USA Expansion: Visa Options for Foreign Businesses

With the pound and euro strong on the international stage, more European businesses are looking to expand into new markets like the United States. Companies and investors who are contemplating expansion should know that there are several routes to accomplish this goal. The following will give a brief description of the most popular nonimmigrant categories. All of the following nonimmigrant visa types allow for a spouse to apply for work authorization and for derivative children (under 21) to attend school in the US.

E-2 Treaty Investor

An applicant from a treaty country, who has invested a substantial amount of money into the purchase or creation of a new business in the US, may be eligible for an E-2 visa. The United Kingdom is one such treaty country* and allows for businesses which are at least 50% British owned to qualify for this visa category. An investor must show that they will be in a position to direct and develop the company in the US and that the business is not marginal.

An employee of the same nationality as the company can apply for an E-2 employee visa. The employee must be undertaking a managerial or executive position or be able to show specialized knowledge of the company or its products.

L-1 Intracompany Transfer

If a company is already established outside the United States, then it may transfer certain employees (including owners) to work for its US office if they have worked for the non-US company for at least one out of the past three years. These employees must have certain job responsibilities, generally falling into either the L-1A category of managers and executives or L-1B (employees with specialized knowledge). This visa category is often used for owners and employees who are needed to set up new US offices.

E-1 Treaty Trader

Similar to an E-2, an E-1 visa allows for owners and employees with the same treaty nationality of the company to work in the US if the company has had substantial trade with the United States. Substantial trade means more than 50% of the company’s international trade is with the United States. This is generally shown through invoices and pay bills.

An employee of an E-1 company must also show that they have duties which are executive/supervisory in nature or alternatively special skills which make their services essential to the operation of the business.

While the above will give a general idea of whether a company and applicant may qualify for a visa, the requirements as written and visa types listed are not exhaustive. Therefore it is best to speak with a US Immigration Lawyer who can assess your chances of success and go into depth about other options. The above is also not legal advice and should not be relied upon as such.

* For a current list of E-1 & E-2 treaty countries, please see the State Department’s list here.

Thank you to Mackie Adoniadis of B&A Immigration for this guest article. B&A Immigration specializes in US immigration for individuals and businesses and is based in London.

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