Ranking as one of the best countries for ease of doing business and accounting for nearly a quarter of the world’s GDP, it is no wonder that the US has always been considered a modern El Dorado for entrepreneurs.
But, as a foreign investor, how can you set foot in the Land of Opportunity, become a legal resident, and build a successful business? Thanks to today’s Green Card and nonimmigrant visa options, there is more than one pathway worth considering.
Here are some of the best ways entrepreneurs can earn a Green Card by playing to their strengths – but don’t forget that nothing can substitute the advice of a specialized attorney.
Investing a Large Chunk of Money for an EB-5 Visa
One of the most straightforward ways to secure a green card is through the Investor Visa. This “Golden Visa” model is widely adopted around the world, and many countries, like the UK and Hong Kong, have their own investor visa programs.
However, each country sets its own eligibility requirements. In the US, the Investor Visa is referred to as the EB-5 Visa, or the Employment-Based 5th preference, and is accessible to investors and entrepreneurs who are looking to make a significant investment in a new or existing company.
To become eligible for this visa, you will need to:
- Invest at least $1,050,000 or $800,000 in Targeted Employment Areas (those areas with an unemployment rate 150% greater than the US average or located in rural areas).
- Start a new business, invest in an existing business, or make a contribution towards a regional center project.
- Create at least 10 full-time jobs for eligible US workers
The EB-5 visa – or “Job Creation” visa – is a prestigious, highly sought-after option that can lead to US citizenship. If you have the funds necessary to apply for an EB5 visa and you believe this is the right pathway for your needs, head over eb5visainvestments.com to get your application process started.
Petitioning for an Eb-1a Visa for Extraordinary Ability
With nearly 42,000 applications approved just in the past 5 years, the EB-5 visa is undoubtedly one of the most popular options for entrepreneurs looking to start their business in the US. But it is certainly not the only one!
The EB-1A visa – or a subcategory of the Employment-Based 1st preference – is dedicated to “Noncitizens of extraordinary ability” who can provide evidence of their achievements in various fields, including sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics.
Applicants are self-petitioning for a Green Card and must meet at least three of the 10 criteria outlined by USCIS, which include the ability to provide evidence of international recognition and original contribution.
When opting for this pathway, you might also be asked to prove that your US visa will be used to continue to work in your area of expertise.
Some of the benefits of the EB-1A visa include the lack of quota backlogs, which are currently affecting other EB visa categories, and quick response times. You and your close relatives will be able to receive a response to your application within 15 days of submission!
Get an Eb-1c Green Card for Multinational Managers or Executives
If you intend to pursue a pathway to US citizenship through the EB1 visa but you don’t fit within the requirements of the first category, you may look at the EB-1C option.
This visa is part of the Employment-Based 1st preference and is reserved for “multinational managers and executives” who are transferring to the US from a foreign company.
To qualify for this visa option you’ll need to meet strict requirements, including:
- You will need to show evidence of your non-US employment for at least 1 year in the three years preceding your petition you must have a qualifying relationship
- The US citizen petitioning for your Green Card should have a qualifying relationship with the company you have been working for
- Your petitioning employer should intend to employ you as a manager or executive
The EB-1C visa is a suitable choice for foreign business professionals looking to transfer to the US and those professionals who have already received an L1 visa.
- Pro Tip – the EB-1C visa might be a great option for those managers and executives who hold equity in the company they work for and are looking to grow it by tapping into the US market.
Apply for an Eb-2 Visa With a National Interest Waiver
The EB-2 is an excellent alternative if you are highly qualified in your field of expertise but don’t have the necessary funds to petition for an EB-5 visa.
The Employment-Based second preference is dedicated to those with exceptional abilities in a certain field, or those holding advanced degrees (or equivalent).
But one of the main criteria you need to meet for this Green Card is that your application must be accompanied by an Application for Permanent Employment Certification, which is issued by the Department of Labor.
So, what if you are an entrepreneur or business owner not looking to be employed by another entity?
In this case, applying for a National Interest Waiver can help. This option allows you to bypass the need for a job offer and labor certification – but only if you are establishing a business that will highly benefit the US.
Today, there is no strict definition of what constitutes a business that operates in the interest of the United States and each candidate is assessed on a case-by-case basis.
Nonetheless, you’ll need to meet some strict criteria, including:
- You’ll need to prove that your business will operate in the best interest of the US
- You have the skills and knowledge to build a successful business
- You are able to prove how the US will benefit from waiving your job offer requirement
While this visa is a great option for entrepreneurs looking to relocate to the US and start a business in one of the nation’s best cities, you will have to produce a wealth of evidence, including letters of recommendation, qualifications, certificates, and proof of experience.
Nonimmigrant Visa Options: Other Options Worth Considering
If you are looking to leverage your entrepreneurial spirit to get a Green Card and become a US citizen, the options above are all great alternatives. But you don’t necessarily need to move your legal residency to start a business in the US!
The options below are nonimmigrant visa alternatives that allow you to temporarily enter the country and invest in a US business.
Apply for the e2 Visa as a Nonimmigrant Investor
The E-2 visa allows entrepreneurs to invest in an existing US business or start their own. This visa is only accessible by citizens of countries that have a treaty of commerce and navigation with the US.
Additionally, investors are required to make a substantial investment in the business in question.
Consider the l1 Visa if You Are Transferring to the Us
If you are working for a foreign company outside of the US and your employer is looking to transfer you to a related company located in America, you might apply for an L-1 visa.
The two companies will need to be connected by a qualifying relationship – i.e.: one can be a branch of the other, or they might have an affiliate relationship.
What’s more, you will need to be transferred to cover a managerial, executive, or specialized role. As an investor, you might consider this option if you hold equity in the company in question.
Got an Extraordinary Ability? Apply for the o1 Visa
If you are a foreign national of extraordinary ability, have a crucial role in an organization, have received international recognition, or are highly specialized, you might apply for the O1 visa.
For example, owners, CEOs, and founders of large, international companies might qualify for this nonimmigrant visa.
Which Visa is For You? Work With a Specialized Advisor
Over time, the US has built a reputation as a magnet for talented professionals and visionary entrepreneurs. So, it isn’t surprising that you’ll find more than one pathway to choose from when looking to build a business in America.
However, each application comes with its fair share of challenges that should not be overlooked. After all, a Green Card denial can compromise your future chances to obtain a US visa. Working with a specialized advisor or attorney can help you pinpoint the best visa option for your needs and submit a successful application.