Start a Business in the U.S.A- 5 Routes For A Foreign Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurship, and the formation and development of new ventures is not something that is solely American. As of 2016, immigrant entrepreneurs account for 27.5 percent 1 of all new entrepreneurs in the U.S. As such, the business realm is filled with future tycoons from all walks of life, and the U.S. recognizes the importance of allowing a pathway for foreign entrepreneurs to bring their talents stateside. While all paths do not lead to citizenship, here is an overview of the top 5 routes a foreign entrepreneur may take to start a business in the U.S.

E-2: This visa is ideal for startups, and allows an individual to work inside the U.S. based upon an investment that is large enough to start and operate their business. Investor visas are only available to citizens of countries in which the U.S. has a treaty, i.e. Argentina, Australia, Canada, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, Spain, Thailand, Tunisia, and the UK to name a few. E-2 investors hold a non-immigrant status and may stay in the U.S. for up to 2 years, with the option for extension.

F-1/ Optional Practical Training (OPT): This option is ideal for the fresh and new entrepreneur who is currently in the U.S. on an F-1 student visa. They may apply for an additional 12 months in the country through the OPT program, if they intend to start a business that is directly related to their degree program. A student may be eligible for an additional 12 months if they seek another post-secondary degree at a higher degree level. They may also seek an additional 17 months if the student is qualifying with a Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM) degree. As this is a non-immigrant visa, F-1 holders would need to apply for immigration status via the other methods once their OPT extensions end.

O-1A: This visa is eligible to those entrepreneurs that have extraordinary abilities in sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics by demonstrating substantial recognition in their field. This can be shown through acclaim and acknowledgement by peers and industry representatives, or by demonstrating an expertise in their particular field. O visas are of the non-immigrant category, and provide its recipients the ability to enter the U.S. to start a business in their field for up to 3 years, with the option for renewal.

H-1B: This visa is ideal for an entrepreneur who is planning to work for the business they start in the U.S. To qualify, the occupation sought by the applicant must be one that typically requires a bachelor’s degree or higher in a related field of study, i.e. engineers or mathematicians. Additionally, the applicant must hold a degree in that same course of study or one that is closely related. An H-1B is different from the aforementioned visas because it is a dual-intent visa, meaning there is an opportunity to attain a path to permanent residency. Typical H-1B applicants may initially stay in the U.S. for up to 3 years, with extensions permitted in 3 year increments.

EB-1: This visa is appropriate for entrepreneurs who have extraordinary ability in sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics demonstrated by sustained national acclaim and recognized achievements as an expert in their field. Also, the applicant must show they will be working in the same field of their expertise. This visa is ideal for entrepreneurs because it does not require a job offer from a third party to petition for status. The EB-1 differs from the aforementioned O visa because it does provide an immigrant status, and a path to U.S. citizenship.

Just as foreign entrepreneurs are innovative in assessing gaps in the marketplace to establish a successful business, we are innovative in assessing your circumstances to determine the most advantageous route to the U.S.

To identify the visa pathways that are best suited for your entrepreneurial abilities, circumstances, and plans, please consult with us here at:  Fisher Law Group- Business, Corporate & Startup Firm 25 Broadway Fl 9 New York, NY 10004 (212) 256-1877

1 Fairlie, R.W., Morelix A., Reedy, E.J. & Russel, J. (2016). 2016 Kauffman Index of Startup Actiivity: National Trends: Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Kansas City: MO., Available at

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