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Business immigration options for the United States 

Updated 25.06.24 10 minutes read
Business PlansImmigration

The United States has a history of welcoming entrepreneurs from around the world like no other country. It is still the top choice for individuals and organizations seeking to prove themselves on the biggest business stage. Chasing the American Dream is a worldwide phenomenon and a priority for many ambitious entrepreneurs.

The United States offers a number of business immigration programs that offer applicants the ability to live and run a business there. 

Our goal here is to provide information on the most commonly used options, including what each one offers, the requirements needed to qualify for them, and the role of a strong business plan in each. 

What each business immigration path to the United States offers and how to qualify

These are a number of options for those seeking to immigrate to the United States to start a business. Each one differs in terms of what they offer applicants and the requirements that come with them. We’ve put together a list of some of the most commonly-used programs and a general overview of each. 

Remember that this is not a complete list and more information is available on the website of the United States government. Always consult an immigration professional to see which program best applies to your circumstances and for more detailed information regarding eligibility. 

E-2 Visa

This visa is meant for those planning to either purchase an existing business or create a new one. The E2 visa is commonly known as the “investor visa”. Eligibility is limited to citizens of E2 Treaty countries or countries with which the United States maintains a “qualifying international agreement”.

Holders of E2 visas are permitted to enter the United States for the sole purpose of developing and directing the investment enterprise. The E2 visa cannot be the basis of a Green Card application.

You can find more information about the E-2 visa on the US government website

L-1 Visa

The L1 Visa allows US companies to transfer their employees from one of its affiliated foreign offices to one of its offices in the US, under certain conditions.

This visa is divided into two types, the L1A visa allows the transfer of an established executive or manager to the company’s US office while the L1B visa makes it possible for an employee with a special knowledge relating to the organization’s interests to be transferred.

The L1 visa is for employees in managerial or executive positions and, unlike the E2 visa, can lead to a Green Card. 

You can find more information about the L1 visa on the US government website

Business immigration options for the United States

EB-2 NIW Visa

The EB-2 NIW (short for ‘National Interest Waiver’) is employment-based visa designed for foreign nationals who hold an advanced degree or exceptional ability to be of national interest to the United States. An applicant who qualifies for one of these categories must first file Form I-140, an Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers. An EB-2 visa under the National Interest Waiver (NIW) scheme allows you to file this petition by yourself on your behalf. 

The EB-2 NIW self-petition aids in bypassing the requirement for a valid employment letter and time-consuming labor certification process, which helps to make this one of the more popular options for those who are qualified. 

You can find more information about the EB-2 NIW program on the US government website

EB-5 Direct Investment / EB-5 Regional Center

Under the EB-5 program, investors (and their spouses and unmarried children under 21) are eligible to apply for lawful permanent residence (become a Green Card holder) if they make the necessary investment in a commercial enterprise in the United States and plan to create or preserve 10 permanent full-time jobs for qualified US workers.

There are two different ways to invest through the EB-5 visa program:

(1) EB5 Direct Investment Visa: Invest directly into a new or existing business.

(2) EB5 Regional Center Visa: Invest through a regional center EB5 project, which offers the flexibility of multiple investment options without the hassle of day-to-day management of the business. In this case, business plans are written for the Regional Center themselves, not for the investor.

You can find more information about the EB-5 program on the US government website

E-1 Visa

An E1 Treaty Traders visa is a viable option for the establishment of trade operations with the United States for entrepreneurs from certain treaty countries. For traders actively or seeking to engage in the trade of goods, services, international banking, insurance, transportation, tourism, technology, or certain news-gathering activities, an E1 visa can potentially provide temporary work authorization in the US.

In order to obtain an E1 Trader Visa, applicants have to demonstrate that they will be conducting trade primarily (over 50% in volume) between the United States and the treaty country where the applicant is a national, and that this trade will be substantial. 

You can find more information about the E-1 visa program on the US government website

O-1 Visa

The O-1 Visa was created to allow two groups of individuals entry into the US:

  • The O-1A Visa is for those with an extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics.
  • The O-1B Visa is for those with an extraordinary ability in the arts or an extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry.

This classification can also be extended to individuals who are essential to a specific event or performance (O-2 Visa) as well as to the spouses and children of O-1’s and O-2’s.

To qualify for an O-1 visa, applicants must demonstrate extraordinary ability confirmed by national or international acclaim, or a record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture and television industry, and must be coming temporarily to the United States to continue work in the area of extraordinary ability.

You can find more information about the O-1 visa program on the US government website.

Business immigration options for the United States

H1-B Visa 

This program is any US-based company seeking to hire highly skilled and qualified foreign employees. The H1-B visa allows employees to stay in the United States for a period of up to three years but can be extended to up to six years.

Holders of H1-B visas can apply to change their immigration status to Permanent Resident but competition for a limited number of places is quite intense. 

Even though H1B applicants aren’t starting a business in the United States, the sponsoring company should provide a fact-based and well-developed business plan of their own to support and justify the reasons for hiring a foreign applicant.

You can find more information about the H1-B visa program on the US government website.

EB-1C Visa

The EB-1C visa, also known as the First Preference visa, is available to outstanding professors or researchers, or certain multinational executives or managers. Each occupational category has certain requirements that must be met. The criteria used to determine if an applicant meets these standards is available here

The EB-1C is for applicants who meet L-1A non-immigrant standards, but intend to become lawful, permanent residents of the United States. For the EB-1C, there is a cap of 40,000 visas issued per fiscal year. Many applicants who have been granted L-1A visas, in the past, take this visa path to remain in the US permanently.

Applicants need only to have worked for the petitioning company for a period of 1 year in the 3 years preceding the EB-1C application.

You can find more information about the EB1C program on the US government website

EB-1A Visa

The EB-1A visa is an immigrant visa under the E1 category reserved for foreign applicants of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. A person with extraordinary ability is someone who is one of a small percentage who is recognized as being at the very top of a field. These achievements must be supported through extensive documentation.

With the EB-1A visa, a specific job offer is not necessarily required if the applicant can show that their entering the US will be beneficial to the US and that they will continue to work in the field in which they have extraordinary ability.

You can find more information about the EB1A program on the US government website

The value of a strong business plan

You’ve surely noticed that business plans are an important part of the application process for most of these business immigration visas. Even for visa programs that do not formally require one, a business plan can help to make a more compelling case for an immigration visa applicant. While there are no guarantees, a detailed, professional business plan can enhance a visa application by demonstrating the applicant’s commitment to success via thorough preparation. 

An effective business plan must do the following:

  • Focus on the benefit of the proposed business for the United States. The business plan should clearly demonstrate how approving the application will result in economic growth and contribute to the general prosperity of the United States. 
  • Emphasize the unique value proposition of the business. Show that the business concept detailed in the plan is likely to be successful. 
  • Include extensive financial projections. A convincing business plan must include financial projections showing the profitability and growth prospects of the business. Projections should cover a period of at least five years and should feature detailed figures based on reasonable assumptions about the market. 
  • Include industry and market research. A statistical market analysis and the examination of data related to the relevant industry show a deeper understanding of the business and illustrate the applicant’s numbers-driven approach. 
  • Show the applicant’s qualifications and experience. The business plan should feature the unique abilities, qualifications or other assets that the applicant brings to the business and how those talents will contribute to the business’ success. 

A business plan isn’t simply a required document for immigration visa processes, it’s an asset that guides entrepreneurs as their plans move forward. A business plan that covers the points above is a roadmap for conducting a business after it’s set up and running, helping to ensure its continued success. 

A persuasive business plan can make the difference in a successful visa application but its true value lasts beyond the early stages and can support entrepreneurs as their businesses grow and become profitable. 

Joorney’s Business Plans

Chasing your own American Dream? Make sure your business plan shows how you can make it happen.

The United States is a land of generous economic opportunities and rewards for ambitious, creative and hardworking entrepreneurs. The American government provides several ways for aspiring entrepreneurs to access these opportunities and start a new life there. 

Whether required or not, the inclusion of a business plan gives applicants an opportunity to describe their business concept in detail and demonstrate why their applications merit approval. Professional business plans can play an important role in the process and should be a priority for every applicant. 

If you or your client is considering applying for a visa to start a business in the United States, Joorney can help by crafting a high-quality, custom business plan to support the application. 

Reach out to us today to learn more.

Disclaimer: Joorney Business Plans is not a law firm nor an immigration consulting firm, and no information provided in this document should be considered as legal advice or recommendation regarding any immigration application program. All information provided in this document should be verified by a licensed or certified immigration professional before the reader can act on this information. As such, it is understood that Joorney Business Plans Inc. shall not be liable for any loss or damage of whatever nature (direct, indirect, consequential, or other), whether arising in contract, tort, or otherwise, which may arise as a result of your use of (or inability to use) this document, or from your use of (or failure to use) the information on this document.