U.S. Immigration for Entrepreneurs

U.S. market is one of the most lucrative in the world, both because of the growth opportunities it offers to the companies and because of the buying power of its consumers. No wonder many foreign companies and entrepreneurs are looking to the United States as a dream place to establish their business presence.


Many foreign owners prefer to be physically present themselves on the U.S. territory or to transfer their skilled employees to the U.S. branch of their company in order to successfully operate a business venture on the foreign land. The national policy of the U.S. government is very welcoming to the foreign entrepreneurs. They burst the U.S. economy directly by bringing foreign capital, creating new businesses, new employment positions and paying taxes in the United States, and indirectly by contributing into the overall development of the U.S. market. As a matter of fact, U.S. government has created multiple incentives for the foreign business owners to run their businesses in the United States. The favorable immigration policy is one of them.


U.S. Immigration law allows a foreign business owner either to stay himself/herself or to bring his/her foreign employees in the country for up to seven years with an unrestricted travel outside the country. To do so they need intercompany transferees’ visas known as L-1 visas. Moreover, the holders of L-1A visas (managers/executives) are entitled to apply for a permanent residence status (green card) after a year of their presence in the country.


L-1 visas can be issued in two categories of foreign workers – 1) to the alien who is coming into the United States to perform services in a managerial or executive capacity and 2) to the alien who is coming to perform services that require specialized knowledge related to that particular company.


A person is considered to be in “a managerial or executive capacity”, when he/she is authorized to make certain decisions for the company independently and with minimal control mechanism from above. If the business owner is willing to come to the United States himself/herself, he/she will indisputably come here in an executive capacity.


A person is considered to possess “a specialized knowledge” if he/she knows the specifications of the foreign company's product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management, or other interests or an advanced level of knowledge or expertise in the employing organization's processes or procedures. This visa does not cover the regular, non-essential foreign employees, such as supporting staff, which may be freely hired in the U.S., so the foreign company may not need to bring them from overseas.


The L-1 classification enables a foreign company to transfer its employees from one of its foreign offices to its office in the U.S. if such office already exists or to send an employee to the U.S. to establish a new office for the company.


There are certain requirements in order to be qualified to this type of visa:


1. An alien has to work for the company, which sends him/her to the U.S., for at least 1 continuous year within the last 3 years.


2. A company has to demonstrate that it has the financial ability to remunerate the alien and to begin doing business in the United States. There is no requirement as to the amount of capital to be shown, but it should be enough to support the foreigner in the United States for a year.


3. If an alien professional is sent to open a new office, a company must secure (usually to rent or to buy) sufficient physical premises to house the new office and provide a business plan for future U.S. operations.


L visa is generally issued for the initial period of one year if a foreigner is coming to establish a new office in the U.S. with the possibility of extension in 2-year increments for a maximum term of 7 years. If a foreign professional is transferred to an already existing office in the U.S., L visa may be initially issued for a period of two years with the possibility of extensions. To be eligible to sponsor its employees for an extension of L visa, the company must show that it has been regularly doing business within the preceding year. Again, there are no requirements as to the amount of revenues or financial state of the company. However, in order to demonstrate that the company is actually has been conducting some business activities, and is not just a passive representative office of the foreign entity in the United States, it has to provide evidence of the regular, systematic, and continuous business affairs. The examples of such evidence are provision of goods and/or services to its customers/clients, engagement in the research or creation of the product/service, or doing whatever is relevant to its particular industry.


The L-1 visa provides great opportunity for the foreign entrepreneurs and high-level employees to come to the United States for a long period of time or to immigrate here permanently. Since there are no capital requirements, it is available to the businesses of any size.

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