Entrepreneur visa in the US

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Updated 2021-08-02 13:03

Immigrants have a strong representation in the US business world. In fact, according to the data provided by the National Bureau of Economic Research, immigrants start over 25% of new businesses in the US. What's more, in more culturally diverse states like New York and California, the percentage of immigrant-owned businesses tends to be even higher.

If you want to start a business in the US, you will first need to arrange for the right type of visa. Unfortunately, under the current immigration law, there are no such visas as the "entrepreneur visa" ? thus, you will need to operate within the existing immigration framework.

If you are looking to start a business in the US, there are two types of visa options to look into:

  • Extraordinary ability visas: EB-1 or O-1
  • And immigrant investor visas: EB-5 or E-2.

Note that on O-1 and E-2 visas, you will need to return home after completing your business operation - but EB-1 and EB-5 visas are visas allowing permanent residency.

Extraordinary Ability Visas

If you have achieved great success in your line of work or have a million-dollar business idea, you can apply for an EB-1 or O-1 visa. These types of visas are often referred to as "Einstein visa" or "rockstar visa" as they are often given to Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners, famous actors and musicians, internationally successful businessmen - and so on.

EB-1 Visa

In order to qualify for an EB-1 visa, you need to demonstrate extraordinary ability in science, arts, athletics, education - or business.

USCIS uses a point system to evaluate extraordinary ability - and you need to earn at least three points to qualify for the visa. Here is a loft of the "qualifying points" for the EB-1 visa:

  • A recognized top-tier company has invested money in your business.
  • Your startup has been accepted to a well-known incubator.
  • Your business has been reviewed by a well known US or international publication.
  • You have been invited to speak at high-profile industry events or conferences.
  • Your business has obtained a million or billion-dollar valuation.
  • You have received a prestigious business award or business grant.
  • Your company owns a valuable copyright/patent.

As you can see from the above, the criteria for obtaining an EB-1 visa are very high. However, if your business is a leader in its field, this may be the most stable solution for obtaining permanent residency in the United States.

O-1 Visa

O-1 visas are also reserved for people with exceptional abilities. However, as the O-1 is not an immigrant visa and is intended for a temporary stay, the bar for obtaining it is slightly lower.

To qualify for an O-1 visa, you also need to present proof of extraordinary ability: like winning an award or receiving wide media coverage.

You can stay in the US on the O-1 visa for as long as you are operating your business. However, if your business fails or if you decide to switch to another line of work, you will need to leave the country.

Investor Visas

The biggest issue with extraordinary ability visas is that they are extremely difficult to qualify for. Plus, your approval is subjective and depends on how the USCIS officer evaluates your business success.

If you can't qualify for extraordinary ability visas, you can apply for one of the two investor visas: EB-5 or EB-2. In this case, you will be granted entry to the US in exchange for investing money into a business in the US and creating jobs.

EB-5 Visa

The EB-5 visa is designed for immigrant investors. Out of the two investor visas, it's the one that is the more challenging to get. In order to qualify for the EB-5 visa, you will need to meet the following two requirements:

You need to make an investment in the amount of $1.8 million into the business you are starting. The money can come from your own pocket or from a business loan.

You will also need to create ten full-time jobs for qualified local workers.

Note that the cap for EB-5 visas is set at 10,000 per year, which makes it a rather exclusive programs

E-2 Visa

It is understandable that for a lot of business owners, an almost $2 million investment is not something that can be done. In this case, you should opt for the E-2 treaty investor visa.

In order to qualify for the E-2 visa, you will need to fit the following criteria:

  • Come from a country with a country that has an investor treaty with the US (there are currently 80 countries in the list).
  • Be able to show proof of your investment (through a business loan agreement, bank account balance, investor agreement, etc.).
  • Provide your business details (employer ID and business license).

Note that while there is no required investment amount for the E-2 visa, most applicants' experience shows that it is hard to get approved if you invest less than $100,000.

For more information on other types of visas to the US, refer to the All visas offered by the US article in this guide.

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.