Non-residents

 
 

Introduction to Types of US Business Visas

You can start and own a US company without a visa, and without even coming to the US. Opening a bank account for your business is more difficult, but often can also be done from outside the US (no guarantees!). Managing an LLC from outside the US is allowed, but may be not be permitted within the US without a valid work visa. Being a director, as well as a shareholder, of a US corporation is allowed without any kind of visa, but being an officer and performing your duties within the US is generally not allowed. Working for your corporation or LLC within the US without a valid work visa is not allowed.

If you are planning to come to the US to start a business, you will need to have one of the various types of US business visas. Without a visa, you can be the owner or manager of a US company, but you cannot legally work before. If you do work for your own company without the proper visa, you can be deported without right of return, and your company can be fined for hiring an illegal alien.

Types of US Business Visas

Name Description Length Limitations
B1 Short term business visa Not allowed to sign contracts or perform work for  hire Temporary, up to 6 months Can negotiate but cannot sign contracts
B2 Short term Tourist visa Temporary, up to 6 months Can negotiate but cannot sign contract
E-1 Treaty trader visa. Good for setting up a business that will trade with the visa-holder’s home country. Must be with a country with an appropriate treaty with the US Temporary, can be renewed until business is no longer in operation Is only valid as long as there is a business. Children  under 21 cannot work, and lose their status once they turn 21
E-2 Treaty investor visa. Allows a citizen of a treaty country to come to the US to start a business Temporary, can be renewed until business is no longer in operation Is only valid as long as there is a business. Children  under 21 cannot work, and lose their status once they turn 21
EB-5 Investor Green Card program. Requires an investment of $500k to $1MM, must hire at least 10 US residents within 2 years and survive more than 5 years Leads to permanent residence after probation period
L-1 Intercompany transfer visa. Allows holder to transfer from foreign company to a US company subject to restrictions One year, with up to 3 extensions Employee must have worked for foreign, related company for more than one year in the last 3 years
H-1B Specialized labor visa Three year, extendable Annual quota restricts number of visas available. Cannot be used for self-employment.
O-1 Extraordinary Ability visa Up to three years, extendable Must be able to document extraordinary ability
TN NAFTA temporary work visa Up to three years, extendable Cannot be used for self-employment