There are multiple visa options available to non-U.S. citizens seeking to start or expand a small business in the U.S. Since we deal with this question regularly at LawTrades, there are a couple of things we highlight: (1) you should know that visa choices fall under two main categories – immigrant and nonimmigrant visas; and (2) hiring a skilled attorney is necessary and affordable.
Immigrant visas are typically EB-1 or EB-2 visas. EB-1s require “extraordinary ability” as that term is legally defined. EB-2s are available for those who meet the requirements to satisfy “Classification and National Interest Waiver,” “Advanced Degree Professional,” or “Exceptional Ability.”
Nonimmigrant visas offer more options than immigrant visas. An F-1/OPT (Optional Practical Training) visa is available to students who meet certain requirements. You can learn more about how those work from this recent post I submitted on Quora. Business visitors are eligible for a B-1 visa. A manager, executive or worker with specialized knowledge who works for a foreign company can apply for an L-1 Intracompany Transferee visa to work for a US branch or affiliated company. Other nonimmigrant routes available to foreign entrepreneurs include H-1B Specialty Occupation, E-2 Treaty Investor, and O-1A Extraordinary Ability and Achievement visas.
You can learn more about the pathways available to immigrant and nonimmigrant entrepreneurs here. Engaging an immigration attorney is always advisable since the law and regulations governing visas for business owners and startups is very complex.
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