How to Immigrate to USA Legally: Business Immigration to USA for Investors

The US government is currently contemplating a series of measures to decrease legal immigration in the foreseeable future. The latter could include scrapping the green card lottery altogether. Nevertheless, the US administration remains open to foreign investors who are keen on establishing themselves in the United States for business purposes. For those considering business immigration to the US, this article is a valuable resource. It delves into the topic of relocating to the United States for permanent residency to start or expand your business. Discover everything you need to know about business visas in the US and which one is the best fit for your needs.

Business immigration to the USA
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What are the ways to obtain legal status in the USA?

The United States is a country of boundless possibilities. Perhaps, every person has come across the concept of the American Dream, and therefore, starting entrepreneurs as well as seasoned business people, contemplate moving to the US to start a business. It is often believed that achieving success and wealth in America is easier than elsewhere. However, in truth, success still heavily relies on the skills and talents of the entrepreneur.

Here’s how you may immigrate to the US:

  • family reunification, if you have relatives who are US citizens
  • marriage to a US citizen
  • winning the green card lottery
  • requesting political asylum
  • investing a certain amount of money in the US economy by opening or purchasing a company and conducting business.

There is no one-size-fits-all immigration option to the US. Each option has its own eligibility requirements, limitations, and benefits. However, for business people who have already built substantial capital in their home country, their chances of obtaining US permanent residency status are significantly higher.

What are the options for businessmen and investors to immigrate to the United States?

If you intend to relocate to the United States and run a business there, it is necessary to obtain a residency visa through either investment or starting your own business. 

Individuals who have an established business and wish to create a subsidiary or branch in the US, as well as entrepreneurs looking to start a new business from the ground up, and investors who are ready to buy an existing American company or a share in its capital are all eligible for the investment visa in the United States to run a business.

Several types of visas are available for those who wish to conduct business in the US:

  • EB-5 visa with a green card issued to investors who have invested capital in a new or existing business in the US.
  • L-1 visa, i.e., a non-immigrant visa for high-ranking executives of foreign companies who move to the US to manage a newly opened branch or subsidiary.
  • E-2 visa, which is available to citizens of countries that have investment treaties with the US.

The EB-5 visa – a guaranteed green card for millionaires

Since 1990, the US government has implemented an immigration program called EB-5 to attract investors. This program grants the coveted green card (permanent residency) to the primary applicant and their family members for investing in a business in the US. Although the program has been suspended in the past, it was relaunched in March 2022 to attract foreign businesses and capital, as well as create new job opportunities in the US.

Requirements for obtaining the EB-5 visa

Foreign nationals who are ready to invest a minimum of $900,000 in a new commercial venture or an established business under certain conditions can apply for the EB-5 investor visa in the US. Investing in so-called “regional centers” and making passive investments is also an option.

Here’s what the full range of investment options for the EB-5 visa in the US includes:

  • opening a new commercial enterprise
  • investing in one of the regional centers in troubled areas
  • investing in any local-level business project in the US
  • increasing the capital of an existing enterprise by 140% or more, and creating a certain number of new jobs
  • supporting a struggling business that has lost 20% or more of its capital recently with investments.

For the founder to obtain the EB-5 visa to the US, the company created must meet certain requirements:

  • The applicant must be actively involved in the management of the business.
  • Proof of the necessary amount of investment must be provided.
  • The business must make a significant contribution to the US economy
  • The company must create at least 10 full-time jobs for US citizens.

A newly created company is a term used to describe the act of starting a business from the ground up, relocating a company to the United States, or registering a branch or subsidiary of a foreign corporation.

Below, the requirements for business investment amounts are listed:

  • projects in Targeted Employment Areas (TEA) or projects in the sphere of infrastructure development – at least USD 900,000
  • projects in any other regions and business sectors – at least USD 1,050,000.

US Citizenship and Immigration Service autonomously chooses TEA zones for businesses, reviewing them every 2 years.

Key considerations when applying for the EB-5 visa

When considering the EB-5 investment visa for doing business in the United States, here’s what the applicant should be aware of:

  • Investments in the form of US government bonds or loans to existing American companies are not accepted.
  • Each applicant must verify their financial status by providing official documents that show a minimum capital of USD 1 million or an annual income of at least USD 200,000 for the past 2 years (for a married couple, at least USD 300,000). Additionally, the applicant must provide documents demonstrating the legal origin of the said funds.
  • The EB-5 program mandates the creation of at least 10 job openings in the company with salaries that meet or exceed the average level in the selected US business area.
  • For the first 2 years the visa is valid, the applicant is granted a conditional permanent resident status in the US based on the business they run. After this period, if the business remains operational and at least 10 jobs have been created for US citizens, the applicant may apply for permanent residency in the US.

Pros and cons of the EB-5 visa

The EB-5 investment visa to the US offers numerous benefits for foreign investors:

  • Green cards are granted to all members of the applicant’s family (spouse and children under 21), allowing for permanent residency, education, and employment in the US. 
  • Applications for green cards are processed within 24 months of receiving the US visa. 
  • US citizenship may be obtained after 5 years as a permanent US resident.
  • The program is available in 50 US states.
  • Applicants face no age, language, citizenship, education, or business qualifications.

The EB-5 investment visa to the US also comes with a few drawbacks:

  • The minimum investment amount required is the highest among all business visas to the US, starting at USD 900,000.
  • Investing funds in a company involves the risk of potential loss in case of business failure.
  • To retain their permanent residency status, the applicant must spend at least 6 months per year in the US.
  • It may take US authorities up to 12 months to process applications, and potential delays can follow.

The L-1 visa – moving to the United States as a top-level manager

The L-1 visa is ideal for individuals with an established business who wish to relocate to the US. It is granted to foreign executives or specialists intending to work in American branches of foreign companies.

In reality, the process involves a foreign corporation setting up a subsidiary or branch in the US. The individual in charge of the business can designate themselves as a top executive of the local unit and apply for an L-1 residency visa. Similarly, hired personnel composed of high-level executives can also apply for this visa if they are being transferred from the parent company abroad to work in the United States.

One of the biggest benefits of the L-1 visa is that it comes with an opportunity to obtain residency without the need to invest hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in a business. The typical investment amount is up to USD 100,000.

This visa allows the holder and their family members to reside in the US together, with the family members being eligible to apply for the L-2 visa under the same application.

Here are the investment requirements for the applicants:

  • To qualify for the L-1 visa, you must register a subsidiary in the United States, which will be founded by a foreign company or its shareholders. A business plan for opening a company branch must be attached to the application.
  • You must provide proof of actual business operations, such as opening a bank account in the name of the subsidiary and depositing around USD 50,000 therein to cover business expenses. Additionally, you must rent an office in the US. Documents that confirm business operations must be included with the visa application.
  • Within the first 12 months of the subsidiary’s operation, the said subsidiary is required to hire 3 or more employees who are US citizens.
  • There should be a capital turnover between the subsidiary and the parent company, which is confirmed by relevant documents.

Here are the requirements business visa applicants shall meet to be eligible for the L-1 visa:

  • To be eligible for the L-1 visa, applicants must have a minimum of 12 months of experience as a manager in a foreign company. Therefore, business owners should plan ahead and appoint themselves to managerial positions.
  • Additionally, applicants must possess special knowledge about parent company operations and be proficient enough in the English language.
  • The applicant must have a salary that exceeds the minimum level established in the United States.

There are 2 L-1 visa types:

  • L-1A – for top managers and company bosses
  • L-1B – for employees boasting specialized knowledge and skills. 

When it comes to L-1 visa applications, there are no limits on acceptance. It’s important to note that the annual limit for processing visas for foreign applicants cannot be cited as a reason for refusal.

 After their 1st year in the United States, L-1 visa holders are required to submit a report on their subsidiary company’s performance to the immigration service. If the report is positive, the visa can be extended for another 24 months, and the visa holder may apply for a Green Card. The best part is that not only the primary visa holder but also their dependents who entered the US on the L-2 visa may receive a Green Card.

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Key aspects of obtaining the L-1 visa

Immigrating to the United States on an L-1 visa as a subsidiary company manager comes with its own set of challenges. Here are some important considerations to keep in mind:

  • The visa application process typically takes 2 to 4 months to complete.
  • After the 1st year, the L-1 visa can be extended based on the subsidiary company’s performance, with subsequent extensions every 2 years. The maximum stay on the L-1A visa is 7 years, while L-1B visa holders may stay in the US for up to 5 years. This timeline allows business owners to decide on the best legal basis for permanent residence in the US or apply for US citizenship. If an applicant wishes to obtain a new L-1 visa, they must leave the country for 1 year before reapplying.
  • To transition from the L-1 visa to permanent resident status (Green Card), the EB-1 visa is the next step. An application for this visa can be made after 1 year as a US resident.

Pros and cons of the L-1 visa

Applying for the L-1 business visa to the US comes with a host of benefits:

  • Investment requirements are reasonable and can go up to USD 100,000.
  • Under certain conditions, a Green Card can be obtained within just 12 months.
  • Relocation to the US with your family is allowed, with opportunities to work and study.
  • Immigration intent need not be proven since the applicant is about to be involved in business activities.
  • Multiple managers or specialists from the same company can be granted visas for US immigration simultaneously.

When it comes to the disadvantages of obtaining the L-1 business visa to the United States, the following should be taken into consideration:

  • The applicant must have at least 12 months of experience in highly skilled or managerial positions at the parent company.
  • Before incorporating its branch in the United States, the foreign parent company must have been in existence for a minimum of 1 year.
  • Complicated calculations are involved in determining the required investment amount, and a thorough business plan must be prepared.
  • Merely establishing a subsidiary company is not sufficient to apply for the L-1 business visa to the US. Efficient and active company management combined with annual proof of successful business performance is also necessary.

The International Wealth experts are here to assist you with applying for the L-1A visa to the US based on business expansion.

The E-2 investor visa

Not all foreigners are eligible for the E-2 visas as the latter are exclusively available to citizens of countries that have entered into investment treaties with the United States. 

Below, you will find the list of states whose citizens may apply for the E-2 investor visa to the US:

  • Ukraine
  • Kazakhstan
  • Georgia
  • Armenia
  • Azerbaijan
  • Moldova
  • Kyrgyzstan, etc.

For citizens of sanctioned states or states facing certain restrictions, E-2 visas to the US are only available if they first receive second citizenship in Grenada, for instance.  The latter is the only Caribbean jurisdiction with an investment agreement with the US in place. In the above context, the citizenship of Montenegro is also a plausible option.

The E-2 visa is designed for conducting business in the United States and has a validity period of 2 years. Afterward, it can be extended based on the performance of the business, or converted to an immigration visa while residing in the US.

Details of the E-2 visa application process

Below, the requirements for the E-2 visa applicants are listed:

  • They must hold citizenship of a nation that has signed shipping or commercial agreements with the United States.
  • Such applicants must invest no less than USD 100,000 in the acquisition of an existing enterprise or launch a new one from scratch in the US
  • The sole purpose of their entry into the country must be to expand their business or administer the company
  • They must prove their funds are of legal origin.

When submitting documents and applying for the E-2 visa to conduct business in the United States, the investment process must reach its final stage, i.e., the established or purchased company must be ready to be launched.

Pros and cons of the E-2 investor visa

Pros of the E-2 investor visa to the US are obvious:

  • The investment requirement for the E-2 visa is relatively low compared to the EB-5 visa, starting from USD 100,000.
  • There is no mandatory requirement to create new jobs for American citizens, but the investor cannot hire their family members to manage the business in the United States.
  • The visa application process usually takes about 1 month, making it the quickest business immigration procedure to the United States.
  • The whole family, including children and spouses, can immigrate and obtain rights to reside, study, and work in the United States.
  • The applicant may be absent from the United States for a total of no more than 180 days per year, as long as the effective management of the company is not compromised.

The E-2 business visa to the United States comes with certain drawbacks:

  • citizenship restrictions for foreign applicants
  • non-immigrant visa status, meaning that its holder cannot apply for a green card.

Go ahead and contact the International Wealth consultants to learn more about how you can get the E-2 visa and purchase a company in the US.

What documents do business immigrants need to move to the United States?

When applying for an investment visa in the United States, you are required to incorporate or purchase a company. Here are the required documents your package will include in this case:

  • identification document, such as a passport;
  • document verifying the applicant’s current residential address
  • certificate of no criminal record
  • document to certify the legal origin of your funds
  • bank statement from the bank where the applicant has their current accounts.

To apply for a visa to the United States after you have incorporated a business, additional documents are necessary:

  • Articles of Incorporation
  • bank account opening certificates
  • account statements for the company to confirm the investment.

Looking to incorporate or acquire a company in the US? The International Wealth team of experts is here to help! You are welcome to contact us for a consultation on any matters relating to business immigration in the US at:

How can I immigrate to the United States by opening a business in 2023?

There are 3 possible business immigration routes to the United States:

1) Opening a subsidiary or branch of an existing foreign parent company to qualify for the L-1 visa as a top executive who is relocating to the US. The required investment amount is up to USD 100,000.
2) Registering or purchasing an American company to obtain the E-2 visa. The crucial requirement for this visa is that the applicant must actively manage their business and generate income. The minimum investment amount is USD 100,000.
3) Investing a minimum of USD 900,000 in a business and creating a minimum of 10 new jobs for US citizens to obtain the EB-5 visa and a green card.

What is the most reliable business immigration route to the US?

One of the most reliable ways to obtain a US green card is through the EB-5 immigrant visa program. This program requires a minimum investment of USD 900,000 and the creation of at least 10 new jobs. After obtaining the EB-5 visa, the holder will be granted a conditional permanent residency status for the first 2 years. After the status of their business is verified as active and legal, the holder will be given permanent residency status.

How can a business visa holder relocate their family to the United States?

When applying for any type of investment visa, the applicant may also apply for their family members (spouses and children under the age of 21) to join them. They will be granted the right to reside, study, and work in the US.

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