Before reading any further, you should be aware that US visas and immigration are exclusively handled by the Federal Government, and that only qualified lawyers are allowed to assist you with visa or any other immigration-related matters. USA Corporate Services Inc. is NOT a law firm, and does not provide any visa application services.
Introduction to Types of US Business Visas
It is important to be aware of the various types of US business visas available to you. Depending on your specific circumstances and goals, different visas may be more appropriate than others.
You can start and own a US company without a visa, and without even coming to the US. Managing a business entity, such as an LLC or corporation, 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 without an appropriate visa. Working for your corporation or LLC within the US without a valid work visa is not allowed.
One option for starting a business in the US is to obtain a B1 or B2 visa, which are short-term business and tourist visas, respectively. These visas are temporary and allow you to negotiate with potential business partners, but you cannot sign contracts or perform work for hire while in the US.
For those looking to start a business that will trade with their home country, the E-1 treaty trader visa may be a viable option. To be eligible for this visa, you must be a citizen of a country that has an appropriate treaty with the US. The E-1 visa is temporary and can be renewed as long as the business is still in operation.
If you are looking to start a business in the US as an investor, the E-2 treaty investor visa may be a good fit. Like the E-1 visa, you must be a citizen of a treaty country to be eligible. This visa is also temporary and can be renewed as long as the business is still in operation.
For those who are able to make a significant investment in a US business, the EB-5 Investor Green Card program may be an option. This program requires an investment of $500,000 to $1 million and the creation of at least 10 jobs for US residents within 2 years. Successful completion of the program leads to permanent residence in the US.
If you are already employed by a foreign company and are looking to transfer to a US company, the L-1 intercompany transfer visa may be a good option. This visa allows you to transfer from a foreign, related company to a US company, but the employee must have worked for the foreign company for at least one year in the last three years.
The H-1B specialized labor visa is another option for those looking to work in the US, but it cannot be used for self-employment. This visa is subject to an annual quota, which restricts the number of visas available.
Finally, the O-1 extraordinary ability visa is available to those who can document extraordinary ability in their field. This visa is temporary and can be extended, but you must be able to demonstrate that you have achieved significant recognition in your field.
It is important to note that this information is current as of 2021, and visa regulations and requirements can change over time. It is always a good idea to consult with an immigration attorney or other qualified professional to ensure that you are following the most up-to-date regulations and guidelines when seeking to start a business in the United States.
Types of US Business Visas
|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|