What Kind of Visa Does Santa Have?

Erick Widman

The holiday season is always a busy time of year for businesses, and airports, malls, and other arms of the travel and retail industries have an increased need for seasonal workers. Many clients come to us asking how to secure visas or expedite work permits to meet this need. This scenario got us thinking … how is one very important foreign seasonal worker—Santa Claus—able to travel and work in the US with his reindeer every year?

B-1 “Temporary Business Visitor”

The easiest way for Santa to visit the US temporarily over the holidays and conduct his business without issue would be to apply for a B1 “Temporary Business Visitor” visa. This visa is designed for individuals who would like to come to the US on a temporary, short-term basis for any of the following reasons:

  • To consult with business associates (elves)
  • To attend a scientific, educational, professional, or business convention or conference (Christmas markets)
  • To settle an estate (Maybe he has some American relatives?)
  • To negotiate a contract (We imagine managing Christmas is a complex and lucrative business.)
  • To participate in short-term training (renew his sleigh license)
  • To transit through the United States (to quickly get to all of the other countries in one night)

Based on the complexity of Santa’s business in the US and around the world, this flexible and versatile visa may be ideal for him.

L-1A / L-1B visa

If Santa’s workshop in the North Pole has a satellite office in the US, they may want to apply to transfer Santa and other workers to the US for the holidays. The L-1 (sleigh visa) authorizes employees to be transferred from one office to another. These employees must work in managerial or executive positions at foreign offices, but we can assume that Santa is his workshop’s CEO, so he should be eligible for this visa.

Since Santa’s reindeer need to accompany him on his business trip, they may qualify for L-1B visas, which are for employees who are not managers or executives, but who work in positions that require specialized knowledge. We’re sure it takes a significant amount of specialized training to become employed as one of Santa’s reindeer.

O-1 “Extraordinary Ability”

If Santa would prefer to have a longer stay in the US, with unlimited extensions, he may want to apply for a HohohO-1 visa. This visa is for individuals who possess extraordinary ability in science, the arts, education, business, or athletics, or who are recognized for work in the film or television industry. We would say Santa checks all of these boxes.

If Santa is planning to apply for an O-1 visa, he may want to include Rudolph on the petition, as he is the most famous reindeer of them all. Since he has literally gone down in history, Rudolph would have no trouble putting together a strong O-1 visa application. Won’t you guide the petition tonight, Rudolph?

EB-2 or National Interest Waiver

If the O-1 doesn’t work out for Santa, he may also consider an EB-2 visa, which is generally for persons with exceptional ability and high-level degrees, but the degree requirements can sometimes be waived with a “National Interest Waiver”. In order to be eligible for this waiver, you must first be a professional holding an advanced degree or its equivalent, or have “exceptional ability” as defined by the regulations. You must then meet a three-prong test and show that: (1) your proposed endeavor has both substantial merit and national importance, (2) you are well positioned to advance the proposed endeavor, and (3) it would be beneficial to the US to waive the job offer requirement. Since Santa is of particularly high national interest, he is likely to be approved for this waiver despite not holding any advanced degrees or certifications. (Do you know anyone uninterested in holiday gifts?)

Green Card Option for Santa

While Santa may be able to lawfully obtain a green card, maintenance of that green card makes it an unlikely option for him. Unless he opens operations in the United States, he currently doesn’t have great ties to this country, as he only visits once a year. Eventually, the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspectors at the port of entry would likely determine that he had abandoned his green card, and it would be much harder to get most of the non-immigrant visas after that point, since he had expressed intent to immigrate previously.

Visa Waiver Program for Santa

Nobody knows for sure whether Santa was born in Germany or the Netherlands, but people believe that he currently lives in the Arctic Circle in the country of Finland. In a 2001 application to the US Department of Transportation for a flight certificate, Santa Claus presented himself as a resident of the North Pole and citizen of the world. But this does not establish whether he has a passport from a VWP country.

If any of these three countries has issued Santa a passport, he could request clearance via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) to enter the United States through the visa waiver program (VWP). If the waiver was granted, he would need to depart the country within 90 days. Also, while on the VWP Santa would not be permitted to accept wages for any work he did in this country. Still, even if Santa has a passport from a qualifying country, it seems likely that he would need a waiver to be able to use the VWP because he travels to every country each year, including those on the US “naughty” list. Per the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015, anyone who has traveled to Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Iran, Sudan, or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011, is barred from using the VWP unless the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) grants a waiver.

Seek Immigration Help with Passage Immigration Law

Overall, Santa likely has several viable options for obtaining a visa to travel to and conduct business in the US. Because each of these visa categories allows for dependents to join the principal applicant, Mrs. Claus has the option to join her husband as he travels here as well.

Regardless what option Santa chooses, he should probably consider applying as soon as possible, since USCIS delays are likely to become even worse over the holidays. (In fact, USCIS is probably on the naughty list this year.)

If you have any questions regarding immigration, please call to schedule an appointment today at (503) 427-8243. Or, you can schedule a consultation here.

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