I am a foreign national, how do I invest in and work for a US business?

As a foreign national, working in the United States may be an end goal, or a means to an end. No matter what your reasons are for wanting to invest in a US business and/or work for that business, there are requirements that have to be followed to ensure your time in the US is handled legally.

US-based companies are popular choices for investors, and for foreign nationals looking to come to the United States and work with an American company. The most popular option is the E2 investor visa for the USA, so they are able to put their money into companies they believe in and then come to the US to operate the business. An E2 visa is a non-immigrant or temporary visa (not a green card), and it lasts as long as the investor maintains his or her investment. The investment can be in a start-up business or an existing business, but it must be a US business to qualify.

An investor has to meet the E2 visa USA requirements, which can affect how much he or she invests, the type of business chosen to invest in, and the steps taken to be successful. For example, the investor needs to invest enough dollars to ensure the venture is “at risk.” Fortunately, there is no specific dollar amount required because it is based on the industry standard. However, if there are very few capital needs or expenses, it is possible the business will not be considered “at risk.” In addition, the company cannot be “marginal” which means merely supporting the foreign national and family. It must create income and/or jobs beyond the foreign national within 5 years. This can make it more difficult for investments in businesses that have low capital return or little need for employees. A popular type of E2 investor are those who want to buy a US franchise because of the track history of the company and usual need for employees (already created income, have resources to support new business). Once obtained, the E2 visa will allow the investor to either direct the business and work in the US or hire essential workers from the home country to work at the US business. With the E2 investor visa, there is no set amount of time that an investor has to be in the United States.

As an E-2 investor, the E2 visa holder must only work for the E-2 business. However, he or she can change into a different work status if something happens to the business or work options change. For example, if an investor develops a successful US business, he or she may want to sell it and then ironically, the E2 business goes away – leaving that person without a valid status. The investor may be able to obtain an H-1B visa (professional work visa) or other type of work visa to work for the NEW business. Working for a US business – especially in the Denver/Boulder Colorado area where there are so many startups and great hi-tech employment options – can really be valuable to a foreign national, but it can become quite complex.

Whether one wants to remain in the home country or move to the US along with an investment and work at the business or work even beyond the US business, Colorado immigration attorney Catherine Brown can help with concerns and questions.

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