The Non-Citizen’s Guide To Starting A Business In The United States
Here is a guide including the crucial steps you will need to take in order to start a business as a foreigner in the United State:
Apply for a U.S. VisaThe very first step you need to take towards starting a business in the United States is getting a valid U.S. Visa that allows you to do business in the country as a non-citizen. Even though you don’t necessarily need to have a visa to open a U.S. business, having a company in the United States does not give you the right to enter the country. So, applying for a business visa should be at the top of your list of priorities.
When it comes to which visa to apply for, there are a few options to choose from:
The most popular one for entrepreneurs who are looking to open a start-up business is the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa. There are three main qualification requirements you must meet:
- You must be a citizen of a country that maintains a treaty commerce and/or navigation with the U.S.
- You must have invested or be in the process of investing a substantial amount of capital in the purchase of an existing business in the U.S. or in the formation of a new one.
- You must intend to come to the U.S. to direct the operations of the business. Passive investors will not qualify for the E-2 status.
If the E-2 Visa does not sound right for you, there are some other options to consider:
- The F-1 Optional Practical Training Visa – which is intended for students under the F-1 status who are starting a business that is directly related to their university major.
- The O-1A Extraordinary Ability and Achievement Visa – which is intended for individuals who can prove through solid evidence that they have “extraordinary ability” in the sciences, arts, education, sports, or business. This often means that you will need to have sustained national or international recognition for your work in your particular field.
- The H-1B Specialty Occupation Visa – which requires the non-citizen to work in a position that generally requires at least a bachelor’s degree in a specialized field.
Choose Your Business StructureWhen it comes to starting a business as a non-citizen, as of 2018, there are two types of corporate entities you can form in the United States:
- Limited Liability Company (LLC)
Although foreigners are often recommended to form a C-Corporation, there are some distinct advantages to incorporating as a Limited Liability Company. The most obvious of these is, as the name suggests, limited liability – meaning that members are protected from personal liability for business actions, and their personal assets are safe from the company’s debts. Additionally, LLCs are also free from the strict recordkeeping necessary for Corporations and have almost no restrictions in regards to profit sharing among members.
On the other hand, the advantages of forming as a C-Corporation are significant, with the most often-cited one being the ability to expand by issuing unlimited stock: a feature that is often highly attractive to investors.
Register Your BusinessThe next step is the registration process, which varies slightly from state to state, and is dependent on the business structure you have chosen in step 2. The basic steps and requirements of the registration process are as follows:
- You will need to choose a name for your company that is unique and has not been previously registered in the United States.
- You must assign a registered agent who must be available to receive the legal documents of the company.
- You will be required to fill out a certificate of incorporation.
- You must obtain an employer identification number (EIN). The EIN will allow you to open a business bank account, pay taxes, obtain any licenses you need, and hire employees.