- L-1 – non-immigrant visa for business owners (affiliate or subsidiary)
- E1 E2 – non-immigrant visas for citizens of treaty countries (min $50K – $100,000 investment)
- EB5 – immigrant visa (min US$500,000 – $1 mil investment)
Access to US Markets for Entrepreneurs, Business Owners & Investors
I am an entrepreneur and own a Business in my home country. What are my Options for legal immigration to the United States?
If you own a business in your country and have worked there for over one year you may be able to obtain an L-1 non-immigrant visa. L1 visas are available to employees of an international company with offices abroad and in the USA. You can apply for an L visa to establish a secondary office in the USA. Spouses of L1 visa holders can work in the US after applying for employment authorization. After having held an L-1 visa for one year you may then be able to apply for a “green card” as an international manager or executive through the EB1-C program. Additional options may exist depending on your circumstances.
L visas require the continued operation of a qualifying business outside the United States. The L-1 beneficiary must be physically outside the United States during the required one continuous year of employment, except for brief trips to the United States for business or pleasure. The L1 visa is a non-immigrant visa.
The L-1 visa has two subcategories:
- The L-1A visa is for intracompany transferees who work in managerial or executive positions in a company that is located outside the United States.
- The L-1B visa is for intracompany transferees who work in positions that require specialized knowledge.
The US government states that as a multinational manager or executive, you must have been employed outside the United States in the 3 years preceding the petition for at least 1 year by a firm or corporation and you must be seeking to enter the United States to continue service to that firm or organization. Your employment must have been outside the United States in a managerial or executive capacity and with the same employer, an affiliate, or a subsidiary of the employer. Your petitioning employer must be a U.S. employer. Your employer must have been doing business for at least 1 year, as an affiliate, a subsidiary, or as the same corporation or other legal entity that employed you abroad. The employer must be able to show that it has secured sufficient physical premises for the new office and that the intended US office will support an executive/managerial position within one year of the approval of the petition. Qualified employees entering the US to establish a new office are allowed to stay for a maximum initial stay of one year, while all other qualified employees are allowed a maximum of 3 years initial stay. All L1a employees may be granted incremental extensions of up to 2 additional years for a total maximum limit of 7 years. For L1b employees, the maximum limit is 5 years. After that, they must be outside the US for at least 1 year before they can reapply for an L1 visa.
Many of our clients are business owners and executives looking to invest in the US market. We assist our clients with plans to expand existing businesses and establish new businesses in the United States.
Can you qualify for an L visa? It depends. For example, Chefs with management responsibilities employed by multinational companies could be eligible for L-1A visas. It is also possible that a specialized knowledge individual could obtain an L-1B visa. For example, a medical company may have unique processes and procedures for preparing and delivering their products such that an employee with specialized knowledge is necessary.
Green Cards: EB5 Investment and Permanent Residency in the United States
Investors with either $500,000.00 or $1,000,000.00 to invest may be able to qualify for an EB5 visa. This allows you to apply for a U.S. Greencard.
While there are many issues that have to be addressed when applying for a visa, in our experience a common issue is the ability to prove the source of the invested funds. All potential EB5 investors must also be extremely cautious when choosing a regional investment center to work with.
Can I Obtain an E Visa?
E1 and E2 visas are only available to treaty countries. The countries listed as E-2 Treaty Investors (current as of May 2019) are listed below. Either your citizenship should be from the treaty country or the person employed is the same nationality as the investor.
E Visas are non-immigrant visas but they can need very little investment compared to an EB5-based green card application. E visas do not have the requirement that L visas have for the continued operation of a qualifying business outside the United States. We can assist you with the process required for obtaining an E Visa – including vetting or registering a US company in Illinois for you. We will also analyze the business opportunity that you choose to invest into, its business plan and registration documents. A credible business plan showing that the US business will generate enough money to support the applicant during his/her stay in the US along with all his dependents is required. The business cannot be marginal.
The E2 Investor Visa allows an individual to enter and work in the United States of America based on an investment that they will be controlling, while inside the USA. For example, Chefs holding managerial or specialist positions may be issued E-2 visas to work for a qualified E-2 enterprise. For example, a large Japanese-owned restaurant chain may employ a number of Japanese chefs using E-2 visas. A small E-2 qualified restaurant also may justify employment of a chef in a managerial or specialist position. Chefs who start their own restaurants are often eligible for E-2 status as principal investors.
Depending on your country of origin, it can be valid for up to 5 years and can be extended indefinitely. You must make a ‘substantial’ investment. Generally a minimum of $50,000 – $100,000 is recommended. Spouses and unmarried children may receive derivative E visas to accompany the principal immigrant and spouses may seek employment in the US by applying for employment authorization.
|Albania||E-2||January 4, 1998|
|Argentina||E-1||October 20, 1994|
|Argentina||E-2||October 20, 1994|
|Armenia||E-2||March 29, 1996|
|Australia||E-1||December 16, 1991|
|Australia||E-2||December 27, 1991|
|Australia||E-3||September 2, 2005|
|Austria||E-1||May 27, 1931|
|Austria||E-2||May 27, 1931|
|Azerbaijan||E-2||August 2, 2001|
|Bahrain||E-2||May 30, 2001|
|Bangladesh||E-2||July 25, 1989|
|Belgium||E-1||October 3, 1963|
|Belgium||E-2||October 3, 1963|
|Bolivia||E-1||November 09, 1862|
|Bolivia||E-2||June 6, 2001|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||E-1||November 15, 1882|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||E-2||November 15, 1882|
|Brunei||E-1||July 11, 1853|
|Bulgaria||E-2||June 2, 1994|
|Cameroon||E-2||April 6, 1989|
|Canada||E-1||January 1, 1993|
|Canada||E-2||January 1, 1993|
|Chile||E-1||January 1, 2004|
|Chile||E-2||January 1, 2004|
|China (Taiwan)||E-1||November 30, 1948|
|China (Taiwan)||E-2||November 30, 1948|
|Colombia||E-1||June 10, 1848|
|Colombia||E-2||June 10, 1848|
|Congo (Brazzaville)||E-2||August 13, 1994|
|Congo (Kinshasa)||E-2||July 28, 1989|
|Costa Rica||E-1||May 26, 1852|
|Costa Rica||E-2||May 26, 1852|
|Croatia||E-1||November 15, 1882|
|Croatia||E-2||November 15, 1882|
|Czech Republic||E-2||January 1, 1993|
|Denmark||E-1||July 30, 1961|
|Denmark||E-2||December 10, 2008|
|Ecuador||E-2||May 11, 1997|
|Egypt||E-2||June 27, 1992|
|Estonia||E-1||May 22, 1926|
|Estonia||E-2||February 16, 1997|
|Ethiopia||E-1||October 8, 1953|
|Ethiopia||E-2||October 8, 1953|
|Finland||E-1||August 10, 1934|
|Finland||E-2||December 1, 1992|
|France||E-1||December 21, 1960|
|France||E-2||December 21, 1960|
|Georgia||E-2||August 17, 1997|
|Germany||E-1||July 14, 1956|
|Germany||E-2||July 14, 1956|
|Greece||E-1||October 13, 1954|
|Grenada||E-2||March 3, 1989|
|Honduras||E-1||July 19, 1928|
|Honduras||E-2||July 19, 1928|
|Iran||E-1||June 16, 1957|
|Iran||E-2||June 16, 1957|
|Ireland||E-1||September 14, 1950|
|Ireland||E-2||November 18, 1992|
|Israel||E-1||April 3, 1954|
|Israel||E-2||May 1, 2019|
|Italy||E-1||July 26, 1949|
|Italy||E-2||July 26, 1949|
|Jamaica||E-2||March 7, 1997|
|Japan||E-1||October 30, 1953|
|Japan||E-2||October 30, 1953|
|Jordan||E-1||December 17, 2001|
|Jordan||E-2||December 17, 2001|
|Kazakhstan||E-2||January 12, 1994|
|Korea (South)||E-1||November 7, 1957|
|Korea (South)||E-2||November 7, 1957|
|Kosovo||E-1||November 15, 1882|
|Kosovo||E-2||November 15, 1882|
|Kyrgyzstan||E-2||January 12, 1994|
|Latvia||E-1||July 25, 1928|
|Latvia||E-2||December 26, 1996|
|Liberia||E-1||November 21, 1939|
|Liberia||E-2||November 21, 1939|
|Lithuania||E-2||November 22, 2001|
|Luxembourg||E-1||March 28, 1963|
|Luxembourg||E-2||March 28, 1963|
|Macedonia||E-1||November 15, 1882|
|Macedonia||E-2||November 15, 1882|
|Mexico||E-1||January 1, 1994|
|Mexico||E-2||January 1, 1994|
|Moldova||E-2||November 25, 1994|
|Mongolia||E-2||January 1, 1997|
|Montenegro||E-1||November 15, 1882|
|Montenegro||E-2||November 15, 1882|
|Morocco||E-2||May 29, 1991|
|Netherlands||E-1||December 5, 1957|
|Netherlands||E-2||December 5, 1957|
|Norway||E-1||January 18, 1928|
|Norway||E-2||January 18, 1928|
|Oman||E-1||June 11, 1960|
|Oman||E-2||June 11, 1960|
|Pakistan||E-1||February 12, 1961|
|Pakistan||E-2||February 12, 1961|
|Panama||E-2||May 30, 1991|
|Paraguay||E-1||March 07, 1860|
|Paraguay||E-2||March 07, 1860|
|Philippines||E-1||September 6, 1955|
|Philippines||E-2||September 6, 1955|
|Poland||E-1||August 6, 1994|
|Poland||E-2||August 6, 1994|
|Romania||E-2||January 15, 1994|
|Senegal||E-2||October 25, 1990|
|Singapore||E-1||January 1, 2004|
|Singapore||E-2||January 1, 2004|
|Slovak Republic||E-2||January 1, 1993|
|Slovenia||E-1||November 15, 1882|
|Slovenia||E-2||November 15, 1882|
|Spain 8||E-1||April 14, 1903|
|Spain||E-2||April 14, 1903|
|Sri Lanka||E-2||May 1, 1993|
|Suriname||E-1||February 10, 1963|
|Suriname 9||E-2||February 10, 1963|
|Sweden||E-1||February 20, 1992|
|Sweden||E-2||February 20, 1992|
|Switzerland||E-1||November 08, 1855|
|Switzerland||E-2||November 08, 1855|
|Thailand||E-1||June 8, 1968|
|Thailand||E-2||June 8, 1968|
|Togo||E-1||February 5, 1967|
|Togo||E-2||February 5, 1967|
|Trinidad & Tobago||E-2||December 26, 1996|
|Tunisia||E-2||February 7, 1993|
|Turkey||E-1||February 15, 1933|
|Turkey||E-2||May 18, 1990|
|Ukraine||E-2||November 16, 1996|
|United Kingdom||E-1||July 03, 1815|
|United Kingdom||E-2||July 03, 1815|
|Yugoslavia||E-1||November 15, 1882|
|Yugoslavia||E-2||November 15, 1882|
Country Specific Footnotes
- China (Taiwan) – Pursuant to Section 6 of the Taiwan Relations Act, (TRA) Public Law 96-8, 93 Stat, 14, and Executive Order 12143, 44 F.R. 37191, this agreement which was concluded with the Taiwan authorities prior to January 01, 1979, is administered on a nongovernmental basis by the American Institute in Taiwan, a nonprofit District of Columbia corporation, and constitutes neither recognition of the Taiwan authorities nor the continuation of any official relationship with Taiwan.
- Czech Repubilc and Slovak Republic – The Treaty with the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic entered into force on December 19, 1992; entered into force for the Czech Republic and Slovak Republic as separate states on January 01, 1993.
- Denmark – The Treaty which entered into force on July 30, 1961, does not apply to Greenland.
- France – The Treaty which entered into force on December 21, 1960, applies to the departments of Martinique, Guadeloupe, French Guiana and Reunion.
- Japan – The Treaty which entered into force on October 30, 1953, was made applicable to the Bonin Islands on June 26, 1968, and to the Ryukyu Islands on May 15, 1972.
- Netherlands – The Treaty which entered into force on December 05, 1957, is applicable to Aruba and Netherlands Antilles.
- Norway – The Treaty which entered into force on September 13, 1932, does not apply to Svalbard (Spitzbergen and certain lesser islands).
- Spain – The Treaty which entered into force on April 14, 1903, is applicable to all territories.
- Suriname – The Treaty with the Netherlands which entered into force December 05, 1957, was made applicable to Suriname on February 10, 1963.
- United Kingdom – The Convention which entered into force on July 03, 1815, applies only to British territory in Europe (the British Isles (except the Republic of Ireland), the Channel Islands and Gibraltar) and to “inhabitants” of such territory. This term, as used in the Convention, means “one who resides actually and permanently in a given place, and has his domicile there.” Also, in order to qualify for treaty trader or treaty investor status under this treaty, the alien must be a national of the United Kingdom. Individuals having the nationality of members of the Commonwealth other than the United Kingdom do not qualify for treaty trader or treaty investor status under this treaty.
- Yugoslavia – The U.S. view is that the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) has dissolved and that the successors that formerly made up the SFRY – Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Republic of Macedonia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Kosovo a continue to be bound by the treaty in force with the SFRY and the time of dissolution.
- The E-3 visa is for nationals of the Commonwealth of Australia who wish to enter the United States to perform services in a “specialty occupation.” The term “specialty occupation” means an occupation that requires theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge, and attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree in the specific specialty (or its equivalent) as a minimum for entry into the occupation in the United States. The definition is the same as the Immigration and Nationality Act definition of an H-1B specialty occupation.
- Bolivia – Bolivian nationals with qualifying investments in place in the United States by June 10, 2012 continue to be entitled to E-2 classification until June 10, 2022. The only nationals of Bolivia (other than those qualifying for derivative status based on a familial relationship to an E-2 principal alien) who may qualify for E-2 visas at this time are those applicants who are coming to the United States to engage in E-2 activity in furtherance of covered investments established or acquired prior to June 10, 2012.
- Ecuadorian nationals with qualifying investments in place in the United States by May 18, 2018 continue to be entitled to E-2 classification until May 18, 2028. The only nationals of Ecuador (other than those qualifying for derivative status based on a familial relationship to an E-2 principal alien) who may qualify for E-2 visas at this time are those applicants who are coming to the United States to engage in E-2 activity in furtherance of covered investments established or acquired prior to May 18, 2018.
We receive a lot of inquiries from Indian nationals – E-2 Visas are not currently available to Indian nationals. We have worked with Indian clients who have obtained a third country nationality and then qualified for an E visa on that basis.
Filing for Change of Status to E-2 Classification
If a treaty investor is currently in the United States in a lawful nonimmigrant status, they may file the requisite form to request a change of status to E-2 classification.
Obtaining E-2 Classification when Outside the United States
A request for E-2 classification may not be made on Form I-129 if the person being filed for is physically outside the United States. Interested parties must apply for a visa. There are several steps to apply for a visa. The order of these steps and how you complete them may vary at the embassy or consulate website where you will apply. Upon issuance of a visa, the person may then apply to a DHS immigration officer at a U.S. port of entry for admission as an E-2 nonimmigrant.
Can my Spouse and Dependents Work in the United States?
The ability of your spouse or children to work in the United States depends on the type of visa you obtain and the specific facts of your case. The table below outlines the GENERAL position in relation to a trailing spouse but is NOT intended to provide specific legal advice.
Great! I’m ready to start the immigration process? Who is eligible to help me?
Who may represent you in U.S. immigration proceedings?
As emphasized by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, only a US licensed attorney or an accredited representative working for a Board of Immigration Appeals-recognized organization can give you legal advice. This includes:
- How to answer questions on your immigration forms;
- What immigration options you have; and
- Communication with USCIS about your case
Only United States licensed attorneys or an accredited representative, as mentioned above, may now fill out Form G-28 and represent individuals for work/immigrant visa applications at the border or at the USCIS Service Center (which constitutes the bulk of all United States immigration matters). Under the new rules, foreign attorneys are prohibited from representing and thereby communicating or negotiating with United States immigration authorities regarding any immigration matter pending within the United States or at the border, regardless of whether or not they are in-house.
If your case is transferred to a domestic USCIS office, USCIS will communicate with you directly, not with your foreign attorney (who had to submit Form G-28i).
Having a visa does not guarantee entry into the USA. It allows the visa-holder to travel to a port-of-entry (airport or land border) where an immigration officer has the power to deny or grant entry into the country.
Beware of anyone who guarantees that they can get you a visa for a certain fee, or of anyone who claims that they have an ‘inside-track’ or that they ‘know someone’ who can speed up the process.