Law Offices of Chris M. Ingram

    EB1 – Success Story – Samantha

     Today we are celebrating the successful green card application of Samantha. Samantha is a top British fashion designer now working in New York. We are so delighted for her and I am very happy to share this truly inspirational story with our readers.

    To actually relocate to the US can be quite a challenging experience for anyone. US Immigration has made it very difficult for US employers to bring the talent they need from overseas and for individual aliens too. The Law Offices of Chris M. Ingram is known for its tenacity, determination and has established an enviable, proven track record of success.

    We can only succeed as a law firm if our clients succeed in getting their visas and green cards. We celebrate our successes because they matter to us. Every success is another American Dream that now has the potential to be realized. All of our stories are true.  We cannot always share our client’s last name because of the companies they currently work for or for reasons where our client’s confidentiality needs to be protected. I hope you will be as inspired by Samantha’s story as much as we enjoyed working her case.

    Samantha contacted us just over a year ago as the result of a recommendation from one of our other clients. Samantha actually came from Northampton, England; ‘The Rose of the Shires’, where I was born. I was particularly thrilled to have someone from my home town contact my practice here in California, USA.  I even knew the street where she lived quite well.  It’s funny because here I am from Northampton now practicing US Immigration law in Los Angeles, California and here’s Samantha also from Northampton working as a top fashion designer in New York. This truly is the American Dream at work!

    When I talked with Samantha during her free telephone consultation it quickly became apparent that she was living in the US on a temporary work visa called the H1B.  Samantha was four years into her H1B term and this visa has a maximum life span of six years, so time was beginning to run out for her. Samantha needed urgent help if she was going to avoid having to return to the UK.

    The H1B visa is essentially a temporary work visa for BA graduates, and has been made available to US employers so that they can recruit overseas talent. These visas are very attractive because US employers are not required to first offer the job to US citizens. However, the US employer is required to pay the alien the local prevailing wage.  In fact, I got my start with a US law firm through the H1B program. The H1B became a highly popular visa and was almost taken for granted by employers and employees alike until very recently.

    As the popularity of the H1B visa grew Congress passed legislation that from 1998 – 2004 the annual quota for the H1B visa would be increased from 65,000 to 195,000. The legislation had a ‘sunset clause’ meaning that Congress would have to vote on the increased quota in 2004, if Congress failed to pass a vote the quota would automatically return to 65,000. After 9/11 in 2001 all the momentum in the expansion and development of US Immigration vanished and the H1B quota was allowed to return back to its original level.

    By 2004 the demand for the H1B exceeded 65,000 per year so that when the quota was reduced the time it took to exhaust the quota got shorter each year. The H1B quota is released April 1st. The following April, (2005), the H1B quota was exhausted within four months of release and after that (2006) the quota was exhausted in six weeks. Then in April 2007 the quota was exhausted three times over on the very first day of release.  In 2008, the quota was exhausted in 5 days, mostly because many potential applicants decided that the H1B had turned more into a lottery and than a serious visa option. Demand had completely outstripped supply and many companies, even today, are suffering because they cannot hire the talent they need to remain internationally competitive.

    Samantha had become increasingly concerned because there did not appear to be any long term future for her in the US unless an alternative visa could be found. Also, while she remained on the H1B visa, Samantha would be vulnerable to the catastrophic risk of losing her job and having to return to the UK: a double whammy.

    The green card is the only permanent immigration solution for an alien. Green cards are therefore highly coveted. Many people are able to get a green card if they marry an American, or if they have American parents or siblings. However, if you have no family connections, like most people who want to relocate to the US,  they have to seek eligibility for a green card through employment. There are three primary employment based green card categories an alien may qualify for; EB3, EB2 and EB1.

    The EB3 green cards are for those people who could be considered as skilled professionals, having completed at least two years of formal training. This would include RN nurses, apprentice served artisans e.g. carpenters and electrical engineers. The EB3 category also includes university Bachelor of Arts and Sciences graduates. The EB3 therefore, has a much wider catchment of skills than the H1B. Moreover, because there is a 40,000 per year quota on the availability of the EB3 these applications can get backed up in the system for years, which is of course another major draw back for both the employer and the employee.

    Another major factor with the EB3 (and EB2), unlike the H1B, is the requirement that the employer must first advertise the job locally and submit substantial evidence to verify the same.  The advertising and verification process of a job vacancy is called Labor Certification. Remember, the H1B employer is only required to prove that they will be paying the prevailing wage. This prevailing wage verification process is called a Labor Condition (certificate).

    Samantha and I could have considered going for the EB3 visa to secure her green card, but with the challenges of Labor Certification (which requires a very supportive employer) and the number of years it could take to process the application we had to consider other possibilities.

    The EB2 green card is only available to senior level academic professionals with at least a Masters degree or an Advance degree such as a PHD. Although, despite very high academic requirements, during most years this quota is not exhausted (like the EB3 there are 40,000 EB2 green cards available each year). With no backlog, these applications can be processed relatively quickly i.e., 12 months or so. The EB2 green card still has two main challenges: Labor Certification and Labor Condition (paying the prevailing wage). Samantha did not have an advanced degree so this option had to be ruled out.

    The EB1 green card is at a higher level still and is reserved for those aliens who can clearly demonstrate that they are at the very pinnacle of their profession. These people do not even need a sponsor, they can sponsor themselves. The challenge for anyone considering this EB1 classification is proving to US Immigration official that the alien has established themselves as being “an alien of extraordinary ability or achievement in the arts, sciences, education, business or sports.” I knew that the only way I could help Samantha would be if I could convince US Immigration that Samantha was indeed at the very top of her specialty within the fashion design industry: ‘specialty’ being the operative word.

     When I first asked Samantha what she had done in her career to date she was so modest that this option, at first, seemed improbable. However, I was persistent in peeling back the layers from her career history to discover that she had worked for some of the biggest names in fashion as a knitwear designer, (‘the specialty’), such as Ann Taylor, Hickey Freeman, Ralph Lauren and Bobby Jones, to name but a few. Wherever she had worked she had risen up the ladder to a senior position and had excelled. Many department heads and peers were willing to come forward and write testimonials on her behalf confirming the respect she had established amongst her peers. By the time we’d finished exploring her career history I was beginning to develop some confidence that we had the potential makings of an EB1 application. Samantha’s case was far from clear cut and I’m pretty sure that many lawyers would have considered passing on the EB1 as a viable option.

    I have to say that when looking at any potential EB1 candidate it is very much a matter of judgment, persuasion and luck. Persuasion is the most important factor here because a person can be very talented but they are simply not determined enough to gather sufficient evidence to make a persuasive case. The attorney can only work with the evidence presented. US Immigration’s position is that ‘the alien does not qualify for anything unless they can produce sufficient and significant documentation to demonstrate that they do’. US Immigration does not approve visas lightly, let alone a green card. There are many talented individuals who work behind the scenes who are not regarded as high-profile figures and whose job title might not lend itself to receiving an immediate impression of ‘extraordinary ability or achievement’. However, when they present all of their glowing testimonials that describe the influential work that they do and the many projects they have worked on, it can make all the difference in the world; it’s in the power of persuasion. Samantha had designed many knitwear garments that had regularly appeared in magazines and she had the detailed documentation to prove it.

    Our ideal EB1 client is someone who is definitely talented: an alien of ‘extraordinary ability or achievement’. This is the primary EB1 qualification, but moreover the ideal EB1 client is someone who is prepared to do the hard work; to ask their peers, former associates and employers to write persuasive testimonials that will detail their leadership and other qualities in the profession. In addition to any professional testimonials, the client will have to track down and get copies of any and all certifications, memberships and awards that they may have picked up during their career.

    The only people who are pretty much exempt from this heavy duty workload are those clients who have won a major national or international industry award such as an Oscar, BAFTA, Grammy, Tony or such like.

    As I mentioned earlier, many immigration attorneys may not have given Samantha the time of day because she definitely was not in a glamorous category, per se, (knitwear), to make winning an EB1 clear cut or an obvious choice. In my opinion,  who said any visa application had to be easy and clear cut? It certainly was not easy for me to work my way from Northampton, England to become a qualified Attorney at Law, with my own practice and legal team in Los Angeles. It certainly was not easy for Samantha to work her way up the fashion industry ladder to become a highly successful designer in New York, but if anything is worth having you have to be prepared to work very hard to do what it takes to make it happen; to be persuasive, and US immigration is no different. We enjoy a lot of success as a law firm because we work our clients and ourselves very hard to leave nothing (or as little as possible) to chance. What ever Immigration requires we’ll go above and beyond to give them more. By working diligently with Samantha we were able to ‘re-profile’ her from an unassuming H1B graduate into an EB1 fashion luminary. Everything in her application pack was 100% true, documented and verified.  Samantha had never before been asked to document her entire career in such detail and surprised herself at what she had accomplished in her career to date. Samantha was a ‘diamond in the rough’, if you will, and there are many of them out there. You could be one of them.

    After an exhausting process and a wait of 12 months and 21 days wondering if we’d made it, we finally got the news from US Immigration that our EB1 case was approved. Needless to say our office erupted with cheers, high fives and much back-slapping! Our next pleasure was to call Samantha with the great news. When I called I got her answering service but she called me back later that day from Hong Kong, where she had to make a quick fashion stop. Samantha was stunned. She had been successful where others had failed and she knew it. All of her hard work had paid off. This was a great day in our office and a turning point in Samantha’s future.

    Now that the EB1 application has been approved,  getting the plastic green card itself is a mere formality. We have to file some additional paperwork to have the card issued, but that’s like waiting for your driving license card to arrive after you’ve passed your driving test. Samantha has certainly passed her EB1 test.

    Sharing this story with you gives me a chance to relive the highs of this case and hopefully to inspire you towards your American Dream.  We’d love to work with you so please give us a call or submit our short questionnaire. We’d be delighted to hear from you!

    By Chris M. Ingram, LL.M., ESQ.
    Attorney at Law

    Immigration Law Offices of Chris M. Ingram

    US Immigration Law Offices of Chris M. Ingram
    Chris M. Ingram LL.M., ESQ – Immigration Attorney
    Admitted in New York.
    Practice Specializing in US Immigration Law
    520 Broadway, Suite 350,
    Santa Monica,
    California 90401
    Tel: 310 496 4292

    Everyday the Law Offices of Chris M. Ingram provides a comprehensive range of US Immigration expertise. We also provide a free consultation for our prospective clients.

    Book Your Free Telephone Consultation Today!