Choosing the Right Business Visa
The following are just a few of the options worth considering, each with their own unique requirements and advantages.
The E-2 Investor VisaAlso known as the Treaty Investor Visa, this Business Visa is available only to a select number of countries that have signed commercial or navigation treaties with the U.S. Qualifying citizens can use this visa to invest in or start a U.S. business, so long as they provide both a credible business plan and make the investment.
The E-2 Visa also requires that the applicant's investment be "Substantial," which is determined not on the basis of any numerical value, but rather on whether the amount is sufficient to start the business, expand it, or fulfill crucial operations. Your business plan should make a detailed case for how and why this investment is pivotal to the enterprise.
For applicants wishing to start a new business, it is best to provide proof of a real estate purchase or signed lease agreement, in addition to your business plan. The more evidence you can provide that a bonafide business is established, the better your case for the E-2 Visa will be.
Whether you are starting a new business or investing in an existing one, keep in mind that the end result should be some sort of measurable growth -- namely in the form of hiring new personnel. If the business or investment is only adequate for supporting the applicant and their family, it is classified as a "Marginal Enterprise," which is prohibited for the E-2 Visa. By the same token, the business must also be active and profit-making.
The L-1 VisaKnown formally as the L-1 Intracompany Transferee Visa, this Business Visa is for companies with a presence both in the U.S. and abroad that wish to bring an executive, manager, or specialist from their foreign offices. It can also be used by foreign companies that wish to send someone to the U.S. to establish a new office (although the business entity being launched in the U.S. must already be formed prior to applying).
It is important to note that the L-1 Visa is only for applicants moving from a foreign to a U.S. based business that is interrelated in some way, either as affiliates, subsidiaries, joint ventures, and so on. They must have worked for the foreign office for at least one continuous year out of the previous three years before applying. The L-1 Visa is granted only for working in the U.S. office, and that work can only be done in the capacity of a manager, executive, or professional with specialized knowledge vital to the business -- in other words, the average employee would not qualify.
Thus, the applicant must present proof that they currently serve or will serve a managerial, executive, or specialized function. To qualify as a manager, for example, they must demonstrate their authority to run a particular part of the business, among other managerial duties. Qualifying as an executive means displaying a high degree of decision-making and shaping company policy. Applicants claiming specialized knowledge must show that their expertise or skill set is both vital to the business and difficult enough to acquire in the U.S. without transferring them from abroad.
The O-1 VisaThis visa class was created for individuals that demonstrate "Extraordinary Ability" in areas like art, music, sports, or science. Applicants will need to submit with their application proof of their achievements, such as a prominent national or international award, membership in a reputable organization, participation in major industry events (such as a film festival or conference), works featured in major news media, and a written commendation from a relevant authority. O-1 Visa applications can be sponsored by U.S. employers or their agents, as well as U.S. agents of foreign employers.
The O-1 is divided into two main categories: the O-1A for those whose extraordinary talents and abilities pertain to athleticism, science, education, or business; and the O-1B for individuals possessing achievements in art, cinema, or television.