How can a non-US citizen start a small business in the U.S.? What is the legal visa status required?

There are a couple of things to 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 (more on that here), 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 because the law and regulations governing visas for business owners and startups is very complex. Feel free to visit LawTrades, a legal platform that connects entrepreneurs to top notch attorneys. Simply visit our site answer a few questions and we’ll match you with an attorney for a free consultations. We also have another feature called LawTrades Micro which might interest you. For a low flat-rate (typically $25) you can ask one of our experienced attorneys a question and receive a customized answer within 48 hours. Hope this helps – good luck!

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