Starting a business in the United States can be either a road riddled with pitfalls or a smooth path to walk on – all depending on how (and with whom) you choose to start the journey to pursue the American Dream.  

In this article, you will find out the best visa options to start a business in the United States. 

Which Visa is Required to Start a Business in USA? – An Overview 

E-2 Treaty Investor Visa  

As provided by the United States Citizenship and Immigration (USCIS), the E-2 nonimmigrant visa permits eligible foreign nationals from treaty countries to enter the United States upon investing a substantial amount of capital into a US business enterprise. 

The term “treaty country” refers to countries: 

  • With which the United States maintains treaties of commerce and navigation 
  • With which the United States maintains a qualifying international agreement, or  
  • Which has been deemed a qualifying country by legislation  

Although it is a nonimmigrant visa, one can live indefinitely in the United States under E-2 status – but it will never lead to lawful permanent residence (green card). To qualify for an E-2 visa, one cannot make a passive investment in a bank account. 

Instead, the applicant must either start a business or buy an existing business wherein he/she will have at least “50% ownership of the enterprise or possession of operational control.” 

USCIS does not provide a specific minimum amount required to define a “substantial amount of capital.” Essentially, the investment must be substantial concerning the total cost of either purchasing an established enterprise or establishing a new one. 

Also, the amount of capital must be sufficient to secure the applicant’s financial commitment to the successful operation of the proposed enterprise. 

EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa  

Created in 1990, the EB-5 Program is administered by USCIS. Under this program, eligible foreign investors may apply for permanent residence (green card) in the United States upon investing the necessary amount in a US enterprise to create or preserve ten permanent full-time jobs for qualified US workers. 

Ultimately, the goal of the EB-5 program is to stimulate the American economy with capital investment by foreign investors willing to invest larger amounts of money to obtain a green card. 

While the E-2 visa does not establish a fixed investment amount requirement, the EB-5 program has stricter conditions. Currently, the required standard minimum investment amount is $1 million, while the minimum investment amount for investment in a Targeted Employment Area (TEA) is $500,000. 

Other requirements include that the applicant: 

  • Must prove the funds used as investment come from a legitimate source 
  • Must invest the entire amount at risk (one must put capital up that could be lost) 
  • Must invest the required amount in a new or existing business  
  • Must demonstrate that the investment will either create or preserve ten full-time jobs (directly or indirectly) 

L-1 Inter/Intracompany Transferee Visa 

The L1 category is a nonimmigrant classification that permits a company to transfer an employee from one of its affiliated foreign offices to an office established in the United States. 

Divided into two subcategories, this visa applies to executives or managers working for multinational companies (L-1A visa) or intracompany transferees with specialized knowledge.  

Generally, this visa can be used by eligible foreign business owners who want to move either themselves or their employees to open an office in the United States. 

Do You Want to Start a Business in the US as a Foreign? – Have Your Case Assessed by Attorney Romy B. Jurado  

Several visa options permit one to enter the United States legally to start a business enterprise. Waste no time – make sure to consult with Attorney Romy B. Jurado by calling (305) 921-0976 or emailing to schedule a consultation.