The process of starting a business in the U.S. is similar for citizens and non-citizens, but there are important things non-citizens should observe in order to avoid issues that may affect their business investments. Our attorneys discuss the steps you may need to take in order to start your business in the United States as a foreign citizen.

What Kind of Visa Do You Need to Open a Business in the USA?

To operate a business legally in this country, individuals must obtain the proper visa, usually an E-2 Treaty Investor Visa or an EB-5 Visa. An E-2 nonimmigrant classification allows a national of a country with which the United States maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation (or with which the United States maintains a qualifying international agreement or which has been deemed a qualifying country by legislation) to be admitted to the United States when investing a substantial amount of capital in a U.S. business.

On the other hand, the EB-5 visa program allows foreign nationals to make a qualifying investment into a new or existing U.S. commercial enterprise that creates U.S. jobs. A single EB-5 investment can enable the main applicant, spouse, and any unwed children under the age of 21 to obtain Green Cards.

What Kind of Business Structures Are Available for Foreign Entrepreneurs?

After you have legal permission for the visa, the next step is to choose the right business structure for your company, such as a Corporation or an LLC. The type of business structure you choose will depend on your requirements, your purpose for starting the business, and your exposure to risk.

It is important to note that Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs) and C-Corporations must designate a registered agent in each state where it has filed formation documents to accept service of process on behalf of the company. You may want to contact an experienced immigration attorney, as there are some restrictions on the business structures that foreign entrepreneurs may form for their U.S. companies.

What Else Do I Have to Do to Open a Business as a Foreigner in the United States?

Once you have obtained the proper visa and chosen the legal structure of your business, there may be additional steps you need to take to launch your business in the United States. These steps may include obtaining an Employer Identification Number (EIN), opening a business bank account, and obtaining any required licenses and permits.

An EIN is a nine-digit number assigned by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The IRS uses the number to identify taxpayers who are required to file business tax returns. Foreign entrepreneurs can apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) as they will not have Social Security numbers.

In addition to an EIN or an ITIN, all businesses must have a business bank account in the United States. You should also obtain the necessary licenses and permissions in order to stay compliant with local, state, and federal requirements and avoid the risk of paying fines or having your operations shut down.

How Much Does It Cost to Start a Business in the U.S.?

The cost of starting a business in the United States can vary depending on whether you plan to invest in an existing business or start from scratch. You should also take into account the cost of obtaining the required employment or investment visas, as some visas have a minimum required investment amount in addition to any application and processing fees.

Once you have obtained the proper visa, you can expect to have various expenses that are normally associated with starting a business, such as the cost of filing for an LLC, obtaining permits, buying equipment or merchandise, hiring employees, and purchasing or leasing a location for your business. If you are thinking about starting a business in the United States or have questions about immigration matters, the attorneys at Stelmakh & Associates, LLC are here to assist you. Contact our office in Seattle by calling 206-558-6288 and requesting an initial consultation to get answers to your questions.

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