Yes, you can start a business in the U.S. without a visa. However, the question you should be asking is whether you should. Although you do not need a visa to start a business in the U.S., you do need one to work for it inside the country.
In other words, you can open and run your business from outside the U.S.; however, if you want to come to the U.S. to work for your business, you will need to apply for a visa that allows you to do so.
Do You Want to Work for Your Business in the U.S.?
If you want to start a business in the U.S. and work for it, you will need to apply for a visa that suits your needs and goals.
There are different types of visas that may be available for entrepreneurs, depending on your nationality, investment amount, business plan, and other factors.
Some of the most common visas for entrepreneurs are:
This is a non-immigrant visa that allows you to invest in a business in the U.S. if you are from a country that has a treaty of commerce and navigation with the U.S.
To obtain this visa, you will need to show that:
- You have invested or are in the process of investing a substantial amount of money in your business,
- Your business is not marginal (meaning that it can generate more than enough income for you and your family), and
- You have the ability and intention to direct and develop your business.
The E-2 Visa is initially valid for two years and can be renewed indefinitely as long as you maintain your status and your business.
This is a non-immigrant visa that allows you to transfer from your foreign company to your U.S. company if they are related entities.
To qualify for this visa, you will need to show that you have worked for your foreign company for at least one year in the past three years in an executive, managerial, or specialized knowledge position.
The L-1 Visa is valid for up to three years and can be extended up to seven years for managers and executives, or five years for specialized knowledge workers.
This is an immigrant visa that allows you to obtain a green card by investing at least $900,000 in a new commercial enterprise that creates at least 10 full-time jobs for U.S. workers.
To qualify, you will need to show that:
- Your investment comes from lawful sources,
- Your business is located in a targeted employment area (TEA) with high unemployment or low income, and
- Your business meets the job creation requirements within two years of your admission.
These are just some of the visa options that are available for entrepreneurs who want to work for their business in the U.S. There may be other visas that suit your specific situation better, such as B-1 (business visitor), H-1B (specialty occupation), O-1 (extraordinary ability), or TN (NAFTA professional).
Each visa has its own eligibility criteria, application process, benefits, and drawbacks. Therefore, it is important to consult with an experienced immigration attorney who can advise you on the best option for your case.
How to Start a Business in the U.S. without a Visa
If you do not want to live in the United States to work for your company, you can go ahead a start your business from your home country.
Here are the steps you need to follow:
- Step 1: Choose Your Business Entity
The choice of business entity depends on various factors, such as your business goals, tax situation, funding needs, and personal preferences.
Generally speaking, however, LLCs are more suitable for small businesses that do not plan to raise capital from investors or go public, while C-Corporations are more suitable for large businesses that want to attract investors or go public.
- Step 2: Name a Registered Agent
As a foreigner who does not live in the U.S., you cannot act as your own registered agent. Therefore, you need to hire a registered agent service that can receive official documents and notices on behalf of your business.
- Step 3: Register Your Business
The next step is to file your formation documents with the state. These documents contain basic information about your business, such as its name, address, purpose, owners, and managers.
You can usually file these documents online through the state website or by mail. You will also need to pay a filing fee, which varies by state and entity type.
- Step 4: Obtain an EIN
An EIN is a unique nine-digit number that identifies your business for tax purposes. You will need an EIN to open a bank account, file tax returns, hire employees, and conduct other financial transactions in the U.S.
You can apply for an EIN online through the IRS website or by mail or fax. The online application process is usually quick and easy, while the mail or fax process may take several weeks.
- Step 5: Open a Bank Account for Your Business
Having a bank account is essential for managing your finances, receiving payments from customers, paying bills and taxes, and transferring money between countries. However, opening a bank account as a foreigner can be challenging, as many banks require you to have a physical presence or a valid visa in the U.S.
One way to overcome this challenge is to use an online platform that specializes in helping foreigners open bank accounts in the U.S. These platforms partner with reputable banks and financial institutions that offer banking services for non-residents and non-citizens.
Another way to open a U.S. bank account for your business is to visit the U.S. on a tourist or business visa and apply in person at a local branch of a bank that accepts foreigners.
- Step 6: Obtain All Required Licenses and Permits
Depending on the nature and location of your business, you may need to comply with various federal, state, and local laws and regulations. These may include obtaining licenses for specific activities or industries, registering for sales tax, paying income tax, filing annual reports, and following labor and environmental standards.
You should research the licensing and permitting requirements for your business before you start operating. The best way to do this is to consult with a business lawyer who can help you with the legal aspects of your business.
We Can Help You Start Your Business in the U.S.
Starting a business in the U.S. without a visa is not a simple or easy task. You will need professional guidance and assistance.