The U.S. immigration system offers several options to foreign investors and entrepreneurs looking to start or acquire a business in the United States and to obtain an immigrant or non-immigrant status in the country.
E-2 Treaty Investor Visa
Nationals of certain countries, which have a treaty of commerce and navigation, or a bilateral investment treaty, with the United States, may apply for a E-2 visa intended for individuals (and their family members) who own a controlling interest in a business in the United States. It is a non-immigrant visa that may be renewed as long as the person operates the business. There is no minimum investment requirement for that visa and it is available to those who start a new as well as acquire an existing business. Other requirements may apply and should be discussed with an attorney prior to proceeding with an application.
An L-1A visa is typically used by international businesses to transfer their principals and executive managers to the United States to work in an existing office or to open a new branch in the United States. One of the key requirements is that a transferee must have worked for the qualifying foreign company for a period of at least one year during the three years preceding the application for a transfer. It is important to know that, while the size of the business is not really important, it is essential that the applicant was employed by a foreign entity and will be employed in the United States in a top-level executive or managerial capacity.
EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa
An EB-5 immigrant visa (“Green Card”) requires an applicant to make an investment in the United States in the amount of $1 million (or $0.5 million in a targeted employment area) creating directly or indirectly at least 10 full-time jobs. The documentation required for an EB-5 visa application can be very extensive and there several important requirements the applicant must meet.
The EB-5 regional centers program created by the Congress as a pilot program in 1992 and regularly reauthorized ever since provided an alternative way for businesses to raise foreign capital thus stimulating the U.S. economy. A U.S. business may petition the USCIS for a regional center designation if intended investments would promote economic growth. Once designated, a regional center becomes an investment vehicle for a business enterprise to attract foreign investors. Creating regional centers and working with foreign investors typically require legal expertise not only in the area of U.S. immigration law, but also in corporate and securities law. In pursuing a regional center designation, it is very important to work with an attorney experienced in structuring this type of transactions.