Starting a Business in the USA and Working for that Business

Starting a Business in the USA and Working for that Business

As an immigration lawyer for investors and entrepreneurs, I work with foreign investors looking to start businesses in the USA. One of the questions I get asked all the time is: Can I start a business in the USA and work for that business?

 

The short answer is: Yes, you can start a business in the USA. But, if you want to work for that business, you will need to have work authorization.

 

In this guide, I will discuss work authorization and I’ll go over 4 ways to start and operate a business in the US. The first two ways involve setting-up a business without working for the business, and can be done without work authorization. The second two ways involve using visa categories that allow you to run a business in the US.

Overview:

 

1. Introduction to work authorization:

 

  • What is considered work?

 

  • What are the consequences of unauthorized employment?

 

  • How to get work authorization

 

2. Two Ways to Own a Business in the USA Without Work Authorization

 

  • Start a business and partner with someone authorized to work in the US

 

  • Start a business and delegate all operations to a manager

 

3. Two Ways to Operate a Business in the USA With Work Authorization

 

  • E2 investor visa

 

  • EB-5 investor visa

 

4. Conclusion

1. Introduction to Work Authorization

 

US immigration law requires foreign nationals to have work authorization in order to “work” in the United States.

 

Unfortunately, the US immigration regulations do not clearly define what activities are considered “work.”

What is Considered Work?

 

According to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS): employment is considered “any service or labor performed in the United States by an individual, other than an independent contractor, for wages or other remuneration.”

 

Employment is also defined as the act of being employed for one’s self.

 

Also, all types of employment taken without proper authority are considered unauthorized employment.

 

Although the immigration regulations are not as specific as we would like them to be, two things are clear:

 

1. You can set-up a company in the USA without work authorization. This means you can:

 

  • Set-up the business: form the corporation, LLC, etc.

 

  • Open the bank account for the business

 

  • Etc.

 

2. You need work authorization to run your business. Running your business includes:

 

  • Actively managing your business

 

  • Being employed by your business

 

  • Providing services for your business

 

  • Working for your business

 

  • Etc…

What are the Consequences of Unauthorized Employment?

 

There are many serious consequences of working in the USA without the appropriate work authorization. These consequences include:

 

  • You can be found to be in violation of your visa status

 

  • Your visa can be voided

 

  • You can be subject to removal proceedings (deportation)

 

  • You can be barred from re-entry to the US depending on the situation

 

For these reasons, if you are planning to work in the US, it is  very important to make sure that you are doing so with work authorization.

How to Get Work Authorization

 

There are three different ways to get work authorization to the USA. We will discuss these ways below.

 

To enter the United States as a foreign national, you typically need a visa. Depending on the visa that you enter the United States with, you will be classified under a particular “status:”

 

Here are some examples of different types of status:

 

  • Visitor for business/pleasure (B1/B2)

 

  • Individual with extraordinary ability (O1)

 

  • Non-immigrant investor (E2)

 

Of these many types of status, about 60 qualify for work authorization.

 

  • In order to get work authorization, you will have to fall within one of these classifications.

 

 

  • Keep in mind: Visitors are generally not permitted to work in the United States.

 

The classifications of work authorization can be broken down into 3 basic categories:

 

  • Authorization to work incident to immigration status

 

  • Authorization to work for a specific employer incident to immigration status

 

  • Must apply for work authorization

Authorization to work incident to immigration status

 

If you are in this group:

 

  • You do not have to apply for work authorization

 

  • You are automatically authorized to work based on your status

 

  • Lawful permanent residents (green card holders) fall under this category

Authorization to work for a specific employer incident to immigration status

 

If you are in this group:

 

  • You do not have to apply for work authorization

 

  • You are automatically authorized to work based on your status

 

  • You are limited to working for a particular employer

 

  • E2 investors fall under this category

Must apply for work authorization

 

If you are in this group:

 

  • You do have to apply for work authorization

 

  • You are not automatically authorized to work based on your status

 

  • To get work authorization, you will have to apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) by filing a Form I-765

 

  • Spouses of E2 non-immigrants and spouses of L1 non-immigrants fall under this category

 

If you have any questions about whether your status qualifies for work authorization, please contact me directly at Michael@AshooriLaw.com. I’d be happy to discuss your particular situation with you in more detail.

 

Now that we’ve covered the basic concepts of work authorization, lets discuss two ways to own a business in the US without work authorization.

2. Two Ways to Own a Business in the USA Without Work Authorization

i. Start a business and partner with someone authorized to work in the US

 

As I mentioned earlier, you are permitted to set-up a company in the US without work authorization.

 

Keep in mind, that setting up a business is very limited to certain tasks such as:

 

  • Setting up the company (corporation, LLC, etc.)

 

  • Opening a business bank account

 

Without work authorization, you are not permitted to actively engage in running the business.

 

So, one way to own a business in the USA without work authorization it to partner with someone authorized to work in the United States.

 

Examples of people authorized to work in the US:

 

  • United States Citizens

 

  • Lawful Permanent Residents

 

  • Non-immigrants authorized to work in the USA

 

Here’s how it works:

 

  • By partnering with someone authorized to work in the USA, you can delegate all of the managerial and operational duties to your partner.

 

  • Your role in the business would be very limited and would resemble that of a passive investor.

 

  • You can receive profits from the business but you cannot receive a salary.

 

  • A salary would indicate that you are receiving compensation based on providing services, which is not permitted.

ii. Start a business and delegate all operations to a manager

 

If you do not wish to partner with someone, another option to consider is to hire a manager (who is authorized to work in the USA), and delegate all operational responsibilities to the manager.

 

  • In this scenario, your role in the business would be very limited as well and would resemble that of a passive investor.

 

  • After setting-up the business and hiring a manager, you should have no involvement in the operations or the management of the business.

 

  • Your manager should interview and hire staff as needed, and perform all other operations and managerial functions.

 

  • You can receive profits from the business but you cannot receive a salary.

 

After going through the above two options, you may be thinking to yourself that these restrictions would be too limiting. In the next section we will discuss 2 visa categories that would actually allow you to start a business in the US and work for that business.

3. Two Ways to Operate a Business in the USA With Work Authorization

 

Now that we’ve discussed how to own a business in the USA without work authorization, lets go over two ways to start a business in the USA and actually operate your business.

i. E2 Investor Visa

 

The E2 visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows investors and entrepreneur to live in the US and operate a US business.

 

Benefits of the E2 visa:

 

  • Allows you, your spouse, and your unmarried children under 21 years old to live in the US.

 

  • With an E2 visa, you have work authorization to work for your business.

 

  • The E2 visa can be renewed over and over as long as your US business continues to meet the E2 visa requirements.

 

  • Your spouse can apply for work authorization to work in the US.

 

There are 8 main requirements to get an E2 visa:

 

1. You must be from a country with an E2 treaty with the US.

 

2. You must have the intent to leave the United States once your E2 status ends.

 

3. You must invest a “substantial” amount in a US business.

 

4. Your US business must be a “bona-fide” enterprise.

 

5. Your business cannot be a “marginal enterprise.”

 

6. You must be coming to the United States to “direct and develop” your US business.

 

7. Your investment funds must have been obtained lawfully.

 

8. Your investment must be “at-risk” and irrevocably committed to the US E2 business.

ii. EB-5 Investor Visa

 

Other than the E2 visa, another option to consider is the EB-5 visa. The EB-5 visa is an immigrant visa for investors and entrepreneurs. With an EB-5 visa, you can live in the USA and work for your business in the USA.

 

Benefits of the EB-5 visa:

 

  • Qualifies you, your spouse, and unmarried children under 21 years old for a green card.

 

  • Gives you, your spouse, and children work authorization.

 

  • You can operate your business in the US.

 

There are 6 main requirements to get an EB-5 visa:

 

1. Invest in a New Commercial Enterprise. You can:

  • Start a new business

 

  • Invest in an existing business

 

  • Purchase an existing business

 

 

2. Invest a minimum of $1 million (or $500,000 in some cases).

 

3. Create 10 full-time jobs for US workers.

 

4. You investment funds must have been obtained lawfully.

 

5. Your investment funds must be “at-risk.”

 

6. You must engage in the management of the US business.

4. Conclusion

 

As a foreign national, you must have work authorization in order to work in the USA.

 

If you want to start a business in the US, there are two things you should be aware of:

 

1. You can set-up a company without work authorization. This means you can:

 

  • Form the business: (Set-up the corporation, LLC, etc.)

 

  • Open the bank account for the business

 

  • Etc.

 

2. You need work authorization to run your business. This includes:

 

  • Actively managing your business

 

  • Being employed by your business

 

  • Providing services for your business

 

  • Working for your business

 

Working in the US without work authorization can have very serious consequences including deportation. So if you plan to work in the US, make sure to do so with the appropriate work authorization.

 

If you are interested in starting a business in the USA without working for the business, there are two options you may want to consider:

 

  • Start a business and partner with someone authorized to work in the US

 

  • Start a business and delegate all operations to a manager

 

If you want to start a business in the USA and work for the business, the following two visas are great options to consider:

 

  • E2 visa

 

  • EB-5 visa

 

In addition to what I’ve discussed in this article, there are many other options to consider. If you would like to discuss these options in more detail, feel free to email me directly at Michael@AshooriLaw.com.

 

Ashoori Law is a full-service immigration law firm focused on helping investors and entrepreneurs get visas to the United States.

 

Got a question? EMAIL ME

 

Resources:

 

 

 

 

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18:45 12 Oct 20
I give an excellent 5 star review to Michael Ashoori law firm and his team especially Lahaina Araneta for their excellent service for E-2 approval. The whole team is very professional and detail oriented and they provide response very promptly.... Along with being compassionate towards their clients, they provide amazing legal advice on immigration matters which helps clients get approval in quickest time possible. Hats off and highly recommend to others !!read more
Life Mizrahi
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We had a very difficult situation with our legal immigration status and thanks to Michael and his Wonderful team they were able to fix everything within a reasonable amount of time and for a decent price.We highly recommend this team of attorneys... for all of your Immigration needs and beyond.read more
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20:49 26 Sep 20
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23:46 13 Sep 20
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11:57 02 Sep 20
Started working with Michael Ashoori firm around march this year during the pandemic, but despite these difficult times they guided me step by step and they were always there when ever i had a question or clarification.Lahaina was great, very... professional immigration attorney and of very help through out all the process.She guided me all the way till i got my L1 visa approved.They have this portal system while they post in details every single document needed to ensure the success of the petition. I just had to collect all these documents, upload them on the portal and then they take it from there, they prepared everything and filled up the petition. Their job doesn’t stop here since most of the petitions gets an RFE from USCIS, so they continue by preparing whats needed and resubmit again till i got the reply that my petition was approved.Over all, Michael and his team are very professional and they really know what they are doing and they stay updated with all the recent laws and regulations going on. Highly recommendedread more
Ahmed Gaber
21:44 03 Aug 20
Good office because he offer free consultation
Vj M
03:58 14 Jul 20
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18:03 07 Jul 20
My experience with Michael is remarkable, he is very professional and has profound knowledge in immigration laws, he made me feel like I was with the right lawyer, so rest assure, if you decide to work with him, you are very likely to be successful... at your case.read more
Allen
18:58 25 Jun 20
Great institutions like Ashoori law firm are made by great people, and there are no finer individuals than those who dedicated themselves to assist clients with different cases like mine. “HONEST & EMPATHETIC” are the words that come to mind when I... think of Lahaina and the rest of her amazing team! Highly professional and experienced immigration attorney who provided excellent service, demonstrating personal attention to all details of your cases. They show compassion by studying clients' stories.They certainly know the immigration process and help you fully prepare for the case and interview. They are always making sure that the whole process goes very smooth. I especially want to thank “Lahaina Araneta” attorney & Michael Ashoori. If you are a really nervous client like me, these people are always super patient and kind with you. If anyone is looking for immigration help, “Ashoori law firm” should be your very first choice for sure because they can really get things done!Working with Lahaina Araneta was absolutely great. She helped me through my entire journey without any hesitations. I always got answers whenever I had questions. I will definitely work with “HER” again on my next journey. She helped me a lot from the beginning of my case (naturalization case). She is attentive to details and very informative. She also quickly responded to my questions about my status. I can't say enough about her. I was completely dazzled by her communication skills and courage in communications with the USCIS office. I am blown away by her integrity and all the hard work she has done on my behalf. I will always be grateful for all of her efforts. Lahaina I just want to thank you for the excellent work you did as my immigration attorney. I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to you for all the cares and concerns you have shown me, and for working tirelessly. if it weren’t for your analytical skills and knowledge, the matter wouldn’t have been settled by now. I knew you have a lot of clients, so your prompt responses and attention to detail really meant a lot to me. Having an experienced attorney like you on my side was a good sign that I was walking into the right path to win the case. Thank you Lahaina for your support during my N-400 application process, and for helping me to get the desired outcome. You don't know how much your passion impacts the lives of others.read more
Sandie Galloway
18:41 10 Jun 20
Lahaina was one of 4 lawyers that I had an Initial consult with. She was the only one who took the time to truly understand my case. She was patient with me and very responsive. The most important thing is she was the only lawyer who believed in me.... She has world class professionalism. We successfully got my visa and I couldn’t have done it without her. Will never use another law firm. Highly recommend. She truly cares about her clients and goes the extra mile.read more
Rw Right
17:39 06 Jun 20
Look no further. There are solid reasons why they get straight 5 stars in this review.They work as a (great) team and everyone is very knowledgeable and reliable. Micheal posts timely insightful topics on Youtube, in addition to answering all of... your personal questions quickly and responsively.read more
Morne Begemann
09:10 03 Jun 20
We recently needed the assistance of a law firm and due to the fact that we had limited time available to submit our application, many of the law firms that we contacted were not able to assist us. We then came in contact with Michael from Ashoori... Law. Not only did they assist us with our application, they also provided us with efficient, professional service. They really went out of their way to make sure that we meet the deadline and provided us with regular updates on the process. What a wonderful and stress free experience! I would definitely recommend Ashoori Law’s services to any potential clients.read more
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00:03 16 May 20
Very helpful expert in immigration he help me out in temporary passporthighly recommended
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02:08 15 May 20
Ashoori and Lahaina are very professional and detail. They responded to my questions with terms that I can understand without any hidden agenda.I wish I hired them when I first applying my E2. They are the lowest in fees and most professional... immigration lawyer that I had encounter. We go through all the process through phone and email without meeting in person and I got my E2 renewal approved.Way better then any immigration lawyer that I had meet in person in NYC.Will definitely stick with them and recommend them to all my friends and family.read more
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19:27 08 May 20
Michael was amazing!! He gave his full support all the way through with my process and he would always update me and guide me when necessary. Extremely satisfied with his work. (real client)
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21:00 05 May 20
Michael and his team were experienced, responsive, knowledgeable, and honest. I would recommend them to my friends.
Vergel Cornelio
02:15 02 May 20
Michael's law firm is compose of professionals who are working more than the sake of their clients. They care on their clients with their situation and help without limitation. They attend to all questions timely and return with immediate solutions... to secure all will be resolved and all worries were eased. I highly recommend and refer this firm to all related US re-entry and immigration concerns.read more
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09:17 01 May 20
Utilizing the services of Ashoori Law has been a pleasure and an outstanding experience. I highly recommend Ashoori Law to anyone who needs immigration assistance. With the help of Ashoori Law my spouse and I were able to get our immigration... documents seamlessly and without no issues. Ashoori Law is very customer oriented and from Day 1 is always available for you if you have any questions or concerns. Going forward, my spouse and I definitely plan to use Ashoori Law for future immigration services.read more
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01:33 29 Apr 20
Michael Ashoori is reliable and responds to inquiries with very short waiting time. His law firm handled my travel document efficiently even if it was within a very narrow window. He has kindly mailed my travel document in the most expeditious way... possible. I will definitely engage his services again if I need this type of legal service.read more
Titi Bern
00:04 25 Apr 20
Michael and his team are great! I had them recommended to me by my community who used them. Starting from an initial consultation, to working on the paperwork, to submitting to USCIS, everything as been smooth without any issue. In addition, they... answered all the question we had - SUPER fast - or whenever we called them they were very responsive.read more
Richard Norton
03:17 24 Apr 20
I recently employed the services of Michael Ashoori and Ashoori Law to help with the lodging of a Re Entry Visa for my wife and myself. I am delighted with the result and the expediency with which Asoori Law handled our application.We now have... approval of our visas and couldn't be happier. One of the stand out aspects of dealing with Ashoori was the fact that I could tel or email Michael at any-time and would always receive a prompt response by return email. This personal connection with the company during the process made me feel I was dealing with a friend and that I could reach out to at any time I had a question, rather than being treated as another client. I can in all confidence recommend Ashoori Law for Immigration matters due to this wonderful experience and the way my application was handled. Sincerely. Richard and Judy Norton.read more
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22:17 23 Apr 20
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17:42 10 Apr 20
I had question about eb1 process and my alternatives to stay along with priority date timelines ie options to move over to another visa type like h1, to continue waiting for green card processing, all of my questions are very well taken by the... immigration consultant ( Karla Samayoa) , she has very strong hold on the processes and options available to candidates, i would certainly recommend her for immigration consulting on l1a visa and eb1 visa and green card application. I give her 5 startsThank youread more
Hansel Gonzalez
13:56 09 Apr 20
I reached out to Ashoori Law in order to obtain my US Re-Entry permit late last year. The whole team was friendly, knowledgeable and prompt to my many questions. Michael himself would answer any questions along the way after submission, which... assured me my case was important and on their radar. Having worked with various immigration lawyers in various countries I’ve worked at (6, so far), I know that is not always the case. I recommend to consider Ashoori Law for your US immigration needs, and I expect to reach out to them whenever I next need services in regards to US immigration.read more
ajay sharma
18:04 08 Apr 20
Michael and his team members are very professional and easy to work with. For my reentry permit application I was running bit tight on time but Michael helped all possible way to make the process smoother and faster.Their process of data... collection, fees etc are very streamlined and transparent.Michale was always approachable and very fast on his responses. He always made sure that I get the latest update immediately if their office heard anything about my case.In short, I highly recommend Michael and his team. You will enjoy working with them.read more
Tiyu Wang
14:27 18 Mar 20
Working with Michael was a pleasure from the beginning to the end. Through the experience of obtaining my re-entry permit, I got to witness first-hand his professionalism, expertise, and attention to detail.Some things that I really... appreciated:-Taking the time to work out the strategy for me, explaining the options I have and the solutions to potential situations that could arise.-Responding quickly and with well-thought out responses, when I emailed him with questions.-Being very meticulous (him as well as his staff) in ensuring the that logistics of my application were executed expediently and carefully.My case was not a big one, yet Michael behaved as if it were a big case. For that he certainly has earned my return business for immigration cases in the future, and I heartily recommend his services to anyone looking for a truly exceptional immigration lawyer.read more
Nello Trops
13:26 12 Mar 20
I have retained Ashoori Law for my immigration needs, I did work with a previous immigration attorney as well this is what I can say. The amount of information Ashoori Law provides to the general public by maintaining newsletters, blogs etc... sold... me, Ashhori Law takes the time to inform the general public and educate the general public who is interested in immigrated to the US that is of great value. After hiring Ashhori Law the process was smooth and clear, the response times are optimal. They are honest and are not just sitting around trying to make a quick buck when there's no hope. They truly advise you properly and are very transparent as well, no hidden fees. They were successful in filling my immigration needs and hands down I can recommend them to all my friends and contacts. Michael and Lahaina are professionals, they respond quickly and inform you quickly of any changes if any. I will definitely use them again in the near future. Thank youread more
emma Daniels
02:18 06 Mar 20
Karla was Very friendly to chat with and helpful
James Corcoran
14:38 05 Mar 20
I posting this for my wife in China VPN not workingI am so impressed by Mr. Michael Ashoori and will not hesitate to recommend him to you as one of the best immigration attorneys!!!For my case, I had an urgent timeline to apply for a re-entry... permit. To make it more complicated, I had multiple international travel plans during the application period. I reached out to quite a few attorneys for assistances. They either turned me down directly due to the time constrain or did not reply at all. On the contrary, Michael assured the feasibility of such an application during the first teleconference. Just as what he told me, all worked out perfectly under his coordination.To me, the following sets Mr. Michael Ashoori and his team apart from most of his peers:1) He is not only knowledge of the immigration laws and regulations but also highly familiar of the immigration authorities’ operation details. This is extremely critical to an urgent case since every step matters.2) He has the right AI system setup to monitor the daily workflows and handle the repetition workloads. Therefore, his team can focus on the key variables and client interactions efficiently.3) His fee is very reasonable and competitive.4) He cares about his clients as a friend. That is precious in a business world.You are in good hands if you pick Mr. Michael Ashoori and his team!read more
Humayun Tariq
08:09 05 Mar 20
I applied for the re- entry permit with Micheal Ashoori. I can say without a doubt, Micheal is the most helpful lawyer I have found there. What I love about Micheal is that he is really accessible to anyone, unlike other lawyers. He is always... available for a consultation call and clears out the queries patiently. He gives the best advice suited to the situation which has really helped me out with my planning.When I decided to apply for my re- entry permit with Micheal, he assisted me throughout the process. I just had to mail him the signed copy of the application and rest was handled by him and his team.Also, his team members, specifically Lahaina Araneta, are a joy to work with. They have been very responsive on e-mail even if it is late at night.Micheal, along with his team members, is very polite and never rushes an answer.I would definitely recommend everyone to work with Micheal if they need legal assistance in delicate matters such as immigration. He is the best you can get out there in terms of being responsible, responsive and accessible.read more
Sriram Akella
06:07 27 Feb 20
Worked with Micheal for applying reentry permits for my wife and myself. He prepared all the paper work and was ready so that we could file the day we landed in US. Very Friendly and answered all my questions with patience.Would definitely... recommend him for any immigration related work.read more
bardia bahrami
00:02 26 Feb 20
He was awesome, everything was straight forward with Michael and his team. I received my re-entry permit 6 weeks after submitting my request .
Tom Tam
17:43 22 Feb 20
This lawyer was awesome and helped my family with our own immigration case! 10/10 would recommend!
Remo Barducci
07:56 14 Feb 20
From the very first call where we were taken through the process right through to completion, all the interaction with Ashoori has been of the highest level . The advice we were given , how we were steered through the whole process and the brilliant... communication was simply faultless . Even though we are based in Australia on the other side of the world , time zones were no issue . Anyone planning on using Ashoori law, we recommend them very highlyread more
Blake McGrath
03:01 14 Feb 20
I needed to apply for an E-3 visa from Australia and Ashoori Law made the process very simple. All the required documents were provided as long as important information regarding the visa process, what was required for interviews and all other... relevant information. They have answered any questions I have had in a timely manner and have made the process and application and confirmation of the visa run very smoothly.Highly recommended.read more
Suresh Arumugham
11:01 13 Feb 20
I had utilized the service from Ashoori Law. Compared to other Law firms where you have to check for updates, Ashoori Law is very professional are very prompt in providing timely updates. They will take care of you until the service is complete.... Completely Satisfied.read more
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Michael Ashoori Headshot

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.