Entrepreneur Visa: 5 Visas for Starting a Business in the United States

Entrepreneur Visa

 

The United States has multiple visa categories for entrepreneurs to start and operate a business in the US. In this guide, I’ll discuss 5 of these visa categories. If you have any questions, or if you need help with your entrepreneur visa, email me directly at Michael@AshooriLaw.com. I’m an immigration lawyer for entrepreneurs and I’d be happy to help you.

 

Entrepreneur Visa #1: E2 Visa

 

The E2 visa is a great option for entrepreneurs. The basic concept of the E2 visa is that it allows you to invest money into a US business and run the business. This visa category is only available to people from certain countries. Your country of citizenship must have an E2 treaty with the United States. This visa can also allow for your spouse and children to get US immigration benefits. Your spouse can get work authorization and your children can attend US schools.

 

The E2 visa is a non-immigrant visa, so it does not lead to a green card. However, there are ways to convert an E2 visa to green card later on, if you wish to do so. There is no limit to the number of times you can renew your E2 visa, as long as it continues to satisfy the E2 visa requirements.

 

E2 Visa Requirements

 

  • You must be a national of a country that has an E2 treaty with the United States.
  • You must make a substantial investment in a US company (we typically recommend at least $100,000 or more).
  • The E2 company must be an active, for-profit business.
  • You must direct and develop the E2 company.
  • Your investment must be at-risk and irrevocably committed to the E2 company (this means that the investment funds should actually be spent and shouldn’t just sit in the business bank account).
  • Your investment funds must have been lawfully obtained.
  • You must have the intent to depart the US once your E2 status ends.

 

Entrepreneur Visa #2: EB-5 Visa

 

Another great option for entrepreneurs is the EB-5 visa. The EB-5 visa is similar to the E2 visa, with a few key differences. The basic concept of the EB-5 visa is that it allows you to get a green card to the US for yourself, your spouse, and your children under 21 years old, based on making an investment in a US company and creating jobs in the US.

 

Unlike the E2 visa, the EB-5 visa is an immigrant visa, so it leads to a green card. The EB-5 visa requires a higher minimum investment than the E2 visa. The minimum required for EB-5 is currently $500,000. The EB-5 visa also requires that your investment lead to the creation of 10 full-time jobs for US workers.

 

EB-5 Visa Requirements

 

  • You must invest at least $500,000 in a new commercial enterprise
  • Your investment must be put at-risk. This means that the investment funds cannot just sit in your business bank account. They must be spent or committed in some fashion.
  • Your investment funds must have been obtained lawfully
  • Your investment must lead to the creation of 10 full-time jobs for US workers
  • You must engage in the management of the business.

 

Entrepreneur Visa #3: L1 Visa

 

The L1 visa is a non-immigrant visa. The basic concept of the L1 visa is that it allows a foreign company to transfer a manager or an executive to an affiliated US company. The US company must have a qualifying relationship with the foreign company (such as a parent/subsidiary relationship, branch office, or affiliate relationship). For entrepreneurs looking to start a business in the US, the L1 visa allows the foreign company to transfer a manager or executive to the US to work for a new office.

 

L1 Visa Requirements

 

  • There must be a qualifying relationship between the foreign company and the US company (parent/subsidiary, branch office, affiliate)
  • The beneficiary must have worked for the foreign company full-time for at least 1 year, continuously, within the 3 years prior to applying for the L1 visa
  • The beneficiary must have worked for the foreign company as a manager, executive, or specialized knowledge worker
  • The beneficiary must be coming to the US to work as a manager, executive, or specialized knowledge worker for the US company

 

Entrepreneur Visa #4: EB1C Visa

 

As an entrepreneur, you may also wish to consider the EB1C visa. The EB1C visa is an immigrant visa. It is basically the immigrant version of the L1 visa (it qualifies for a green card).

 

The basic concept of the EB1C visa is that is allows a foreign company to transfer a manager or executive to the US to work for an affiliated US company. The EB1C visa has an additional requirement that the L1 visa does not have: the US company must be operational for at least 1 full year prior to filing the EB1C immigrant petition. Another difference between the L1 visa and the EB1C visa is that the EB1C visa does not allow for the beneficiary to work as a specialized knowledge worker. The beneficiary’s work for the foreign company and the US company must be as a manager or executive.

 

EB1C Visa Requirements

 

  • There must be a qualifying relationship between the foreign company and the US company (parent/subsidiary, branch office, affiliate)
  • The beneficiary must have worked for the foreign company for at least 1 year, continuously, full-time, within the 3 years prior to applying for the EB1C visa
  • The beneficiary’s employment for the foreign company must have been as either a manager or executive
  • The beneficiary’s employment for the US company must be as a manager or executive
  • The US company must be operational for at least 1 year, prior to filing the EB1C petition.

 

Entrepreneur Visa #5: International Entrepreneur Rule

 

The International Entrepreneur Rule is a way for international entrepreneurs to temporarily live and work in the United States. The International Entrepreneur Rule is not a visa, it is a period of authorized stay granted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Through this rule, DHS may use its parole authority to grant a period of authorized stay up to 30 months, with the potential to renew for an additional 30 months.

 

To qualify for the International Entrepreneur Rule, the beneficiary must show that their stay in the United States would provide a significant public benefit through the potential for rapid business growth and job creation.

 

International Entrepreneur Rule Requirements

 

  • Beneficiary must have substantial ownership of a startup company formed within the last 5 years in the US
  • The company must have substantial potential for rapid growth and job creation
  • Beneficiary must have a central and active role in the startup company
  • Beneficiary must show that his/her stay in the US will provide significant public benefit to the US based on his/her role as an entrepreneur of the startup. They can prove this by showing: 1) receipt of significant capital investment from qualified investors; 2) receipt of significant awards or grants by federal, state, or local government entities; or 3) the startup partially satisfies either or both 1 and 2 above, plus additional reliable and compelling evidence of the startup’s potential for rapid growth and job creation.

 

Conclusion

 

As an entrepreneur looking to start a business in the United States, there are many options to consider. Hopefully, you now have a much better understanding of some of the different options that are available. If you have any questions, feel free to email me directly at Michael@AshooriLaw.com. My law firm is focused on helping investors and entrepreneurs with their immigration matters. We would be happy to help you.

 

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