Prewitt Law P.C.: Attorney for Foreign National Entrepreneurs


October 3, 2017

US Business Startup Visa Options

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Unlike some countries, US immigration laws do not provide for entrepreneur or startup visa options. Most foreign-born entrepreneurs who have immigrated into the US and started businesses have used different channels to secure entry, ranging from student visas to family-based visas.

visa optionsUnlike some countries, US immigration laws do not provide for entrepreneur or startup visa options. Most foreign-born entrepreneurs who have immigrated into the US and started businesses have used different channels to secure entry, ranging from student visas to family-based visas.

To keep up with global trends, and attract more foreign entrepreneurs to the US, in 2016 the Obama administration enacted the International Entrepreneur Rule, a regulation that would allow foreign entrepreneurs under certain conditions to come temporarily to the US to start a business. In July 2017, the Trump administration delayed the implementation of the regulation until March 2018.  

There are, however, a few visas options available to foreign investors seeking to establish themselves in the US marketplace.

visa options for students


E Visas

The E visa is a great option for an immigrant entrepreneur who disposes of a relatively low capital expenditure (an investment of $100,000 would be enough in most cases) and seeks to come only temporarily to the US to manage a business he has started, or is in the process of starting.  

The E-1 visa can be used by entrepreneurs from participating countries who seek to come to the US to start a business that would principally involve a substantial trade between the US and his country of citizenship; including, but not limited to, a trade of goods, services, international banking, insurance, transport, tourism, technology and new gathering-activities.  

E-2 visas are also one of a few visa options for foreign entrepreneurs of a Treaty country who have invested, or are in the process of investing, a substantial amount of capital in a business in the US, and who seek to come to the US to develop and manage the business.

However, E Visas (E-1 visas and E-2 visas) are only available to citizens of countries with which the US has a treaty of commerce and navigation, so citizens of countries like China and India, are not eligible for this type of visa.

EB-5 Visas

The EB-5 visa category was created by the US congress to stimulate the US economy by creating jobs via foreign investments in the US.

EB-5 visas are commonly referred to as the “green card visa”. As a reward for investing a substantial amount of capital in the US, foreign investors investing through the EB-5 visa program are eligible for two-year conditional green card that they can convert into a permanent green card under certain conditions.

It is important to note that of all the visa options available to foreign entrepreneurs, EB-5 visas are only available to wealthy foreign investors.

In fact, EB-5 visas can be use by a foreign investor, regardless of his or her country of citizenship, who have the means to invest at least $500,000 in a new business that would create or maintain, directly or indirectly, at least ten full-time positions in the US.

The investor can opt to personally make the investment (and therefore manage the business himself) or invest via a regional center which is an organization designated by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that sponsors capital investment projects for investment by EB-5 investors.

EB-5 visas are great visa options for investors that seek to move permanently to the United States, but are cost prohibitive. Fortunately, US laws provide alternative options to EB-5 visas, with similar end results.

EB-1 Visas

The EB-1 visa may be used by entrepreneurs who possess extraordinary abilities in business (EB-1A Visa) or are executives or managers of a multinational business (EB-1C visa) to come  to the US to further their business aspirations.

This visa option is a great alternative to the EB-5 visas. They combine the EB-5 visa advantage of being available to all foreign entrepreneurs, irrespective of their country of citizenship, and lead to permanent residency in the US without the prohibitive capital investment of EB-5 visas.

To qualify for an EB-1A visa, you must demonstrate an extraordinary ability in business by meeting three to ten predetermined criteria such as: receiving awards for excellence, demonstrating a business-related contribution of major significance to the field, proof that he or she commands a higher remuneration in relation to others in the field, evidence of publication of material about you in a major media or trade publications, etc…

To be eligible for an EB-1C visa, in the 3 years preceding the visa application, you must:

  1. Have been employed for at least one year by a company outside of the US, or an affiliate or subsidiary of that company as a manager or executive;
  2. You seek to enter the US to continue to work for that company, or an affiliate or subsidiary of the company;
  3. The company for which you seek to work for is a US company that has been doing business for at least a year in the options by prewitt law firm

EB-2 National Interest Waiver Visas

A foreign entrepreneur may petition the US government to grant him a national interest waiver, and allow him or her to come to the US because his or her business skill would greatly benefit the nation.

To be granted a national interest waiver, the entrepreneur would have to demonstrate that he or she meets at least three of ten predetermined criteria including: academic records showing a degree relating to the area of exceptional ability, a license to practice the profession, recognition of the achievements by industry peers, etc…

L-1 Visas

A foreign entrepreneur can use an  L1 visa to start their company in the US. Indeed, the L-1A allows a foreign company who does not have an affiliate in the US to temporarily transfer an executive or  manager of his or her company, in order to establish one. The executive foreign entrepreneur must have been employed as such by the company for at least one year in the three years preceding the visa application; his non-US company must have secured an office for the US affiliate; and, within a year of the visa approval, the US affiliate must hire an executive or manager.
Thinking about starting a business in the US? We are happy to meet you in person, via skype, or talk over the phone to go over your options. Give us a call at +1 646 583 1220 or email us at to set up an appointment visa options

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