Starting a business is hard enough, but coming to a foreign country and then starting a business poses more challenges! There are dozens of legal and logistical hoops to jump through, each with their own complications, but the most important step of the process is choosing which visa you need. Depending on your professional intentions, you have several options.
E2 Visa: E2 visas are for business owners that wish to build a company in the U.S. that they want to develop and direct themselves. An E2 Visa is a non-immigrant visa so it does not lead to a green card directly, however, the E2 investment may qualify or be modified to obtain a Direct EB-5 investment. Furthermore, if the E2 Visa holder has the requisite experience abroad and there is a qualifying entity abroad, they may qualify for an EB-1C Visa, which can lead to a Green Card, permanent residency. An E2 Visa is valid for a period of 5 years, with 2 year extensions after the initial 5 years. Currently, there are no limits to the number of extensions you can apply for. To qualify, you need to start or purchase a business that you plan to run with a substantial investment amount, which varies depending on the business itself (e.g., $50,000 for a consulting firm or $500,000 for a manufacturing plant). The E2 visa has the potential for an unlimited duration, a (potentially) small investment amount, and allows the investor to bring their spouse and children to join them. E2 immigration lawyers specialize in the nuances of the visa, so employing one may be the easiest way to streamline the process.
EB 5 Visa: The EB-5 visa is referred to as "the million dollar green card" and is perfect for those with large amounts of capital. Upon receipt, investors and their immediate family members are granted temporary green cards, but require substantial investment sums ($500,000 for targeted employment areas and $1 million for non targeted employment area). There is currently expedited I-526 processing, which could lead to a green card in 3 months verses the normal 25 months regular processing. There are multiple legal criteria you need to meet, including offering proof of funds, so consulting with an EB-5 immigration lawyer is an excellent idea; the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) only reserves around 10,000 EB 5 visas per year -- the last thing you want to do is lose your seat because you missed one crucial part of the process.
L1 Visa: L1A intercompany transfer visas permit already operating companies to open new offices on U.S. soil, and allows companies who do not have U.S. offices to send representatives to establish them. As a result, this visa covers foreign entrepreneurs, investors, and business owners who want to move either themselves or their employees to the United States. The L1A Visa is a non-immigrant visa, which will not lead to a green card directly, however, permanent residency is attainable in conjunction with an EB-1C Visa. The L1A Visa is valid for 3 years with 2 year extension for a total of 7 years. Premium processing is available, USCIS guarantees a decision in 15 days.
No matter what kind of business you own or would like to establish, immigration lawyers exist to help you find the right visa for your personal needs.