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Immigration: Success Story: Is It Unauthorized Employment to Run a Business?

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carlchusterman.jpgOne day, a very nervous Chinese man walked into my office.  He had been arrested by the Immigration Service and was now in deportation proceedings before an Immigration Judge.

What was his offense?  Running a business!  Not exactly a crime, yet lawyer after lawyer had advised him that it was illegal to run a business as an F-2 dependent of a student visaholder.

The man had originally come to the U.S. as an L-1A multinational executive, but when his lawyer advised him not to seek an extension because his business was too small; he changed his status to F-2 since his wife was an F-1 student.

He continued to run his business, but one day a jealous competitor wrote an anonymous letter to the Immigration Service.   This resulted in him being arrested.

What he wanted to hear was that he had done nothing wrong since he never paid himself a salary or deprived an American worker of a job.  Fortunately, when I was an INS Trial Attorney (1980-82), one of my cases was decided by the U.S. Court of Appeals which held that running a business did not constitute unauthorized employment.  The case is Bhakta v. INS, 667 F.2d 771 (9 Cir. 1981) and it has never been overruled.

When I told him about this decision, he was overjoyed, and retained our law firm to represent him.  We represented him in Court, cited Bhakta, and the Immigration Judge ruled in his favor.  The government appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), but later, they changed their minds and decided to accept the Judge’s decision.

He was so grateful that he invited me, my wife and some members of our law firm to dinner at a fancy restaurant.  While we were eating dinner, he told me that his business was growing and had many employees.  However, because of what happened to him, he was afraid to return to his country to apply for an F-2 visa.  If he could only get an investor’s visa, he could travel internationally and establish dozens of stores worldwide.

Fortunately, he was a citizen of Taiwan, and the U.S. and Taiwan have a treaty which permits an investor to run a business using a “E-2” treaty investor visa.  We prepared the paperwork, and after only a couple of months, he traveled to Taiwan and returned with an E-2 visa.  His business became very successful.  Later, an employer sponsored his wife (and him) for a green card.  Today, he and his family are U.S. citizens.

Over the years, he has referred dozens of investors to our law firm.  Today, we obtain E-2 visas for persons from dozens of countries on a regular basis.+




Carl Shusterman is the managing attorney of Law Offices of Carl Shusterman based in Los Angeles, CA. He has specialized in immigration law for over 30 years and his six-attorney law firm represents clients in all 50 states. Mr. Shusterman is a 1973 graduate of the UCLA School of Law. He served as an attorney for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) until 1982 when he entered private practice. He is authorized to practice before the Supreme Court of California, the Federal District Court in the Central District of California, the U.S. Court of Appeals in a number of different circuits and the Supreme Court of the United States.

Mr. Shusterman is a former chairman of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), Southern California Chapter and served as a member of AILA's National Board of Governors (1988-97). He has chaired numerous AILA Committees, spoken at dozens of AILA Conferences and has contributed a number of scholarly articles to AILA's publications. Mr. Shusterman is a Certified Specialist in Immigration and Nationality Law, State Bar of California. He has served as a member of the Immigration and Nationality Law Advisory Commission for the State Bar.

He has been named as one of Best Attorneys in America and as a SuperLawyer for many years. He is a frequent writer and lecturer on immigration law. Mr. Shusterman has testified as an expert witness before the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration in Washington, D.C. His website,, receives over 1,000,000 hits each week, and his free, e-mail newsletter has over 60,000 subscribers in more than 150 countries.


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