Permanent and Non-Immigrant Visa for Entrepreneurs in the U.S.

Permanent and Non-Immigrant Visa for Entrepreneurs in the U.S.

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The United States is home to some of the world's largest and most innovative start-up ecosystems, with cities like San Francisco, New York, and Boston attracting Start-Up investors, founders and entrepreneurs from all over the world.

However, navigating the U.S. immigration system can be challenging, especially for start-up investors and founders looking to establish a business in the country and intending for a Green Card.

In this article, we will explore some of the non-immigrant and immigrant visas for business owners.

Benefits of Permanent and Non-immigrant Visas for Start-Up Investors and Founders

Permanent and non-immigrant visas provide a pathway for Start-Up investors and founders to establish and grow their businesses in the United States. Some of the benefits of these visas include: You gain the opportunity to live and work in the U.S., temporarily or permanently

  • You get permission to bring your family members to the U.S in case of Permanent visa (Green Card)
  • The liberty to move without restrictions across national borders
  • Access to U.S. government resources and services
  • You can also, after a certain period of time, apply for U.S. citizenship (if already holding a non-immigrant visa)

Now let’s thoroughly examine the distinct types of Permanent and Non- immigrant visas for startup investors and founders in the United States, including their specific requirements, benefits, and procedures for obtaining them.

Requirements for Permanent and Non-immigrant Visas for Start-Up Investors and Founders

As a business owner looking for a visa in the US, the EB-5, E-2, and L-1A visas are the top picks. They’re pretty popular choices, but they do come with their own specific requirements, the application process, and conditions to fulfill.

Just to give you a heads-up, the following are some prerequisites that apply to both immigrant and non-immigrant visas in the US.

  • The investor or founder must have a viable business plan and a significant investment in the business
  • The business must have the potential to create jobs and contribute to the U.S. economy
  • The investor or founder must have the necessary skills and experience to run the business
  • The investor or founder must have a clean criminal record and be in good health

Let’s look deeper in each of the immigrant and non-immigrant visa options available for startup investors and founders in the US.

Permanent Visa for Start-Up Investors and Founders

When it comes to making the best choice for a US Green Card for business owners, the US EB-5 Immigrant Investor Green Card Program tops the list. The reason? It is the most flexible and sure-shot way to acquire permanent residency.

EB-5 Investor Green Card

By making an investment in a brand-new American business, overseas investors can become US citizens through the EB-5 Visa, or the EB-5 Investor Green Card program.

When you invest a minimum $800,000 in Targeted Employment Areas (TEA) or $1,050,000 in non-Targeted Employment Areas, and also create at least 10 permanent full-time positions for American citizens, you can get qualified to apply for an EB-5 Visa as a founder or startup investor.

Benefits of the EB-5 Visa

EB-5 is a top choice for US green cards among startup investors and founders due to its relatively shorter waiting period (around 5 years), ability to provide children access to prestigious education, and increased national and international mobility. Additionally, the following are some of the other great benefits associated with the program.

  • Permanent Residency: The EB-5 visa paves the way to permanent residency in the United States for the investor, their spouse, and children under 21 who aren’t married.
  • No Job Offer or Sponsor Required: Unlike other employment-based visas, the EB-5 program does not require a job offer or a sponsor.
  • Flexibility: Investors can choose to invest in a new commercial enterprise or a regional center, which allows for more flexibility in the investment structure.
  • Mobility: The investor’s spouse and children can live, work, or study anywhere in the US. If you have done an investment in a regional center, then you can move off the state of investment. In case of a direct statement, you’ll have to reside within the concerned state.
  • Education: Public schools and universities offer in-state tuition to the children of EB-5 investors. The best thing about EB-5 green card for startup founders is that it provides the same opportunities for studies and jobs, as American citizens. Your children get the access to best institutions in the world at the tuition fee of the natives.

Requirements for the EB-5 Visa

Before moving right into the process, startup investors must understand the EB-5 requirements. The EB-5 visa requirements have multiple components that need to be carefully fulfilled.

Among them, fund analysis is a crucial part that requires meticulous attention. Any mistakes in this can result in a green card rejection.

Investment Amount:

The investor must invest at least $1 million 50 thousand in non-Targeted Employment Area, or $800,000 in a Targeted Employment Area (TEA). As per the guidelines provided by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Targeted Employment Areas (TEA) refer to rural areas or regions with high unemployment rates that are 150% of the national average.

It’s important for investors to diligently ensure that their program aligns with the requirements set by USCIS.

Job Creation:

The investment should ensure that 10 full-time positions or more are created within two years for workers based in the United States. There is also a provision for indirect or induced job creation when the investment is made through a regional center.

Source of Funds:

The investor must give proof that the money was acquired legally. Lawful sources of funds for investments include stocks, bank account deposits, salaried income, and securities.

For other sources, it’s crucial to demonstrate the original source of funds. If investing through inheritance money, investors need to ensure all relevant documents, including estate settlements of the deceased, are available. Additionally, tax returns for the past 5 years must be filed as part of the application process.

What is the Process for Obtaining an EB-5 Green Card

Here’s the process of obtaining an EB5 visa with your high amount of investment.

  • File the I-526 Petition: The investor files an I-526 petition with USCIS, which includes evidence of the investment and its potential to create jobs.
  • Conditional Green Card: The investor and their family members are granted conditional permanent status for two years if the petition is successful.
  • File the I-829 Petition: The investor submits an I-829 petition to lift the restrictions on their permanent residency 90 days before the conditional green card expires.
  • Permanent Green Card: If the I-829 petition is approved, the investor and their family members receive permanent residency in the United States.

The Department of State (DOS) has released its 2022 Report of the Visa Office, which indicates that 32% of EB-5 visas were reserved for investors in Targeted Employment Areas (TEAs).

Surprisingly these visas remained unutilized for 2022, resulting in a carry-over to FY 2023. This means that there are higher chances of obtaining an EB-5 visa when investing in TEAs or in infrastructure projects.

Non-Immigrant Visa for Start-Up Investors and Founders

If you’re a new entrepreneur seeking new opportunities in the US but unsure about committing long-term, a non-immigrant visa for investors is a great option.

It allows you to run a temporary business to test the waters, before making it big in the States. The E-2 and L-1A visas are the best choices for startup founders looking for non-immigrant visas in the US. They offer flexibility and growth opportunities while navigating immigration requirements.

Let’s look into both of these non-immigrant visas for investors in the US.

E-2 Visa

Foreign businesspeople who want to invest a sizable amount of money in a US-based company can apply for a non-immigrant E-2 visa. It is also known as a treaty investor visa.

The investment amount is not indicated but as a general speaking, around $100.000 investment could be sizable. On the other hand, depending on your type of business, even $50.000 could be enough to get an E2 visa.

This visa is intended exclusively for investors from the nations with which the United States has a commerce and navigation treaty. As of 2023, 80+ countries hold a treaty of commerce and navigation with the US.

With an E-2 visa, the investor and their family are able to live in the US and manage their business activities, while providing the best education and working opportunities. With unlimited reentry opportunities, the E-2 visa gives you the freedom to travel and expand your business with ease.

Benefits of the E-2 Visa

As a treaty investor, the possibilities are endless with the E-2 visa program! From investing in hotels, restaurants, gas stations, or even franchises like Walmart, you can enjoy a plethora of benefits like the following.

  • Permits citizens of treaty nations to invest in and run businesses in the U.S.
  • Although there is no fixed minimum investment amount necessary, the investment must be sizeable
  • Enables spouses and unmarried children younger than 21 to travel and reside with the visa holder
  • As long as the business entity is active and the investor satisfies the requirements, it can be continued indefinitely
  • The number of E-2 visas granted each year is not restricted

It’s important to note that not all E-2 visas are the same. For instance, a Canadian investor may have more flexibility and enjoy greater benefits compared to a Ukrainian investor, who may face stricter restrictions on their authorized stay period. It’s crucial to be aware of these nuances when considering the E-2 visa program based on your nationality.

Requirements for the E-2 Visa

The requirements for the E-2 visa are much more straightforward. We’re highlighting the key requirements you need to know, including investment thresholds, business plans, and nationality qualifications. Let’s delve into the essential details of the E-2 visa requirements.

  • Must be a citizen of a treaty country (list can be found on the State Department website)
  • The applicant must have committed a substantial amount of capital to a U.S.-based business or must be in the process of doing so
  • The applicant must be in charge of the funds that are being invested
  • The business must be a real, operating commercial enterprise
  • The business should be active, and a for-profit business
  • The investment must generate enough income to provide a living for the investor and their family
  • Must intend to depart the U.S. when the E-2 Visa expires

By meeting the requirements related to investment, business plan, and nationality, you can get success in obtaining this visa. Be thorough in understanding and fulfilling these requirements to maximize your chances of a successful E-2 US startup visa application.

What is the Process for Obtaining an E-2 Visa

File a DS-160 form and pay the application fee

  • Schedule an interview appointment at a U.S. embassy in your residential country
  • Provide documentation of the investment and business, including a detailed business plan, financial statements, and evidence of the investor's ownership and control
  • Attend the interview and provide additional information as requested by the consular officer
  • If approved, the investor can enter the U.S. and begin operating their business

With an E-2 visa, you can't miss out on the opportunity to pursue your business dreams in the US.

L-1A Visa

Non-immigrant visas like the L-1A permit international businesses to move staff members to their American locations. This visa is particularly useful for founders and startup investors who want to expand their business to the United States while continuing to maintain their foreign operations.

The L-1A visa also allows for dual intent, meaning that the visa holder can apply for permanent residency while on the visa.

Benefits of the L-1A Visa

L-1A visa enables staff transfers, U.S. subsidiary establishment, permanent residency application, and an extended stay of up to 7 years for executives and managers. Other notable benefits include-

  • Allows multinational companies to transfer their employees from foreign offices to U.S. offices
  • Enables foreign companies to establish a subsidiary or branch in the U.S.
  • Allows for an extended stay in the U.S., up to 7 years for executives and managers, and up to 5 years for specialized knowledge employees
  • Allows for the option of applying for permanent residency through the EB-1C visa

The L-1A visa offers a range of benefits, which if leveraged carefully, can enable international businesses and startup investors in expanding their operations to the US and achieving their business goals.

Requirements for the L-1A Visa

To qualify for an L-1A visa, applicants must meet key requirements. The U.S. company must have a qualifying relationship with the foreign company, and the U.S.-based company must be conducting business in the United States, along with the following requirements.

  • The candidate must have worked for the foreign firm for at least one year out of the previous three years.
  • The applicant must have worked as an executive, manager, or possess specialized expertise.
  • The U.S. company must be the foreign company’s parent, branch, affiliate, or subsidiary.
  • The U.S.-based company must be doing its business in the U.S.

Meeting these requirements and understanding the intricacies of the L-1A visa process is essential for startup investors and founders seeking to transfer employees, establish U.S. subsidiaries or branches, and take advantage of the benefits of this L-1A visa category.

What is the Process for Obtaining the L-1A Visa

In just a few steps, you can navigate the process of obtaining the L-1A visa as a startup investor in the US that’ll provide you with unique benefits like dual intent and extended stay options. Follow the steps below to file for an L-1A visa.

  • The U.S. company files a Form I-129 petition with USCIS.
  • The petition includes evidence of the qualifying relationship between the U.S. and foreign companies, as well as evidence of the applicant's employment history and qualifications.
  • Once the petition is approved, the applicant can apply for an L-1A visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy abroad.
  • The applicant must attend an interview and provide evidence of their qualifications and ties to their home country.
  • After the approval of the application, the applicant is issued with an L-1A Visa that allows them to work in the US for a specified amount of time.

Navigating the process of obtaining an L-1A visa is essential. Understanding and following the process diligently, including preparing thorough documentation and meeting deadlines is crucial for a successful L-1A visa application and business expansion to the U.S.

Why Start-Up Investors and Founders Should Avail Green Cards

Green Cards (Permanent visas) provide long-term stability and security for your business in the U.S. They provide an opportunity to expand your business and establish yourself in the U.S. market.

Permanent residency allows you to enjoy all the benefits of living in the U.S., such as access to healthcare, education, and a higher quality of life.

As a start-up investor or founder, obtaining a permanent or non-immigrant visa in the U.S. can be a crucial step towards achieving long-term success. The EB-5, E-2, and L-1 visas are all viable options, each with its own benefits and requirements.

Understanding the many alternatives accessible allows you to make an informed decision and take the required measures to expand your business and attain permanent status in the United States.

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