Many international entrepreneurs are looking to create or expand their business into the U.S. market, and there are different Visa options available to them. This article reviews four very popular Visas that are available for Entrepreneurs, Investors & Business Owners and some of the advantages and disadvantages of each. The following is a summary of some key aspects for every visa.
E-2 Investor Visa
An E-2 Visa is a Visa option for business owners that wish to start a company in the United States that they want to develop and direct the operations of. Although a person could live indefinitely in the U.S. with an E-2 Visa, it is a non-immigrant Visa which means that it does not lead to a green card. In order to qualify for this Visa, you must either start a business or buy a business that you plan to run and the investment amount really depends on the type of business you start. For example, if you start a consulting firm, the amount of investment can be as low as $50,000. If you start a manufacturing plant, the required investment amount would be much higher. In addition to the unlimited duration of the E-2 Visa (as long as you continue to run the business) and the potentially small investment amount, this Visa has the additional advantage of allowing an Investor’s spouse and children to join them in the U.S. and the spouse can get authorization to work in any field.
EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa
An EB-5 Visa is a great visa option if you have a large amount of capital and is often referred to as the million dollar Green Card. The key advantage of this Visa is that you and your immediate family get green cards, but the down side is that the Visa requires a substantial investment (could be $1,000,000), EB-5 law is a very complex legal area (so expensive), and the Visa petition requires extensive documentation.
There are 5 main criteria to get an EB-5 Visa and they are as follows:
- You must invest or be actively in the process of investing either $1,000,000 in a city settings, or US $500,000 in rural settings;
- You must show that the funds come from a legitimate source
- The entire amount of the investment must be active or at risk (this means that you cannot just be thinking about buying a business and you have to put capital up that could be lost)
- You must make the investment in a “new” or “existing business enterprise” (this allows you to create your own business or buy one); and
- You must demonstrate that the investment directly or indirectly results in the creation or preservation of ten full time jobs.
The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that permits a company to hire workers in specialty occupations. This visa category requires that the beneficiary (the foreign worker) have a Bachelor’s degree, and the Petitioner (the U.S. company) can employ the worker for up to six years. In the case of a Business Owner, Investor or Entrepreneur, the petitioner and the beneficiary are often the same person but a business owner can use this Visa to sponsor his employees also. An H-1B Visa can be a tricky visa for a Business Owner if the owner is also the beneficiary as there are strict laws that govern whether or not a person who has an ownership interest in a company can sponsor themselves for an H-1B Visa. While difficult, it is not impossible and can be done with the help of a qualified immigration specialist.
The L-Visa allows a company to transfer an executive or manager from one of its affiliated foreign offices to one of its offices in the United States. This classification also enables a foreign company which does not yet have an affiliated U.S. office to send an executive or manager to the United States with the purpose of establishing one. As such, this visa can be used by foreign entrepreneurs, investors, & business owners who want to move either themselves or their employees to the U.S..
To qualify for L-1 classification, the employer must:
- Have a qualifying relationship with a foreign company; and
- Currently be, or will be, doing business as an employer in the U.S. and in at least one other country directly for the duration of the beneficiary’s stay in the United States as an L-1.
For more information on any of the VISA options mentioned above, consult a qualified immigration specialist.