Business Visas for Foreign Nationals

Business Visas for Foreign NationalsQ+A: I am a foreign national, what business visa do I need to start a US based business?

As a foreign national wanting to start a business in the United States in an area popular for startups such as Denver, Colorado, you will want to make sure you have the right visa. Without the proper U.S. business visa, you could end up in legal trouble. Fortunately, that can be avoided with a little bit of knowledge about the type of visa you will need, how to get that visa, and the rights and responsibilities that come with it.

How Are Business Entities Started?

A foreign or US business entity would first need to be “incorporated” at the state level. You would choose the state in which you want to do business as a home base and follow that state’s requirements to start up a business. U.S. citizenship or residency are not required for this incorporation, but you must generally register in that state and also have a registered agent in that state who can accept paperwork for the business. That’s often an attorney but could also be a secretary or someone else.

What Requirements Are Different From Those for American Citizens?

Since you are not required to be an American citizen or even a resident to start a U.S.-based business, your requirements will not be much different from what an American would be asked to do. However, if you plan to stay in the United States and operate a business, you will need to be sure you have the right visa. The E-2 investor visa or E-1 treaty trader visa are generally what entrepreneurs obtain when they come to the United States to run a business.

What Is an E-2 Visa?

An E-2 visa is a U.S. entrepreneur visa that can be used by those who invest substantial money into a new or existing business in the United States. However, you have to come from a country that has the proper treaty agreements with the United States to be eligible for this visa. Your home country needs to be eligible for E-2 nonimmigrant visa program participation as designated by Congress, or it must have a treaty of commerce and navigation with the United States. A foreign national who is not from one of these countries will not be eligible for this type of visa.

What Is an E-1 Visa?

The E-1 visa is designed for admittance to the United States based on engaging solely in international commerce. You must be involved in this commerce on your own behalf, and you will also need to come from a country that has a treaty of commerce and navigation with the United States. Foreign nationals from other countries will not be eligible for this visa. The U.S. Department of State provides a list of treaty countries where foreign nationals are eligible for E-1 or E-2 visas.