Although a foreign national entrepreneur must usually obtain authorization from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) through the immigrant or nonimmigrant visa process to live and work in the United States, there are a variety of options available to come to the United States to start or expand a business. For example, an entrepreneur may be eligible for certain nonimmigrant classifications such as E-2 Treaty Investor or a B-1 Business Visitor. An E-2 classification enables an entrepreneur from a country that has a treaty of commerce and navigation with the United States to invest a substantial amount of money in a new or existing U.S. business. And a B-1 classification allows an entrepreneur to come to the United States to secure funding or office space, negotiate a contract, or attend certain business meetings in connection with opening a new business in the United States.
It is important to determine which classification works best as not every classification that USCIS administers will allow an entrepreneur to work in the United States. Most employment-based petitions are issued for a specific type of activity with a specific employer. Also, certain nonimmigrant classifications are subject to annual numerical limitations. These limitations can affect the amount of time it may take for an entrepreneur to obtain authorization to live and work in the United States.
We practice exclusively immigration law, and our office can assist in determining the appropriate visa classification for your circumstances and business plans. Please feel free to contact us to learn more information. We recommend that you consult with us early to best explore your U.S. immigration options in light of your business and personal goals.
For additional general information about the visa categories available for foreign nationals looking to start or expand businesses in the United States, visit USCIS’s Visa Guide for Entrepreneurs.