Immigration Options in the Restaurant Industry

Because the restaurant and hospitality industry relies so heavily on immigrants, and because US workers are in short supply, immigration issues arise often. We will review some of the immigration options for the restaurant industry.

Immigration Options for Chefs. 

A chef who has national or international renown may be eligible for the O-1B as an alien of extraordinary ability. Under the O-1B classification, chefs are considered artists. The restaurant would have to define the area of extraordinary ability, for example, as a Pastry Chef, or as a Chef of Japanese cuisine, and prove that the chef has distinction in his or her field. Thus, it is a lower burden of proof than that for the O-1A which requires you to show that the alien is one of a few at the very top of his or her field. So, it is not necessary to be a Yotam Ottolenghi or a Jacques Pepin for an approval as an O-1B. The O-1B is a temporary status, which may be approved for up to three years, and may be extended.

Another option is Chef as an E-2 employee with specialized knowledge or essential skills for a business owned by a majority of E-2 treaty nationals of the same country. The country of citizenship must have a treaty with the U.S. providing for E-2 treaty investor status. For example, if a restaurant is owned by three Canadian citizens, the restaurant may sponsor a chef who is a Canadian citizen to come and work in the US restaurant. As long as the owners are not also lawful permanent residents or U.S. citizens, this will work. It does not matter if the owners are also dual citizens of another, third country. So, for example, if one owner is a dual citizen of both Canada and Albania, the second owner is a Canadian/Italian citizen and the third is a Canadian/Colombian citizen, the restaurant will still qualify for E-2 treaty investor status through the joint Canadian citizenship. The beneficiary employee must also have Canadian citizenship. The E-2 is temporary, may be approved for two years, and is renewable.

Because the options to come in temporary status are limited, the restaurant may also sponsor a chef directly for the green card, even though the beneficiary chef does not currently work for the restaurant and is not in the U.S. Thus, the restaurant may go through the labor certification process, get an approved I-140 and then have the beneficiary come from abroad through immigrant visa processing to work for the restaurant as a chef.

Owner and Manager starting a business in the U.S.

Owners/managers who wish to start a restaurant business in the U.S., if they are from a country with a bilateral trade agreement with the U.S., may also come to the U.S. as an E-2 treaty investor, if they are coming to develop and direct a company which is a restaurant. They must have a five-year business plan and schedule to increase their hiring of U.S. workers.

For a company that has a very large chain of restaurants, a manager who has worked outside of the U.S. for at least one year for the company, and who is transferred to the U.S. to start a new business/restaurant or manage an existing business/restaurant, it may be possible to obtain an L-1A as a managerial or executive transferee. If it is to open a new business, the L-1A will be approved for only one year. An L-1A for an already existing business may be approved for up to three years, and is renewable for a total of seven years.

Culinary Interns or Trainees

The restaurant may also be able to obtain J-1 Culinary Trainees or Interns for 12 to 18 months. The J-1 intern will be able to work for no more than one year, and must be enrolled in a university or post-secondary program outside the U.S., or have graduated within the past 12 months. Thus, these are young people between the ages of 18 and 25 who are fresh out of school. The J-1 trainee would be able to work for up to one year and a half, and must already have a post-secondary degree outside the U.S., and at least one year of experience in his or her field. This is a good way to temporarily employ enthusiastic young people with a degree in culinary arts or in hotel or restaurant administration. The restaurant/employer would not be the actual sponsor, there are particular J-1 agencies or organizations which are the actual “sponsor”, and the J-1 trainee or intern is placed with a particular employer. The J-1 is not available for unskilled positions.

Hotel Manager TN

A TN as a Hotel Manager, Food and Beverage Dept, may also be possible if a restaurant is an integral part of a hotel, and the candidate is a Canadian or Mexican citizen and has a baccalaureate or licenciatura degree in Hotel or Restaurant Management or Administration, or a Post-Secondary diploma or certificate in Hotel/Restaurant Management and three years experience in Hotel/Restaurant Management.

Temporary or seasonal workers

Restaurants may also be able to obtain temporary or seasonal workers on the H-2B, for positions that are truly seasonal or temporary. For example, many restaurants and hotels have a certain season where they make the most money and have the most customers. During their peak season, they desperately need many additional hands, waiters and so forth. However, after a few months and the season ends, there is no longer work available and these employees are laid off.

Employers have to first file a labor certification showing they could not find U.S. workers qualified, willing and able to perform the job at the prevailing wage for that particular occupation in that geographic location. The employer would have to run a two-day print ad, including one Sunday, in a newspaper of general circulation. Once the labor certification is approved, the employer would then be able to file an H-2B petition with USCIS. These cases are problematic because of the shortage of visa numbers, and also due to timing and processing constraints, as the windows to get a prevailing wage, then advertise, then get the approved labor certification from Dept of Labor and then file with USCIS before the visa numbers run out and in time before the season starts.

It may make sense to apply directly for the green card 

           If a restaurant has an ongoing problem obtaining qualified, competent and reliable workers, it may make more sense to go through the labor certification process and apply directly for the green card. Because of the short-term nature of the above temporary statuses, and because of increased time and effort in the visa process, a restaurant may do better to investing its time and effort in bringing future employees to the U.S. as permanent residents.

Most cases would involve obtaining a prevailing wage determination from the US Dept of Labor, then advertising the job, running at least two Sunday print advertisements in a newspaper of general circulation, placing a 30-day job posting with the state dept of labor, and a notice in the work place for at least two weeks. Professional positions requiring a bachelor’s degree would require at least three additional forms of recruitment. The restaurant would have to interview any candidates who appeared as if they might be qualified for the job, and have job-related reasons for rejecting any U.S. workers. After all recruitment is performed, the restaurant then files the PERM labor certification with U.S. Dept of Labor.

Once the restaurant receives an approved PERM labor certification, the restaurant may file an I-140 for an immigrant preference visa. Once the I-140 is approved, the beneficiary may go for immigrant visa processing and come to the U.S. as a permanent resident. Or, if the beneficiary is already here in the U.S. in legal status, he or she may apply for adjustment to permanent residency.

Copyright 2020 © Heidi J Meyers, all rights reserved

Waivers for permanent residents in removal or deportation if they were not eligible for their green card

Permanent residents in removal or deportation may be eligible for waivers, re-adjustment or other relief from removal, such as asylum, even if they were not eligible for their green card at the time they received it. Residents may also have a statute of limitations argument if ICE waits more than five years to place them in removal proceedings

Green card holders who have lived in the US for many years may be shocked to suddenly find themselves in removal proceedings, facing deportation, because they were not technically eligible for permanent residency at the time they entered. At the time they became a resident, they did not meet one of the requirements for their green card. If ICE has waited more than five years to initiate removal proceedings, they may argue that the statute of limitations pursuant to 8 USC 1256(a) has passed. Or, they may be eligible for a waiver under INA 237(a)(1)(H), which waives fraud at the time of becoming a resident, or under INA 212(k), if the inadmissibility was not known to, and could not have reasonably been discovered before the time of departure. Additionally, they may be eligible to re-adjust to permanent residency. Thus, even if you were not technically eligible to become a permanent resident, you still may be eligible for relief from removal and be able to stay in the US with your green card.

Let us take as an example, Analisa from Calabria Italy. Analisa’s permanent resident father petitions for his daughter as an adult unmarried child. They receive an approval on the I-130 relative petition. Because she is an adult, she must remain unmarried throughout the entire process to receive her green card. If she marries, her relative petition will be automatically revoked because there is no family preference category for married children of permanent residents. Any married child of a permanent resident is simply not eligible for the green card.

Her dear dad prepares the immigrant visa application forms and documents. He does it himself from the U.S., with minimal input from his daughter. Dad likes to be in charge. Since she had minimal involvement in the whole immigration application process, she was never informed that if she married, she would not be eligible for her green card.

She goes to the interview at the US Consulate and is issued an immigrant visa. Shortly before she comes to the U.S., she marries her childhood love, Giovanni, but does not tell her parents or family right away.

At the time she enters the U.S., she becomes a lawful permanent resident. She then petitions for her husband Giovanni, and he comes to the US also as a resident. They have two beautiful US citizen children. Seven years go by.

She applies for naturalization, and is fingerprinted. USCIS reviews her file, and refers her case to ICE.

Suddenly, Analisa is placed in removal proceedings for not having been in possession of a valid immigrant visa at the time she entered the US. The Notice to Appear in immigration court charges her with violating the Immigration and Nationality Act, INA Section 237(a)(1)(A), as being inadmissible at the time of entry or of adjustment of status or violates status: “Inadmissible aliens – Any alien who at the time of entry or adjustment of status was within one or more of the classes of aliens inadmissible by the law existing at such time is deportable”. ICE also may or may not charge her with fraud.

First, did US ICE wait too long to put her into removal proceedings? Whether she has an argument that the statute of limitations has passed depends upon the jurisdiction in which she is living. If she resides within the Third Circuit, yes, her attorney can make a motion to terminate based upon ICE initiating proceedings after the statute of limitations.

According to the INA, 8 USC 1256(a), ICE would have had to initiate removal proceedings within five years of the date of Analisa’s becoming a permanent resident, based on her lack of eligibility at the time she was granted residency. Because it was seven years between the date she became a resident and the date ICE issued the Notice to Appear, the statute of limitations has passed and the Immigration Judge should terminate removal proceedings. However, this will work in the Third Circuit but not in other jurisdictions. So, if she resides in New York, most likely she will not win on a statute of limitations argument.

However, she would be eligible for a 212(k) waiver, if she can prove she really did not know she had to remain unmarried throughout the process, and that it would not have been reasonable for her to know. The other option is a waiver under 237(a)(1)(H) which waives fraud at the time of becoming a permanent resident, as long as the individual is the spouse, parent, son or daughter of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. She may also be eligible for re-adjustment to permanent residency.

Thus, if you were actually not eligible for your green card at the time you received it, you still may be eligible for relief from removal and be able to remain permanently in the U.S. Of course, you will need a competent attorney to represent you in immigration court and for presentation of the waivers and any other applications you may be eligible for.

Copyright 2020 © Heidi J Meyers, all rights reserved.

H-1B Registration Process for Spring 2020

Employers who wish to file cap-subject H-1B petitions for this fiscal year, must first comply with the registration process, which runs from March 1st to March 20th 2020. The employer must first create an account through, prior to March 1st.

The purpose of the registration period is to allow employers to file basic information about the Company and basic biographic data about each proposed beneficiary, and then to have USCIS run the lottery and select which registrants will receive H-1B visa numbers.

Once a registrant is selected and receives a visa number, the employer will then be able to file an H-1B petition on his or her behalf.

In order to register a potential beneficiary, the employer simply has to provide: 1) the employer’s legal business name; 2) any dbas (doing business as) trade names; 3) FEIN (federal employer identfication number; 4) primary U.S. office address; 5) name, title and contact information of the responsable employee or executive who will be signing the papers.

Only very basic information about the beneficiary will be required: 1) complete name; 2) gender; 3) does the beneficiary hold a master’s or higher degree from a U.S. institution, and eligible for the advanced degree exemption?; 4) country of birth and country of citizenship; 5) Passport number.

No information about the job offer is required, so no need to submit any job titles or job descriptions. The employer also does not need any certified LCA (Labor Condition Application) prior to registering. Registrations may be edited prior to the end of the registration period, if there are any typographical errors or changes to make.

When the registration is submitted online, the authorized signatory is certifying under penalty of perjury that all the information is true and correct. The employer has to pay a $10 registration fee for each potential beneficiary (registrant).

However, even though no certified LCA is required to register, it may be a good idea to get your LCAs certified prior, as once a registrant is selected to receive a visa number, the employer will then need to be ready to file an H-1B petition, which of course requires a pre-certified LCA.

Attorneys may submit registrations on behalf of employers. Attorneys also need to créate their own account with

If a registrant, meaning a beneficiary, is selected through the lottery, the employer should be able to file an H-1B petition on April 1st or the first business day after. USCIS has stated that it intends to notify employers no later than March 31st 2020 if their registrant has been selected. However, if an employer is unable to file the H-1B petition during the first week in April, it is not a tragedy, as the USCIS rule provides that USCIS will set a 90-day window to file the actual H-1B petitions, once the registrants who will receive H-1B visa numbers are selected.

Copyright 2020 © Heidi J Meyers, all rights reserved.