Thanks to the diverse and powerful economy in the US, there are plenty of opportunities for both immigrants and citizens to do business. Of course, the first step in opening any US-based company is to decide on a base of operations. Both employees and managers of a foreign company that has been operating for more than a year over the previous three years are entitled to apply for an L-1 Visa in the US. Those same high-ranking individuals can transport close family members to the US as well by applying for an L-2 visa. This includes the worker's spouse and any unmarried children under 21 years old.
This is what's known as a "nonimmigrant work visa." Such visas are reserved for top managerial personnel, specialists, company leaders, and anyone else deemed to be of high value to the operation. L-1 visas last a total of five years for specialists and seven years for managers and directors. However, stipulations exist to ensure directors only handle company matters, and managers handle people. For example, a "director" cannot be defined as someone who works on an assembly line.
Founding Your Own Company for EB-5 Visa
If you're instead looking to start your own US-based company, it would be worthwhile to check out the EB-5 visa program. This program is intended for foreign individuals who want to invest capital into the US economy. The minimum investment is $500 thousand, and the investment must create at least 10 full-time jobs. Assuming all of these criteria are met, the investor will receive the right to reside in the US permanently along with all the privileges of a US citizen. As with the L-1, the same goes for the investor's spouse and any unmarried children under 21 years old.
The easiest way to make this investment is to form your own US-based company. Fortunately, our team specializes in this process and can help you register your business, obtain an EIN, and open a company bank account.
Notice: Remember, US banks are often reluctant to issue loans to foreigners, even if the investment is being made in the US. Moreover, each state has its own laws as to how you can register business entities. The most popular among foreign business owners are Wyoming, California, Nevada, Colorado, Florida, and Texas.
This strategy can allow you to own and operate your business via a two years Green Card. At least 90 days before this Green Card is set to expire, you must file a petition to become an EB-5 applicant. After five years, if all criteria are met, you can become a full US citizen.
Purchasing an Existing Business for E-2 Visa
It is also possible to purchase an existing US-based business in order to obtain an E-2 visa. However, it is strongly recommended that you contact one of our immigration lawyers before doing so. This will help reduce the risk of a consulate refusing the application. Also, be sure to pay close attention to the price, employment structure, and self-sufficiency of the business. These three factors will be very important in gauging the success of your endeavor. Moreover, you should expect to invest at least $100 thousand into the deal. This will ensure that your business will likely meet the necessary investment requirements in time.
Investing in a Franchise
Foreigners looking to open a business in the US often choose to invest in a franchise rather than start their own company. These ready-made businesses come with a number of benefits, such as:
- Brand recognition
- A template for how to run it
- Built-in support from the parent company
- Minimum investment
- Potential discounts on equipment, etc.
Though franchises receive a lot of support, the franchise holder is the one who ultimately determines the success of the operation. There are also monthly and yearly fees that must be paid to the parent company.
In order to open any business in the US and obtain an U.S. visa, you'll need to have a fair amount of capital on hand. Depending on the industry and business plan, this may be more than even the savviest of foreign investors expect. To get the best idea of how to meet the requirements for specific visa, it's a good idea to consult with an experienced Immigration Attorney.