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Options for Noncitizen Entrepreneurs to Work in the United States

Listen to a podcast on “Options for Noncitizen Entrepreneurs to Work in the United States” below:

The United States has long been a destination for top talent from all over the world. Our ability to attract entrepreneurs has spurred path-breaking innovation, creating jobs, new industries, and new opportunities for all Americans. Key Questions to Consider When Choosing an Entrepreneur Pathway:

Am I required to make an investment or have an ownership interest in the start-up?

Some pathways, such as the International Entrepreneur Rule, require you to have a certain amount of ownership in the start-up entity. Other pathways, such as E-2 Treaty Investor or EB-5 Immigrant Investor, require you to invest. You may be an owner or investor for some pathways, but it is not required.

Am I required to have a specific role or position in the start-up entity?

Some pathways require that you have a specific role or position in the start-up entity. The International Entrepreneur Rule requires you to have a central and active role in operations. E-2 requires you to have the capacity to develop and direct the enterprise. L-1A Intracompany Transferee Executive or Manager requires you to be in a managerial or executive position. H-1B Specialty Occupation requires you to work in a specialty occupation related to your degree. Other pathways, such as the O-1A nonimmigrant classification or the EB-1A first-preference immigrant visa classification, are for individuals with extraordinary ability and require you to continue to work in your field of expertise. Additional pathways are discussed in detail below.


What are the requirements for the start-up entity?

Some pathways have requirements for the start-up entity. For example, the International Entrepreneur Rule requires the entity to conduct business in the United States lawfully and to have been formed within the five years immediately preceding the initial application. It must also have substantial potential for rapid growth and job creation. The L-1 nonimmigrant visa classification requires the new office to have a qualifying relationship (parent, subsidiary, or affiliate) with a foreign business that employed you abroad for at least one year. Additional requirements are discussed in detail below.

Do I have the education, experience, or skills needed to qualify?

Some pathways, such as the O-1A nonimmigrant visa and EB-1A immigrant visa classifications, are for those with “extraordinary ability.” These require that a person have sustained national or international acclaim in their expertise. Others, such as the H-1B, require at least a U.S. bachelor’s degree in a specific specialty or its equivalent related to the position.

Will I be working in the United States permanently as a lawful permanent resident, or will I be working temporarily as a parolee or nonimmigrant?

Some opportunities provide a basis for individuals to obtain lawful permanent resident status in the United States. The permanent resident status allows you to live and work in the United States permanently and typically provides you with a path to U.S. citizenship. These opportunities are known as “immigrant” pathways.

Other pathways, such as parole or nonimmigrant status, allow you to live and work in the United States temporarily. Although some nonimmigrant pathways cannot be extended indefinitely, they can provide more time to demonstrate eligibility for a permanent resident pathway.

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