Moving or opening a business in the USA involves several steps and considerations. The first step is to determine your visa eligibility. Common visas for business owners include the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa and the L-1 Intracompany Transferee Visa.
Start your research by consulting an immigration attorney to explore the most suitable option. There are three main work visas available, some more accessible than others.
A lawyer can help you through obtaining a visa, but it’s essential to have a basic understanding of your options.
The H1B is the standard professional visa, but only 65,000 are issued annually. Applicants must have at least a bachelor’s degree. Applications may only be submitted from April 1 of the year, and if approved, you may only begin work in October of that year.
Entrepreneurs may have some difficulty obtaining this type of visa, as it is really designed for established companies looking to hire foreign talent. If your start-up has no customers, funding, or revenue, this may be a problem when applying.
Another issue is that you cannot control the company, as this will appear to be self-petitioning. As such, you must state that your board or investors hired you.
If approved, the H1B visa is initially valid for three years. It can be renewed for a maximum of six years.
Please note: This visa is for specialty occupations that require a higher education degree or its equivalent. It is commonly used for professionals in fields such as science, engineering, and information technology.
An E2 visa may be issued to nationals of treaty countries to develop and manage a business they have a vested interest in. To qualify, the applicant must have invested or plans to invest a substantial amount of capital in the U.S.
The amount of money needed to invest will depend on the type of business, but it does need to be a substantial amount (tens of thousands of dollars).
The benefits of an E2 are that they can be renewed indefinitely, and spouses are also eligible for the work visa.
The L1 visa, which allows intra-company transfers, is to bring employees with key knowledge to the United States.
“The L work visa category allows multinational companies to transfer overseas employees to the United States,” says The Shapiro Law Group, a firm specializing in immigration law. “These employees may be transferred to the United States on an L work visa if the employee has been employed outside of the United States by the U.S. employer’s subsidiary, parent company, or corporate affiliate.”
To qualify, the applicant must have been employed by the company outside of the United States in an executive or management capacity for at least one year within the last three years. The applicant must also transfer to a managerial position upon relocating to the U.S.
An L1 visa may be challenging for an entrepreneur to obtain, as it is designed primarily for established companies. Renewal may also be complicated if the company fails to expand within the first year of operation.
Other Considerations to operate your business in the USA include the following:
Before you choose a legal structure, understand the legal and regulatory requirements for your specific industry and business in the USA.
Then, choose a legal structure for your business (e.g., LLC, corporation). Your business structure will affect taxes, liability, and other factors.
Registering Your Business
After you have your visa, register your business with the appropriate state authorities. Requirements vary by state, so check the specific regulations for the state where you plan to operate.
Accounting, Finance, Insurance
Open a business bank account in the USA. Establish a relationship with a local bank to facilitate financial transactions. Know your tax obligations.
Obtain the necessary business insurance to protect your assets and mitigate risks.
Ensure your business complies with all local, state, and federal regulations. This includes licensing, permits, and industry-specific requirements.
Additional Types of USA Work Visa
If starting or moving a business to the USA doesn’t work out, or you’re just keen to work there first and see if you like it, you can consider the following types of work visas.
The U.S. has specialized work visas for workers in Chile, Singapore, and Australia. Additionally, the O1 visa may be obtained by those who can demonstrate extraordinary ability in at least three of the categories they consider.
While an entrepreneur can obtain any of these work visas, the E2 is the closest thing to a “start-up” visa that you’ll find in the United States.
There are several subcategories of O visas (O-1, O-2, and O-3), which are for individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement in their field, including arts, sciences, education, business, or athletics.
This visa is for citizens of Canada and Mexico and is based on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). It is available for certain professionals, such as engineers, scientists, and computer programmers.
E-1 and E-2 Visas
These are for treaty traders (E-1) and treaty investors (E-2) from countries with which the United States maintains treaties of commerce and navigation.
While primarily designed for exchange visitors, the J-1 visa includes categories for individuals participating in work-and-study-based exchange visitor programs.
This is for temporary agricultural workers.
This is for temporary non-agricultural workers.
This is for trainees coming to the U.S. for on-the-job training unavailable in their home country.
F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT)
International students on an F-1 visa may be eligible for OPT, allowing them to work in their field of study for up to 12 months (or 24 months for STEM graduates) after graduation.
It’s important to note that the eligibility criteria, application processes, and duration of stay vary for each visa category. Additionally, changes to immigration policies may have occurred since my last update, so it’s crucial to consult official sources for the latest information.