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Start visa process 6-8 months before doing business in US - experts say

WASHINGTON, June 21 (KUNA) -- Foreigners intending to do business in the United States should start the visa process at a local consulate 6-8 months ahead of their move, a panel of experts told prospective investors at the SelectUSA summit Tuesday.
Karin King of the Office of Visa Services at the Department of State said the government understands the need to be "efficient" in issuing visas to foster economic growth in the country, but with border security considerations, submitting paperwork early is the most cost-effective strategy for companies.
Last year, 85 percent of all visa applications for business were approved, she said.
Working with a "local concierge" in the target region of the business is also crucial, the CEO of Invest Buffalo Niagara in upstate New York, Thomas Kucharski, advised.
He cited an example involving an unnamed Egyptian company that purchased property in his area, ordered "expensive equipment," but did not seek consultation on the best timing for visa applications. The building now stands vacant save for the "shrink-wrapped" equipment, he said, because the company was unable to fly in the staff to run its operations.
"Government only works as well as the data it has," Kapil Sharma, who runs the multinational tech company Wipro out of India, told the crowd. "The onus is on you" to seeks answers from consular affairs officials, and find the appropriate visa program for your needs as an entrepreneur, he said.
Wipro has operated in the US for more than 20 years, and has a presence in 40 states, he noted. Part of that success is also knowing when not to depend on visas for foreign staff, Sharma said.
"We spend a lot of money training a local workforce" and directly creating jobs for Americans, he said.
Popular visas such as the H-1B for international job-seekers have a cap of 61,000, but the government receives upwards of 250,000 applications each year, Nicholas Colucci of US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said. H-1B applies to workers from countries other than Canada, Mexico, and Australia, all of whom have special, fast-track categories based on treaties signed with the US. The cap currently applies to sponsorships from private, for-profit institutions.
For individuals looking to invest in a US enterprise, the EB-5 visa for immigrant investors can ultimately grant them and their family a permanent residency, otherwise known as a Green Card, if they can prove their investment has directly resulted in the creation of 10 full-time direct, indirect, or induced (created by downstream spending) jobs for American workers, Colucci explained.
The EB-5 has a cap of 10,000 people, including the immediate family members of investors, he said.
All individuals are vetted, their source of funds is examined, and their comprehensive business plans are reviewed based on their submission of an "economically valid model" containing "verifiable detail," Colucci said.
For foreign companies that are less than a year old, the L-1 visa allows for 12 months of access to the US market, Immigration Attorney Glenn Cooper said.
"Even in the case of a startup the company (should be) ready to launch" when USCIS assesses the application, in order to show it intends to expand in the US in the limited time it is afforded.
SelectUSA, President Barack Obamaآ’s initiative to lure foreign direct investment (FDI) to the US, concludes its 2016 summit on Tuesday. (end) ys.bs