All countries place limits on the ability of non-nationals to enter, live, and work in the country, and impose penalties on those who do not comply with those limits. When an individual wants to travel to another country – whether it’s for a business trip, to take an overseas work assignment, to study or to live permanently – he or she will confront the immigration laws of the country of destination. It is the job of the immigration attorney to help individuals, their families, and their employers navigate the complex array of rules, applications, and government procedures that dictate the immigration process.
Immigration law is divided into two basic tracks: Family-based immigration is the process by which an individual is sponsored for permanent residence in a foreign country by a spouse, parent, or other qualifying family member. Business immigration is the process by which individual can obtain temporary or permanent residence in a foreign country on the basis of employment, self-employment, or investment.
Immigration practice isn’t limited to the entry of foreign nationals to the United States. Rather, a full-service immigration firm will have expertise in many jurisdictions. One of the most important facets of the practice is the ability to assist multinational organizations with the mobility of their global workforce – whether it’s to help a German executive obtain permission to visit China for a critical business meeting, or to assist when a United Kingdom company wants to hire a leading United States scientist to lead its R&D efforts.
The guidance of an immigration lawyer is particularly critical in the employment context. Most countries place stringent restrictions on the ability of non-citizens to work, in order to protect their native workforce. In many cases, a company that wants to hire a foreign national must get authorization from both immigration and labor authorities – a complex process that requires the sure hand of a lawyer experienced in practicing before all the relevant government agencies.
The work of the immigration attorney doesn’t stop when visas and other government authorizations are obtained. Once an individual enters a foreign country, there may be important compliance responsibilities facing him or her, family members and employers, from registration with local police, tax, or social insurance authorities to reporting obligations before government agencies. Failing to comply with these responsibilities can mean fines, penalties, and restrictions on an individual’s future travel or an employer’s ability to sponsor additional foreign nationals. The advice of an immigration lawyer is critical throughout an individual’s overseas stay.
In our global economy, the ability to move across international borders has never been more important to professionals and their employers – and the role of immigration lawyers has never been more important to global mobility.