Are you considering establishing a business in the United States? Are you unsure about your choice of visa category? Thousands of international entrepreneurs often consider the EB-5 Investor Visa as the gold standard for all business immigration visas in the US. However, it couldn’t be further from the truth. While the EB-5 Investor Visa gives a pretty straightforward path to US permanent residence, the minimum required investment of $900,000 in targeted employment areas (TEA) is still too much for many, let alone the $1.8 million investment required to establish a business elsewhere in the US.
Many can not qualify for the EB-5 Investor Visa due to its high investment requirements. Therefore, it is time to start looking at the alternatives of the EB-5 visa.
What Are the Other Alternative US Visas for International Entrepreneurs?
The US offers the L-1 Visa and the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa. These visas are a lifeline for small or medium scaled start-ups that want to expand their operations in the US. As the investment requirement is not too high, many small businesses can qualify for these programs.
What Is the L-1 Visa?
L-1 Visas allow businesses to transfer key staff members to the US office from an overseas location. The L-1 Visa allows the transfer of employees in senior management or supervisory positions and employees with specialized knowledge. The main requirement for an L-1 Visa is that the employee must have been working at the organization for at least 1 year in the last 3 years. This visa can also be used to establish a start-up in the US. Another distinguishing feature of this visa is that applicants from all countries are considered as long as they meet the eligibility criteria. An L-1 Visa is generally issued for 7 years to senior managers and executives.
To apply for an L-1 Visa, the employer must file a petition with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The USCIS will then review the corporate and financial records of the foreign and the US company, and if it is a start-up, then the business plan for the US company will be reviewed.
Once this petition is approved, the foreign manager can apply for the L-1 visa at a US embassy or consulate. If they are from Canada, then they need not go through an embassy or consulate. Canadian citizens can simply apply at the US Port of Entry (POE) with their approved L-1 petition.