Investors looking to immigrate to the United States, particularly ones who are thinking about starting a new business, start by searching for what options are open to them. Often they start with the EB-5 investor immigration program that leads to a green card. For many, this is the gold standard of investor immigration options. But for others, the minimum required investment of $ 900,000 is too much. They then turn to other alternatives. That is when they discover the L-1 and E-2 work visas as possibilities.

The L-1 and the E-2 work visas can be used for new start-ups in America and do not require nearly as much investment as the EB-5 program. Indeed, investors can get by with as little as an investment of $ 100,000 U.S. or less, depending on the proposed business. Note, however, that unlike the EB-5 program that leads to a green card, these are only work visas and do not result in permanent residence. It is difficult to discern the differences between these two work visas to decide which one to choose. It may therefore be worthwhile to look at the distinguishing features of these options more carefully to determine which one is best for a foreign investor.

The L-1 Work Visa

To best understand the L-1 visa, think of the analogy of Toyota transferring a manager or executive from Japan to America to manage a car plant here. This is a classic U.S. inter-corporate L-1 work visa transfer. The requirement is that the manager or executive should have worked for at least one year out of the last three years for an affiliated company abroad before coming to manage the related company in the U.S. As mentioned, the L-1 can also be used for an American start-up. The most important thing about this visa is that applicants from pretty much any country in the world can qualify to come to the U.S. so long as they were managers or executives in their home country. Although not absolutely necessary legally speaking, to be successful it helps if the foreign entity has been in existence for several years, has say at least five employees, and has filed several years worth of tax and employment returns. The existence of such a track record will help to support a successful application.


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