Startup & Venture
STARTING A NEW COMPANY IN THE UNITED STATES
Startups are unique businesses and in a position to use various visas for their benefit. The top visas for startups are the L Visa for new offices or the E-2 Visa for investors. Here is how each of these visas works best for a startup:
L Visa Option for Startups
If your company has an existing foreign entity abroad, the L visa may be a viable option for you to open a new office in the U.S. The new U.S. office must have a corporate relationship with your foreign entity abroad where you have been employed as a manager, executive, or worker with specialized knowledge. This means that the new U.S. office must be a parent, affiliate, subsidiary or branch of the foreign entity, and that both the U.S. office and the foreign entity must continue to share common ownership and control.
The “new office” L-1 visa is meant to facilitate a “ramp up” period for a new U.S. office of a foreign entity. This period is limited to one year. After that time, an extension of the L-1 visa is available if the new office meets this requirement. What makes an office active and operating will differ depending on the nature of the business. Typically it will involve factors such as hiring additional employees, fulfillment of contract orders, having a revenue stream, or holding inventory, if applicable
E-2 Visa Option for Startups
You may be eligible for an E-2 visa if you invest a substantial amount of money in a new or existing U.S. business. You must be from a country that has a treaty of commerce and navigation with the United States or a country designated by Congress as eligible for participation in the E-2 nonimmigrant visa program. A list of eligible countries is available here.
To qualify for E-2 classification, the treaty investor must:
- Be a national of a country with which the United States maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation
- Have invested, or be actively in the process of investing, a substantial amount of capital in a bona fide enterprise in the United States
- Be seeking to enter the United States solely to develop and direct the investment enterprise. This is established by showing at least 50% ownership of the enterprise or possession of operational control through a managerial position or other corporate device.
Another key requirement is that the investment enterprise not be marginal. A marginal enterprise is one that does not have the present or future capacity to generate more than enough income to provide a minimal living for the treaty investor and his or her family.
In a consultation, we can identify other visa options that may fit the needs for your startup, your founders, and any employees.