2003 August 4

The stress of uncertainty

Friday afternoon I went to talk to an immigration lawyer about my visa case, and got an unwelcome opinion. The E-2 investor class is supposed to cover both cases where someone is buying an existing business and cases where someone is starting up a new business (which is what I'm doing); I knew this already. But apparently I'm still supposed to present evidence that I've got a 'real and operating business' even if it's a start-up, and I'm going to have trouble doing that. The kinds of evidence the INS looks for are things like leases on office space, receipts for purchase of inventory, or contracts with suppliers, none of which I have yet. And because the first thing I need to do is spend four months or so with my head down writing code, I don't really expect to have any of those things before December at least. The lawyer said he hadn't actually seen a case quite like mine before.

So I've spent the weekend in a completely stressed-out state, trying to assimilate what to do about this: what would I do if my visa application is turned down? I phoned Anna, rented a movie with Matt and Brandi Saturday night, and went to the Mapparium with Michael and Nomi and Matt, kind of to distract myself in the process.

I don't even know how seriously to take the lawyer's worries -- it's his business to be conservative, after all, and not take chances with uncertain cases. A client would be pretty angry, after all, if he paid $2000 to have the lawyer write an application that got denied. And if he hasn't had a case like this, he can only guess at how it would be decided. How much benefit of the doubt will the INS give me these days, anyway, on a case where one of their six tests is weak? It's a judgement call on the part of the treaty officer. On the plus side I'm a nice friendly Canadian; and on the minus, I suspect they're still in total paranoia mode following Sept 11th (I guess people will keep calling it that, even though it's almost two years ago now).

My options seem to include:

  • (a) Send in my application now, and let them adjudicate on whether I have sufficient evidence of a real and operating enterprise. Then either I get approved, or they tell me why I'm denied and I reapply once I can supply sufficient evidence.
  • (b) Do all beta testing in Halifax this fall and wait until December to apply for the visa. This is like (a), except it assumes an early application would be denied and avoids having that on my record -- but it's not clear whether that's actually anything that would be held against me. That is, is it a black mark to have been denied a visa, or is that just part of doing business?
  • (c) Say the hell with it all, and just move to Toronto and try my business there. (Toronto, because I think Halifax is really too small to try to start in.) Eventually I could expand into the States, but it probably wouldn't be soon.
Option (c) has at various points this weekend seemed terribly tempting, just because it would cut through the painful uncertainty about just what city I should be planning to live in in October. It is intensely frustrating that my first major headache of this business has nothing actually to do with the business. The question is how far I can afford to bend my plans to suit the INS before it starts really hurting my chances of succeeding.

The US Consulate in Toronto's web site, where the application will be adjudicated, says expressly they won't answer questions about hypothetical cases, so I can't just ask them what evidence they'd accept.


The kinds of evidence the INS looks for are things like leases on office space, receipts for purchase of inventory, or contracts with suppliers, none of which I have yet.

Just some random brainstorming here--I think you posted about getting computer equipment. Would this business expense count for anything? If you're running it out of your home, would rental agreements for your apartment count? Would it be possible to hire some friends and acquaintances (for minimal cash, of course) for research and polling purposes, and keep receipts/invoices from those interactions?

I hope things work out, both from a friend point of view and my own selfish one. :)

Posted by: Amy on August 5, 2003 10:42 AM

Thanks! At the least, I'm pleased to be included in your selfish point of view. Is good to have friends.

As for the rest of it, it's pretty much a guess whether it would help. I expect the INS would look at the dollar amounts of those contracts and say, these are not serious, and discount them. And the point, as I understand it, of the "real, operating enterprise" requirement is to satisfy them that you aren't just faking it to get a visa, so I don't imagine an apartment lease would get me anywhere at all. But there are things like contracts with graphic designers I could probably get up front, that might be for enough money to look significant.

My best other idea at the moment is to include the URL of my development site with the application. With luck, by the time they get around to evaluating the case, I'll have enough there to satisfy them I'm serious.

Posted by: colin roald on August 5, 2003 11:07 AM
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