America has a long history of hosting successful businesses founded by immigrants. If you are looking to start a business in the U.S., there are a number of possible visa pathways for you to explore. It is extremely important to hire an experienced immigration attorney to guide you through the immigration process and ensure that no mistakes are made that could delay or prevent your admittance to the U.S.
If you are an entrepreneur seeking to explore new business opportunities in the United States, consider one of these nonimmigrant visa pathways.
B1 – Business Visitor
A B1 visa is a good option for entrepreneurs looking to secure funding or find office space for their startup business, negotiate a contract, attend business meetings with potential customers or interview prospective employees. The initial period of stay in the United States is generally up to six months, but extensions may be possible. It should be noted however, that a person travelling on a B1 visa may not work for any U.S. company, including their own, during their stay.
F1 Optional Practical Training (OPT)
If you have been a full-time F1 student in good standing for at least one full academic year, you may be eligible for an F1 OPT visa provided that your startup business is directly related to your major area of study. Undergraduate students may be authorized for up to 12 months of OPT, with the possibility of an extension if he or she seeks another degree at a higher level.
H1B – Temporary Worker Visa
This visa allows an American company to temporarily employ a foreign worker for a specific position. There are a number issues to be aware of before applying for this visa including:
- You must have a sponsor to sign the H1B petition. If you are setting up your own company, you will need to hire a U.S. citizen who can act as a sponsor and co-founder of your business.
- You must be able to demonstrate an employer-employee relationship with an active U.S. business. Be prepared to provide such evidence as a business plan, existing revenue, vender contracts, office leases, and last year’s tax papers showing positive cash flow.
- You must have at least a bachelor’s degree to apply, and the degree must be in a field related to the position.
- There are a limited number of H1B visas, and cap numbers are often used up very quickly.
Initial stay for an H1B visa is three years, but can be extended for a maximum stay of six years.
L1 International Transferee Visa
L1 visas may be a good option for existing foreign companies looking to transfer someone to open a child company in the U.S. In order to apply for this visa you must have worked for the parent company in your homeland for at least one year prior to filing the L1 petition. The initial period of stay is one year, but may be renewed for up to a maximum stay of five to seven years if there is evidence of significant expansion within the first year.
E2 Treaty Investor
If you are from a country that has a treaty of commerce and navigation with the U.S., you may be eligible for an E2 visa. You must be investing a substantial amount of money in the business in relation to the actual startup costs. This visa can be renewed indefinitely, but is not considered a direct path to a green card.
O1 Individuals with Extraordinary Abilities or Achievements
Individuals who demonstrate a high level of expertise in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics may qualify for an O1 visa. In order to prove your abilities, you may be asked to submit a minimum of four pieces of evidence. A knowledgeable immigration lawyer can help you choose the most appropriate submissions, but examples may include:
- Copies of articles, papers, and other publications you have written
- Articles written about you
- Evidence that you have served on a panel of judges or individually judged the work of others in the same field of specialization
- Awards received in recognition of professional accomplishments
- Memberships in professional organizations that require a high level of achievement
- Evidence of original contributions
- Evidence that you are currently compensated, or will be paid, a significantly higher salary for your services than others in your field
Initial stay for O1 visas is up to three years, but may be renewed on a yearly basis if needed to complete the activity.
If you have already started, or are about to start a new business in the United States, and wish to immigrate permanently to the U.S., you may want to apply for one of the following immigrant visas.
EB1 Extraordinary Ability
You may be eligible for an EB1 visa if you are able to demonstrate that your area of expertise in the field of science, art, education, business or athletics has risen to a level that puts you in a small percentage of top experts. Evidence similar to those pieces required for an O1 visa may be requested. Additionally, you must be able to establish that you are coming to the United States with the intention of continuing your work in your area of extraordinary ability.
EB2 and National Interest Waiver
The EB2 visa is for professionals with advanced degrees and individuals with exceptional abilities in the sciences, arts, or business. This visa generally requires a job offer and a labor certification from the Department of Labor. However, entrepreneurs seeking exemption from the job offer requirement based on national interest may self-petition. Those requesting a national interest waiver must hold an advanced degree or be able to demonstrate exceptional ability in a particular field.
Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. Assist Entrepreneurs in Applying for Visas
Philadelphia immigration lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. recognize the enormous contributions that foreign entrepreneurs have to offer to the U.S. and to the world. We dedicate our tireless efforts to assist foreign entrepreneurs with their immigration process. Our office is conveniently located in Center City Philadelphia, and is accessible from all forms of public transportation. Submit an online contact form or call toll-free today at 888-452-9578 to learn how one of our multi-lingual immigration attorneys can help you.