Can a foreign national start a business in the U.S. without being a resident?
Yes. In fact many non-resident foreign nationals own businesses and obtain non-immigrant visa through operating businesses in the U.S., such as L-1 and E-2 visa holders.
I am interested in starting and operating a business in the U.S. Can you elaborate more on the L-1 or E-2 visas?
The common misconception is that the L category is only for the large multinational companies to transfer executives or managers to the U.S. The L-1 visa category actually provides the opportunity for foreign nationals who own and operate a business outside the U.S. who have worked for at least one year in an executive or managerial capacity to establish a new branch office and subsidiary in the U.S. Initially, the USCIS will approve the L visa for new office for one year.
Similarly, if one is from countries with which the U.S. maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation, and is coming to develop and direct a new business that he or she has invested or in the process of investing, he or she may qualify for E-2 visa.
Is there a set amount of investment required for L-1 or E-2 visas?
Unlike the EB-5 investor immigrant visa, neither the L-1 nor E-2 has a â€œminimumâ€ amount of investment required. For L-1s, the size of capital investment should be enough to remunerate the foreign national beneficiary and conduct business in the U.S. For E-2s, the investment must be â€œsubstantial,â€ and the business cannot be â€œmarginal.â€
What are the most common issues in qualifying for L or E visas?
The common issues concerning the L application for new office are securing physical premises and a detailed business plan to show that the petitioner will support an executive or managerial position for one (1) year. Since the â€œnew officeâ€ petition may only be approved for one year, the petitioner must show that business is up and running in order to extend the petition after the initial one-year approval.
For E-2 visas, a detailed business plan, lawful source of funds and investorâ€™s control of capital are the main concerns.
What are the necessary steps to start a business in the U.S.?
The following are few steps and tips one should be aware when starting a new business in the U.S.:
- Research and plan your business well so that it will be successful
- Determine the legal structure of businessâ€”decide whether you are going to form a sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, or corporation, etc.
- Register a business name ("Doing Business As") with the county recording office
- Register your business name with your state government
- Get a Tax Identification Number (TIN) from IRS and open a business bank account
- Look for a business location that suits your needs and secure a lease
- Register for state and local taxes
- Obtain business licenses and permits
- Learn more about Employer Responsibilitiesâ€”I-9 requirements, worker compensation and unemployment insurance programs, etc.