3 Immigration Options for Startup Companies and Entrepreneurs

3 Immigration Options for Startup Companies and Entrepreneurs

There are three wonderful immigration options for startup companies.  Perhaps you're somebody who is looking to run a startup company in the United States and you want to know some immigration options for which you may potentially qualify.  Well, read on.  That is what this article is about. 


We are Ashoori Law, led by Michael Ashoori, a U.S. immigration lawyer based in Los Angeles, California.  At our law firm we work with clients from all over the world, and we regularly post articles and videos to make sure that you are up to date with the latest immigration news.  If, after reading this article, you have more questions, then we invite you to contact us at Ashoori Law.  Feel free to call us at +1-818-741-1117 or you may schedule a free consultation by clicking this link.


So, if you have a good idea for a startup company in the United States and you want to better understand your immigration options, there are three great options available to you:


  1. The E2 Investor Visa
  2. The L1 Visa
  3. The International Entrepreneur Parole Program


Let us consider each one below.


The E2 Investor Visa


The E2 visa is a non-immigrant visa for investors and entrepreneurs.  Through the E2 visa, someone can get a visa to live in the U.S. and operate their business based on making a substantial investment in their business.  So, this is a perfect option for startup companies because it allows somebody to invest in their business, and based on making that investment, they can live in the U.S. and operate their business.


There are some requirements, as you would expect, to obtain the E2 visa: 


  • The first requirement is that you must have citizenship to a country that has an E2 treaty with the U.S.  Thus, not every country may allow you to be eligible for an E2 visa.  There are some notable countries that do not have this treaty.  Accordingly, you want to make sure that you have citizenship to a country that has an E2 treaty with the U.S.


  • The second requirement is that you must make a substantial investment in your business. There is no set dollar amount that is considered substantial.  At our law firm, we recommend investments of at least $100,000, but investments for less than that can get approved.


  • The third requirement is that you must have the intent to depart the U.S. once your E2 status ends.  


  • The fourth requirement is that your business must be an active, for-profit business. You can't just invest in the stock market to qualify for an E2 visa.  Your business must be an active business, like a restaurant, a cell phone repair shop, or some other type of active business.


  • The fifth requirement is that your business cannot be a marginal enterprise.  That means that the business cannot just be some type of a small business that benefits only you, and just provides enough income for you.


  • The sixth requirement is that you must be coming to the U.S. to direct and develop your business, and your investment funds must come from a lawful source.  Your investment funds can't come from illegal activity, like money laundering.  The funds must be traced to some sort of a lawful source.


  • The final requirement is that your funds must be at risk.  What this means is that you can't just deposit money into your business’s bank account and expect to get your E2 visa approved.  You actually have to put those investment funds at risk.  For example, funds at risk can be shown by purchasing supplies, purchasing equipment, and making the necessary purchases for your business.


The L1 Visa


The L1 visa, also called the L1 intracompany transferee visa, allows a foreign company to transfer a manager, executive, or specialized knowledge worker to work for a related U.S. company.  In essence, the L1 visa allows a foreign company to transfer a foreign worker to establish a new office in the US, even if it is a brand-new business. 


As with the E2 visa, there are some requirements for the L1 visa: 


  • The first requirement is that there must be some sort of a qualifying relationship between the foreign company and the U.S. company.  These can't be two totally separate companies. There must be some sort of a relationship between the two companies.  For example, the U.S. company can be a branch office of the foreign company, the companies can be parent-subsidiary of one another, or the companies can be affiliates of one another.  In short, there must be some sort of a qualifying relationship.


  • The second requirement is that the employee that is coming to work in the U.S. must have been continuously employed by the foreign company full-time for at least one year within the last three years prior to filing the L1 petition.  Notably, there's a few different things going on here. There must have been full-time employment with the foreign employer; that employment must have lasted for at least one year full-time within the last three years prior to filing the L1 petition; and that employment must have been continuous.


  • The third requirement is that the employment with the foreign company must have been as a manager, executive, or specialized knowledge worker.  The employee cannot just have worked in any role.  


·  The fourth requirement is that the prospective employment with the U.S. company must also be as either a manager, executive, or specialized knowledge worker.

3 Immigration Options for Startup Companies and Entrepreneurs
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The International Entrepreneur Parole Program


The international entrepreneur parole program is a special rule that allows the Department of Homeland Security to use its parole authority to grant a period of authorized stay to foreign entrepreneurs on a case-by-case basis who demonstrate that their status in the U.S. would provide a significant public benefit. Through the international entrepreneur parole program, an entrepreneur who satisfies the requirements can come to the U.S. and be eligible to work for their startup business in the U.S.  Let us go through some of the requirements to qualify for the international entrepreneur parole program.


The first requirement is that the entrepreneur must own at least 10% of the business.  That means that you cannot just be an employee, but rather a 10% or more owner of the business. 


The second requirement is the entrepreneur must have an active role in the operations of the business. You cannot just be a passive investor.


The third requirement is that the startup company must have been formed within the last five years.  In other words, it must actually be a startup company.  If the company was formed 20 years ago, it is not eligible for this program.


The fourth requirement is that the startup must have substantial and demonstrated potential for rapid business growth and job creation.  One way to satisfy that requirement is to show significant investment, at least $264,147 from qualified U.S. investors with an established track record. Another way is to show significant awards or grants, at least $105,659, from federal, state, or local government agencies.  Finally, if you partially meet either or both of the previous requirements and can show other reliable and compelling evidence (such as being admitted to a competitive startup accelerator) then you can show growth and job creation. 




As you can see, there are three very helpful immigration options for those who want to start a business in the U.S.  My name is Michael Ashoori and I'm a U.S. immigration lawyer and the founder of Ashoori Law. As an immigration lawyer, I help families, professionals, investors, and entrepreneurs get visas, green cards, and citizenship to the United States.  If you have any questions, feel free to schedule a free consultation by clicking this link.

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Michael Ashoori Headshot

Michael Ashoori, Esq.

President of Ashoori Law

I’m a U.S. immigration lawyer and I help families, professionals, investors, and entrepreneurs get visas, green cards, and citizenship to the United States.

Since starting my law firm, I’ve helped hundreds of people from all over the world with their immigration needs. I’m very passionate, hard-working, and committed to my clients.

Got a question? Send me an email.