The Immigration Act provides several paths for investors, businesspeople, and entrepreneurs to come to the United States for short trips or longer stays, for temporary visas and green cards that lead to citizenship.

What Short-term Visa Options are Available for Investors or Entrepreneurs?

Individuals who are hoping to invest in or start a business have several options in the Immigration Act, though options are somewhat limited by their country of origin.

  1. E-2 Treaty Investor:

The E-2 is the principal non-immigrant (meaning short-term or temporary) visa. Investors who are nationals of a treaty country (listed here: U.S. Department of State’s Treaty Countries) may obtain an E-2 if they are investing in a U.S. business. That person’s employees can also apply for an E-2.

If you are a national of a treaty country and are interested in the E-2, you may qualify if you also:

  • Have invested (or are investing) a substantial amount of capital in a bona fide enterprise in the US
  • Are seeking to enter the United States to develop and direct the investment enterprise. You must show that you owe at least 50% of the enterprise or have operational control through a managerial position

In addition, the funds you are investing must be at risk, meaning they are subject to a partial or total loss, and they must have been lawfully obtained (i.e. not from a criminal activity).

If you are the national of a treaty country and you want to form a start-up, but you do not want or need to invest $1 million into the enterprise, the E-2 is likely the way to go.

  1. L-1 Visa Intracompany Transferee

If you are a businessperson in your own country and you are  looking to expand your business into the United States, the L-1 might be an option. This visa is for a manager, executive, or someone with specialized knowledge employed by a foreign business.

To qualify you must have been working abroad for at least one continuous year within the last three years. You must have a relationship with a foreign company, and you must currently be or will be doing business as an employer inside the United States and in one country abroad or through a qualifying organization (that would be some form of the foreign company) for the entire stay as an L-1.

  1. Other Options

Other options may be available in certain circumstances for entrepreneurs to work at the businesses they operate. For example, a person considering starting a business can travel to the United States as a Business Visitor (B-1) to lay the foundation for a business, including negotiating contracts or scoping out office space, as well as attending necessary meetings. There are limitations for the B-1 Visitor in terms of whether they B-1 visitor can earn income or be paid for these travels.

Students (F-1) can start businesses and might be able to work for a limited time as part of their OPT (Optional Practical Training). Likewise, a foreign national who has started a business could, in certain circumstances, work for that business on an H-1B visa, which is available for positions that normally require a college degree, and for those individuals who have bachelor’s degrees or higher in the field related to the position. Finally, some foreign nationals who have extraordinary ability in business (meaning that they are at the top of their field and have received acclaim and recognition for their work) can qualify for O-1A visas.

Can Investors and Entrepreneurs get Green Cards?

Yes. There are several options available depending on whether the investor and entrepreneurs seek to immigrate based solely on investments in businesses or based on their education and skills.

While every case is different, in general, there are four categories in which a businessperson would apply for a green card. Two of these categories—EB-2 and EB-3—usually require an employer first to “test” the labor market to ensure that no US qualified workers are available and second to petition for the foreign national worker. One exception to the “testing” rule is for the EB-2 preference category, which is for individuals who obtain a waiver of the labor certification (testing) requirement because the individual’s work is in the national interest.

Another exception to the labor certification requirement is for category EB-1, which allows a person with extraordinary ability in science, arts, education, business or athletics to self-petition. While the EB-1 might have an employer for whom he or she would like to work, this is not a requirement. The EB-1 must, however, continue working in the area of extraordinary ability.

Finally, investors and entrepreneurs can obtain a green card if they are willing to invest a substantial amount of money ($500,000-$1 million) in a business. This is known as the EB-5 category.

What can the Popp Law Office do for me?

In our first consultation, we will discuss your entire immigration history (including past criminal violations) as well as your experience in your chosen field. We will also determine what your short and long-term goals are in your career and in the United States. Through this conversation, we will determine what options are best for you and what you can expect in the immigration process, as well as what costs (including legal fees) you can anticipate. You will leave the first meeting with a roadmap of what you can do and what you need to do to obtain status in the United States.

Why would an immigration firm located in the heart of the Midwest work on visas for Investors and Entrepreneurs?

Bloomington, Indiana is actually a natural fit for a such a practice. Bloomington is the home of a top-notch business and informatics school, which attracts entrepreneurs from around the world. Bloomington has also seen many new start-up and tech companies coming, attracted to its laid back and small-town atmosphere, but a short drive to Indianapolis and the airport.

Even though the Popp Law Office may be located in Indiana, we assist individuals from all over the world. With modern technology such as skype and e-mail, we are able to assist with visa options for foreign nationals, no matter where they are located.