KNOWLEDGE BASE US Visa Options

 

Visa Options In The US

 

 

There are many different options available to entrepreneurs wanting to come to the United States to start a business. Nonimmigrant visa pathways allow foreign entrepreneurs to explore the possibilities of or start a new business in the US. Immigrant visa pathways allow foreign entrepreneurs who have already started or are about to start a new business in the US to immigrate to the US permanently.

 

Temporary (nonimmigrant) visas

Nonimmigrant visas are available to individuals who only want to come to the United States temporarily. There are a number of nonimmigrant visas available for different purposes and different industries. To review the many different options, review the section on Temporary (Nonimmigrant) Workers on the US Citizenship and Immigration Services website. A few of the most common visas available to entrepreneurs are explained below.

 

B-1 Temporary Business Visitor

B-1 temporary business visitor visas are for individuals coming to the United States temporarily to conduct business, to include securing funding, finding office space, negotiating contracts, and attending business meetings. You may be eligible for a B-1 business visitor visa if most of the following apply to your situation:

  • You only need to come to the US for a short, specific, and limited time period, typically under 6 months;

  • You need to come to the US for the purpose of setting up a new business or office in the US;

  • You need to attend meetings or conduct other business activities in the US;

  • You can document that you have enough funds to cover your expenses while you are in the US without having to obtain employment locally.

To get a B-1 business visitor visa you must be able to demonstrate the above conditions. With a B-1 visa, the initial stay is up to six months, but extensions of your stay may be possible.

 

H-1B Speciality Occupation

An H-1B speciality occupation visa is available to individuals who plan to work for a business they start in the US in a position or occupation that generally requires a bachelor’s degree or higher. You must have at least a bachelor’s degree or equivalent in a field related to the position to be eligible for an H-1B visa. To be eligible for this visa you must

  • have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent;

  • work in a speciality occupation; and

  • earn a wage.

You must be able to demonstrate the above requirements to be eligible for an H-B1 visa. An H-B1 visa requires a labor certification from the DOL and that the employer file a Form I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker.

Furthermore, it is important to know that there is an annual numerical cap on the number of H-1B visas available and that cap is often used up quickly. The initial period of stay in the US under an H-B1 visa is up to three years, extensions are possible for up to another three years. Generally, six years is the limit, but extensions of this limit may also be possible.

 

O-1A Extraordinary Ability and Achievement

An O-1A extraordinary ability and achievement visa is available to individuals who have extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. To be eligible for an O-1A visa you must meet the following requirements:

  • you have an extraordinary ability in in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics;

  • you possess sustained national or international acclaim in your field; and

  • you are coming to the US to work in your area of expertise.

You must be able to demonstrate the above requirements to be eligible for an O-1A visa. In addition to the requirements above, your petition must be filed by a US employer, a US agent, or a foreign employer through a US agent, meaning you cannot petition for the visa on your own behalf. Furthermore, you must obtain and provide a consultation letter from an appropriate peer group. Extraordinary ability means you have a level of expertise that demonstrates that you are one of the small percentage of people who have risen to the very top of your field.

The initial period of stay in the US under an O-1A visa is up to three years. This period can be extended in one year increments as necessary to complete or further the event or activity.

 

E-2 Treaty Investor

An E-2 treaty investor visa is for individuals who invest a substantial amount of money in a new or existing US business. To be eligible for an E-2 visa you must:

  • be a national of a country where a qualifying Treaty of Friendship, Commerce or Navigation or its equivalent exists with the US (see the Department of State’s Treaty Countries webpage to learn more);

  • have invested, or are in the process of investing, a substantial amount of capital in a US company; and

  • be able to show that you have control of the company by owning 50% or more of the company, or by showing that you have operational control through a managerial position or other corporate devices.

The initial period of stay in the US under an E-2 visa is up to two years, but this period can be extended in two year increments.

 

L-1 Intracompany Transferee

An L-1 intracompany transferee visa is available to executives, managers, and other workers with specialized knowledge who have worked abroad for a qualifying organization, including its affiliates, parent, subsidiaries, or branches, of the individual’s foreign employer, for at least one year within the three years before the filing of the L-1 petition. You may be eligible for a L-1 visa if most of the following apply to your situation:

  • you are a manager, executive, or an employee with specialized knowledge of a foreign business;

  • you have been working abroad for at least one continuous year within the past three years;

  • your foreign company is related to the US company you will establish; and

  • you will be coming to the US to open a new office location for your company; and

  • your company is transferring you to the US to work as an executive, manager, or an employee with specialized knowledge.

The initial period of stay in the US under an L-1 visa is up to three years (one year for new office petitions). Extensions may be possible in up to two year increments for a maximum period of seven years for managers and executives and up to five years for specialized knowledge workers.

 

Permanent (Immigrant) Visas

Immigrant visas offer a pathway for individuals to permanently immigrate to the United States. There are approximately 140,000 immigrant visas available each fiscal year for individuals (and their spouses and children) who seek to immigrate to the US for work.

 

First Preference EB-1

An EB-1 classification is available to individuals who have extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, are an outstanding professor or researcher, or are a multinational executive or manager. To be eligible for an EB-1 visa you must meet the following requirements:

  • you have an extraordinary ability in in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, are a professor or researcher, or are an executive or manager;

  • you possess sustained national or international acclaim in your field; and

  • you are coming to the US to work in your area of expertise.

You must be able to demonstrate the above requirements to be eligible for an EB-1 visa. Since a job offer is not required for an extraordinary ability immigrant classification, you can self-petition as an extraordinary ability individual. If you are coming to the US as a professor or executive, your employer must file a Form I-140 Petition for Alien Worker.

 

Second Preference EB-2

The EB-2 classification is available to two types of individuals 1) professionals with advanced degrees and 2) individuals with an exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business. The EB-2 classification generally requires a job offer and a labor certification from the Department of Labor (DOL). DOL regulations prohibit the issuance of labor certifications for self-employed individuals, therefore, an entrepreneur will generally not be able to apply for EB-2 classification unless he qualifies for a National Interest Waiver, which exempts the entrepreneur from the job offer requirement, and thus the labor certification. To qualify for this classification, your employer must file a Form I-149 Petition for Alien Worker.

  1. Advanced Degree Professional

    You may be eligible for EB-2 advanced degree professional classification if:

  • You are a professional who holds a US master’s degree or higher or a foreign equivalent degree that relates to the field in which you will work; or

  • You have a bachelor’s degree or foreign equivalent degree and at least five years of progressively responsible experience in your field after receiving your bachelor's degree.

  1. Exceptional Ability

    You may be eligible for an EB-2 exceptional ability classification is you have an exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business.

 

Third Preference EB-3

The EB-3 classification is for skilled workers, professional, and other workers. Skilled workers are individuals whose job requires at least a minimum of two years of training or work experience, which cannot be of a temporary or seasonal nature. Professionals are individuals whose job requires at least a bachelor’s degree or foreign equivalent and are members of the professions. Other workers are individuals who perform unskilled labor that requires less than two years of training or experience, which is not of a temporary or seasonal nature.

Third preference classification visas generally require a full-time job offer and a labor certification from the DOL. For all EB-3 visas, the employer must file a Form I-140 Petition for Alien Workers on behalf of the employee.

 

Fourth Preference EB-4

EB-4 classification visas are available to “special immigrants,” which includes:

  • Religious workers
  • Broadcasters

  • Iraqi/Afghan Translators

  • Iraqis Who Have Assisted the United States

  • International Organization Employees

  • Physicians

  • Armed Forces Members

  • Panama Canal Zone Employees

  • Retired NATO-6 employees

  • Spouses and Children of Deceased NATO-6 employees

Fourth preference classification visas generally require that the employer file a Form I-360 Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant. In certain situations, an individual can file the petition on her own behalf.

 

Fifth Preference EB-5

EB-5 classification visas are available to individuals who:

  • make the necessary (can be $1,000,000 or $500,000, depending on the circumstances) investment in a commercial enterprise in the United States; and

  • plan to create or preserve 10 permanent full-time jobs for qualified U.S. workers.

 

U.S. Department of State

Department of Labor

Temporary (Nonimmigrant) Worker options in the US

Permanent (Immigrant) Worker options in the US

Permanent Labor Certification Process

B-1 temporary business visitor visa

H-1B speciality occupation visa

O-1A extraordinary ability and achievement visa

E-2 treaty investor visa

L-1 intracompany transferee visa

EB-1 classification

EB-2 classification

EB-3 classification

EB-4 classification

EB-5 classification

KNOWLEDGE BASE US Visa Options