Doing business include starting a business, consultations with business associates, registering a property, negotiating or enforcing contracts, getting credit, rating across borders, protecting minority investors, or resolving insolvency.
A foreign entrepreneur ready to invest and actively manage a business in the U.S. may choose a nonimmigrant or the immigrant visa pathways.
Business immigrants are normally sponsored by a U.S. employer even if some of them may self-petition if they meet the criteria for the O-1B Visa for “extraordinary ability” in their field, or if their entry in the country would be in the “national interest”.
Nationals of countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) do not need a visa to perform regular business activities in the U.S, if the trip do not last more than 90 days.
On the other side, a gainful business employment for less than 90 days requires a work visa, too.
The U.S. Congress has created five basic categories of business immigrant visas.
1. B-1 Business visa
The non-immigrant business visa or B-1 visa is issued to entrepreneurs travelling to the U.S. for a limited period of time in order to treat business.
If you are the beneficiary of a B-1 visa, you absolutely can not receive and accept any type of payment, such as salary or remuneration. The period of stay must be up to a maximum of 1 year.
2. E-1 Treaty Trader and E-2 Treaty Investor visas
The E-1 (Treaty Trader) and E-2 (Treaty Investor) visas are “non-immigrant” classifications for multinational managers, executives and investors of foreign countries having a Treaty of Commerce and Navigation or a bilateral treaty investment providing for non-immigrant entries with the United States. The United States signed the Treaty with 78 countries, including Albania and Senegal, but not including Brazil, Russia, India and China.
The E-1 visa is structured for business owners and managers, or employees who are required to stay in the U.S. for large periods of time to work for an enterprise that is engaged in trade (import/export) with the United States.
Managers and executives must have been employed for at least one of the three previous years by the overseas affiliate, parent, subsidiary, or branch of the U.S. employer.
The E-2 visa is for investors who want to enter and work in the United States making a substantial investment. The investment will not be considered substantial if it is not big enough to capitalize the venture. The E-2 visa must generally be renewed every five years, but there is no limit to its renewal.
3. H1-B visa for entrepreneurs with academic qualifications
The H1-B visa allows U.S. companies to hire foreign workers with certain skills in specialized areas such as science and medicine, architecture, engineering, law, education, theology or art. Even though, a business owner can sometimes obtain a visa through the company he had formed, as long as he has the academic or professional qualifications required. The H1-B visa is a non-immigrant visa and is granted for an initial period of three years and is renewable for a further period of three years. The H1-B visa holder may attempt a “dual intent” and apply for a Green Card, only after the approval of a Permanent Labor Certification by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).
4. L-1 Corporate Visa
The L-1 visa or “Intracompany Transferee” allows companies, operating both in the U.S. and abroad, to transfer certain classes of employees in U.S. subsidiaries. Even though L-1 visa was created for large multinational companies, it allows a start-up foreign company to expand its business and services. The L-1A visa for Managers and Executives is granted for a period of three up to a maximum of seven years and creates a direct path to permanent residency. The L-1B visa for employees with “specialized knowledge” is initially granted for three up to a maximum of five years, but does not create a direct path to the Green Card. Nevertheless it allows the “dual intent”, and does not create problems for its grant or renewal.
5. EB-5 Immigrant Investor Green Card
The EB-5 is the most desirable visa, because it guarantees a Green Card in the United States for the main investor, spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21, as defined by international family law. The EB-5 visa is reserved for foreign nationals who make an investment of at least $1,000,000 in a commercial enterprise that employs at least 10 full-time workers (a minimum of 35 hours per week). If the investment is made in a rural area (outside an urban area with a population of at least 20,000 people) or an area of high unemployment (at least 150% of the national average), can be of at least $500,000.