The United States – a completely different culture, huge market with enormous purchasing power and potential. However, applying for a visa might seem a complicated process with many bureaucratic and administrative difficulties. In spite of these hardships, it is a completely viable path. The difficulties of the system often discourage people from completing this process, but in fact it is completely feasible and available for everyone. If someone is aware of the process of visa application and willing to go through, then the United States’ market can offer huge opportunities. In our interview we ask György Lovász, CEO of ICT Europe company group and ICT Lions (the company’s American branch) about the visa application process, its detalis and possibilities.
Lili Takács: How to begin the visa application process?
György Lovász: Fundamentally, on the website of the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) all the information is available, most of them only in English, but some of them can be found in Hungarian as well. The difficulty is not finding the types of visas, since there are plenty of them. The primary ones are the immigrant and the non-immigrant visas. The difficulty is rather finding the adequate visa for yourself. It's a complex question, because on the one hand you have an idea of what you want to achieve, where you want to go, what kind of life you want to live, whether you want to move and work in the US or start a business. Firstly, the individual's living conditions are the basic criteria, and then there is the question of what visas can be matched to that.
It is not impossible to navigate through the visas, but there is a very wide range of conditions that you need to be aware of.
The procedure itself varies from visa to visa. To be able to navigate through the business visas, it is important to have an advisor in the US, who is preferably an immigration lawyer. They can give you advise on which visa is the best one for your situation. This is usually done by looking at what the individual's intentions are and what their status is (EU citizen, refugee status, do they have a business, do they have special talents, are they famous?) There are a lot of little details that an immigration lawyer asks, but the applicant might not necessarily think of. There is an example, when someone was not born in Hungary, but say in Transylvania and has both Romanian and Hungarian citizenship. Even though they think of themselves as Hungarian, and start the visa application process, but face many barriers because the accessibility is quite different for a Romanian citizen than for a Hungarian.
So the first thing to do is to have a lawyer to guide you through the process of finding out which visas fit your conditions.
L.T.: The way I see, very detailed information is needed about someone's intentions. We have the lawyer, we have chosen the right visa. What are the next steps?
Gy.L.: Once we know which visas are right for us, how long it might take to obtain them, how much they cost and what type of work is required, we also need to be aware of the fact that we need to gather and submit very different documentation for each visa.
When someone wants to apply for a visa, it is not just filling in a form, but also gathering supporting documents and information.
For instance, in case of talent visas, when someone is an outstanding athlete, they need to show achievements, prizes they won and appearances in the media. You need to estimate how much time is available to collect these documents, and according to this, what is the optimal choice. It is a game of many variations, despite the fact that there are so to say few (not hundreds) of visas to choose from.
L.T.: What are the most important visa regulations?
Gy.L.: The United States have permanent immigration laws, which are administered by three main organisations; the USCIS is the most important of these. They have all the information (what types of visas are available, how to get them, where to apply, how to handle them). You can read about the regulations and changes on their website. By the way, the law on immigration itself has not changed significantly in the recent years. In the last three years the biggest changes that have affected the law have been the restrictions regarding COVID, there was a ban on immigration. Essentially, in the last 2 years only in very specific cases was anyone allowed to travel to the United States. These restrictions were not regulated by law either, they were regulated by presidential executive order, so the immigration law has not undergone any significant reform in the last few decades. There are minor changes, but they are more about the processes, and how the decisions are made.
L.T.: What are the biggest obstacles that can occur during the application period?
Gy.L.: This obviously depends on the type of visa.
In my opinion, one of the biggest difficulty in general is that you have to put together quite a large amount of paperwork. Moreover, it takes considerably long to get everything sorted out.
Also, COVID restricts a lot of things, for instance it's not easy to get into the embassy, which is why it's difficult to schedule the interviews. I think the other big barrier is, once someone has figured out that they have some kind of long-term plan in the United States, it takes a very long time for the review to happen. Furthermore, uncertainty is a major obstacle, because they might refuse the entire visa application.
L.T.: So if I understand correctly, there is a separate business visa?
Gy.L.: Yes, absolutely.
Fundamentally, there are two categories of visas; immigrant and non-immigrant visas. These are for different time periods and grant different rights.
Within the non-immigrant visas there are also many categories, each giving you different options. There are visas for visitors or tourists, business visas, temporary worker visas, investor or merchant visas and also study and diplomat visas. So there are many categories within the business sector as well.
Immigrant visas are another category, within which for instance, there is family immigration, where somebody's relatives immigrate, or where somebody chooses a US citizen as a spouse. There are also visas for workers and people participating in various special programs. There is a very wide range of things, that an entrepreneur can think about when they want to start a business in the United States. It is also important to determine how a business wants to start operating in the US.
For establishing a company, one does not need any specific business visa, it is possible to start a company with a simple visitor visa. The bigger question is what kind of activity the company is doing, or what form of participation the owner himself has in the company.
L.T.: In what areas can ICT Lions help with visa applications?
Gy.L.: What we do is a kind of pre-screening or informing, giving the clients our own experience of how a visa application is done, what the costs are, what the timeframe is, what you can expect from a particular visa.
Our services that might be helpful for you:
We don't provide legal services, because that's done by a law firm, called Jackson Lewis, who we are partners with, they provide the legal services. We prepare the client for this whole process and support them, so that they have an understanding of which visas may suit them. This makes it easier to plan the visa application process and they can make better use of the time they spend with the lawyer.