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 an 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 substantial, and the business cannot be

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 new office 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 investor 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 business 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 Responsibilities I-9 requirements, worker compensation and unemployment insurance programs, etc.