6 Powerful Visa and Green Card Options for Entrepreneurs and Business Professionals
The U.S. immigration system has several visa and green card options for investors, entrepreneurs, and business professionals. In this article, we will discuss some of the more well-known options, as well as some of the options that you might not know 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 about visa and green card options, 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.
Nonimmigrant Visa Options for Entrepreneurs and Business Professionals
1. The E2 Visa
The E2 visa is a nonimmigrant visa for investors and entrepreneurs. Basically, this visa option allows somebody to invest in a United States business. They can either (i) start their own business or (ii) invest in an existing business. Based on making that investment, the person can live in the United States and operate their business. As you can see, this is essentially the perfect visa for an investor or an entrepreneur looking to operate their own business in the U.S.
There are a couple of important points about the E2 visa. First, it is not available to citizens of every country. In order to qualify for an E2 visa, you must have citizenship of a country that has an E2 treaty with the United States. So, you want to make sure that your country falls under that treaty.w
Second, you must own at least 50% of the U.S. business in which you invested – it is important to note that you must make a substantial investment in the business. Now, you might be wondering what is considered “substantial.” While the immigration regulations don't necessarily have a set dollar amount for what's considered “substantial,” we typically recommend that our clients invest at least $100,000 in the business. But, investments for less can also get approved depending on the circumstances.
2. The L1 Visa
The basic idea of an L1 visa is that it allows a foreign company to transfer a certain employee to work for a related U.S. company. For this to work, there has to be a foreign company (a non-U.S. company), and there has to be a related U.S. company. There must be a qualifying relationship between the two companies such as a parent-subsidiary relationship, an affiliate relationship, or one company can be a branch office of the other company.
With the L1 visa, the employee who is being transferred has to have worked for the foreign company as either a manager, an executive, or a specialized knowledge worker for one year within the last three years in continuous full-time employment. The employee being transferred must also be coming to the United States to work as either a manager, an executive, or a specialized knowledge worker.
Something interesting about the L1 visa is that there is a special subcategory of the L1 visa called an L1 New Office. This is for U.S. businesses that have been operational for less than one full year. Through the L1 New Office subcategory, the non-U.S. company can transfer an employee to come work for the U.S. company and basically build up the U.S. company for a 1 year period. It is a wonderful option for entrepreneurs and business professionals because the employee who is being transferred to the U.S. can be an owner of the business. Under the L1 visa, it is okay for the L1 visa beneficiary to also be an owner and an equity holder of both the foreign company and the U.S. company, assuming all the requirements are satisfied.
3. The O1 Visa
The O1 visa is for people who have an extraordinary ability in a particular industry. For example, if somebody has an extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, athletics, or in business, they are eligible for an O1 visa.
What does it mean to have extraordinary ability in business? USCIS uses various criteria, approximately 9 to 10 factors, to determine whether somebody has an extraordinary ability. For example, they will look to see whether they:
- Have critical roles within an organization,
- Have awards accredited to them,
- Command a particularly high salary, and/or
- Have press releases about their work.
The person that is applying for the O1 visa has to demonstrate that they satisfy at least three of these criteria.
For example, if a person is the CFO or the CEO have a very large company, and that person can demonstrate that she has a high salary, that there are press releases about her, and otherwise satisfy three of those requirements, then he or she can potentially qualify for an O1 visa.
Green Card Visa Options for Entrepreneurs and Business Professionals
1. EB1A Green Card
The EB1A classification is very similar to the O1 visa. It is a self-petition green card option for people who have an extraordinary ability in a field such as the arts, sciences, athletics, or business. As with the O1 visa, if a petitioner can satisfy at least three in a list of criteria, then he or she may be eligible for an EB1A green card.
At Ashoori Law, we recently got two of these applications approved for entrepreneurs who were able to successfully get their green cards based on their particular credentials.
2. The EB1C Green Card
The EB1C classification is for multinational managers and executives. It resembles the L1 visa in that it is available to somebody who is transferring from a foreign company to a related U.S. company. As with the L1 visa, there must be two companies – a non-U.S. company and a U.S. company – and those companies must have some type of a qualifying relationship with one another.
Also, the employee who is being transferred from the foreign company to work for the U.S. company must be coming to work as either a manager or an executive, and they must have worked for the foreign company as a manager or executive for at least one year over the last three years to qualify for EB1C. Additionally, the U.S. company must have been operational for at least one full year before the person can apply for EB1C.
The EB1C is a very common path for people to pursue their green card after entering the United States on an L1 visa. So, somebody who initially enters the U.S. on a L1 visa could be petitioned by the U.S. company for a green card through the EB1C classification once the U.S. company has been operational for at least one full year assuming that the requirements for EB1C are met. This green card option is a particularly good option for business professionals and entrepreneurs because the EB1C beneficiary can have equity or ownership in the business that is petitioning for their green card.
3. EB-5 Green Card
The EB-5 green card option is for investors and entrepreneurs that make a major investment in a U.S. company. The basic idea is that the investor invests in the U.S. business and creates jobs for U.S. workers. On the basis of that investment and job creation, the person can potentially qualify for their green card.
Specifically, the person seeking a green card through EB5 must invest $1.8 million (or a reduced amount of $900,000 if the business that they are investing in is located in a targeted employment area, which is an area that is either experiencing high unemployment or is a rural area). The investor’s investment must lead to the creation of 10 full time jobs for U.S. workers.
Under the EB-5 option, an investor can choose to either invest in their own business, they can invest in an existing business if various requirements are met, or they can invest in a regional center project.
Recall that we discussed the E2 visa above. A popular option for investors in the U.S. on an E2 visa is to later apply for their green card through EB5, by basically investing additional money into their business. For example, if an E2 visa holder initially entered the U.S., having invested $100,000, then they can potentially apply for their green card through EB-5 if they invest additional capital in their business to meet the minimum required EB-5 investment amount.
The U.S. immigration system has a number of options to allow entrepreneurs and business professionals to come to the U.S. and enhance the U.S. economy. Those options include the E2, L1, and O1 visas, and the EB1A, EB1C, and EB-5 immigrant classifications.
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 request a free consultation by clicking this link or you may give us a call at +1-818-741-1117.
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Michael Ashoori, Esq.
U.S. Immigration Lawyer
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.