US Immigration: What visa
does a Prince get?
8 April 2021
The US immigration system offers a number of visa categories for tourism, work and investment purposes. In this week’s instalment of our series on US immigration, we examine a real life case study by looking at which visa options would theoretically be available to a very unique type of British citizen relocating to the United States.
Megxit has adorned the tabloids for what feels like years now and although the media will raise questions about control, free-will and the monarchy in general, what we really want to know is: what visa does a Prince get?
Visitor or Tourist visa options
The Electronic System for Travel Authorization or ESTA as it is more commonly known is valid for visits to the USA, totalling no more than 90 days. The UK is a qualifying country for ESTAs but with Prince Harry and Meghan having spent over a year in the USA already, this is not a feasible option.
A step up from the ESTA is a B-2 visa. Most commonly used for tourist purposes, it is however only valid for six months, unless under rare occasions an extension is sought, but again this would not take us beyond the 12 months Prince Harry requires. There is also the issue of Harry’s work, whether it be with his charitable foundations or his recent appointment as Chief Impact Officer at BetterUp. Neither the B-2 nor the ESTA would allow for such employment in the USA, thus making them both non-starters.
Employment visa options
Harry did not move to the US with regular employment already in place as far as we know, and thus the most common work categories of H1-B and L-1 can be ruled out too. However we may want to examine the O-1 visa. Reserved for those who are extraordinary, Harry may well qualify. His extraordinary status aside, he is heavily involved with huge projects such as the Invictus Games and it would not be implausible to qualify for such a visa.
However, the O-1 carries a non-immigration classification, meaning it does not lead towards permanent status in the USA. It is unclear whether the Prince is seeking this, but if so, this would not be the category of choice. The O visa category would also be somewhat restrictive in terms of what Harry may do in the US – restricting him to the profession for which his visa was granted.
Furthermore, an O-1, although valid for three years initially, requires annual renewals. A visa renewal is painful at the best of times, let alone every 12 months, when you are (normally) needing to travel frequently.
So we turn to the EB category. There are several options here that may be afforded to Harry, starting with the EB-5 Investor Programme. Investments from 1,800,000 USD are required alongside the preservation or creation of US jobs. Alternatively, the EB-1 for those with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics through sustained national or international acclaim might appeal. Not unlike the O-1, Prince Harry is likely to qualify given his activity with the Invictus Games amongst other endeavours.
Importantly, both the EB routes described above are US Immigration Routes affording permanent status in the USA.
Spouse visa options
Finally, possibly the easiest route for Harry is to rely upon his spouse’s status in the USA and for Meghan to act as his sponsor for a green card.
Form I-130 for Meghan and Form I-485 for Harry would lead to him obtaining this permanent status if so granted. It is of course a long application processing time though, with some taking over two years. However if he currently holds an existing immigration permission in the US, he has the time to wait it out.
Support with US immigration
If you have any US immigration queries including which visa category is right for you, please contact the SSW global immigration team. We are able to provide full support with the visa application process and also post–arrival assistance.
With the help of our global network, we are well equipped to navigate international law and assist with the processing of your visa, whilst ensuring that local immigration rules are met thereafter.