber driver were an employee, he or she could be entitled to minimum wage, certain benefits, and Uber’s ‘no tip’ and termination policies might be inapplicable. Those concerns do not exist for independent contractors, both generally and in the Uber case.

So, what does this mean for Irish and Northern Irish companies operating in the US? Bottom line: Be sure you’re correctly identifying someone as an employee or as an independent contractor. Continue reading

Critical Changes to US Visa Waiver Program Impact Irish/NI Companies

Bottom line up front: as of last Friday, new changes to the US’s Visa Waiver program restrict the use of that program by persons who have visited Iran, Iraq, Syria, or the Sudan at any time after March 1, 2011. Additional “countries of concern” may be added to this list. The nationality of the traveler is not an issue, so this change impacts any person traveling on an Irish or UK passport who has been to the listed countries in the relevant timeframe. Continue reading

Everybody is an Employee…Maybe…Possibly

Businesses operating in or expanding to the US, including those from Ireland and Northern Ireland, use independent contractors to avoid some of the baggage associated with the employer/employee relationship under US law.  The use of independent contractors recently has gotten more complicated due to the US Department of Labor’s publication of Administrator’s Interpretation 2015-1.  The Interpretation is part of the Department’s closer monitoring of the ‘independent contractor’ designation. Businesses from Ireland or Northern Ireland operating in or expanding to the US, and using the services of an independent contractor (such as a sales agent) should take another look at how they designate a person as an ‘independent contractor,’ as soon as possible. Continue reading