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English Couple Misses Visa Renewal Deadline, Told To Leave U.S.

A couple from England began visiting Florida for their vacation around 20 years ago. They enjoyed the state immensely and decided as they approached retirement to move to Florida on a more permanent basis. The couple bought a home in Holiday and began looking to purchase a business.

The couple applied for and received an E-2 investor visa, which requires renewal every two years. They made a $150,000 investment to purchase a Hair salon and went into business in Florida. In 2008, the time came to renew their business visa. They sent in the necessary paperwork to an accountant in order to have the accountant organize the materials for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service.

The wife was called away to help a sick relative out of the country. One day before the due date for the business visa renewal, the wife was able to sign the necessary paperwork in the renewal package. The business visa renewal package was not received in the immigration office in California that was to process the visa until five days after the due date.

Immigration officials notified the couple about two weeks later that their business visa was denied for missing the deadline. An appeal of the denial was also denied. The couple was given six months to leave the country, or be subject to a ban on returning to the United States in the future.

The retired couple still owns the home in Holiday and continues to pay the mortgage. They currently rent an apartment in England. They hope to return to the United States and have written letters to immigration officials, the embassy in London and a Florida congressman. They have not received word on whether they will be able to return to the U.S.

The immigration system can be a difficult and unforgiving system, even for honest mistakes in the application process. Sharon Scheidhauer, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of homeland Security says that the agency does make some exceptions for late-filing in extreme cases, such as the applicant becoming incapacitated.

Immigration officials say that roughly 86 percent of E-2 visa requests are approved. Between October 2007 and May 2010, the U.S. processed 8,468 E-2 visa requests. E-2 visas are available to nationals of countries that maintain a commerce treaty with the U.S. An applicant must make a substantial investment in a bona fide business in this country, generally an investment of $100,000 or more.

Additionally, the applicant must seek U.S. residency to work on the business and show that the business is at least marginally viable. A marginally viable business can generate enough income for a marginal living, as determined by the discretion of an immigration officer.

An experienced Florida business immigration attorney can provide answers to questions regarding a variety of business visas, including E-2 visas in the U.S.

Source; The Tampa Tribune, "Visa papers late, business owners banished to England," Lindsay Peterson 7 Jan 2011

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