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Immigration Options for Investors and Entrepreneurs

Investors & Entrepreneurs

Nonimmigrant and Immigrant Options for Investors and Business Owners

Investment and entrepreneurship is a driving-force for global mobility. The United States immigration system offers unique options to foreign investors and entrepreneurs. These options can provide a pathway to permanent residency (green card status) for the foreign investor and his or her family. They also allow foreign nationals with business expertise to develop and manage new or existing businesses in the United States.


Types of Investment Immigration

Ways to Meet Investment and Immigration Objectives


Investment-based immigration can be summarized into two types. The first are classifications that are designed with the investment as the primary objective. This means there are requirements for minimum investment amounts, level of risk involved, and the process for the investment to be made. The second type may incorporate elements of investment to supplement its fundamental purpose. The key similarity among the classifications is their capacity for obtaining immigration benefits through a self-directed undertaking. This allows applicants greater flexibility in planning their immigration and directing their commercial activities in the United States.


Type 1: Investment-Specific Classifications


For obtaining permanent residence (Green Card status) through investment, the best example would be the EB-5 immigrant investor program. A foreign investor needs to invests a minimum required amount in qualified U.S. business and create at least 10 full-time jobs for U.S. workers. The minimum investment amount is determined by the geographic location of the investment and job creation requirements can be met through direct hiring of employees or through statistical assessment of the investment's economic impact in a geographic area. For those with financial resources and business expertise, this can be one of the best ways to obtain Green Card status in the United States.


Among nonimmigrant alternative is the E-2 Treaty Investor classification. It allows individuals from Treaty Countries to obtain a nonimmigrant investor visa through an investment in the United States. E-2 does not have a predefined minimum investment amount or require job creation. While it does not provide a direct path to Green Card status, the E-2 visa does not have a limitation on the number of extensions allowed. This means so long as the investment continues to qualify, the investor's E-2 status can be extended indefinitely. Since the E-2 can be obtained quickly, it can be used in conjunction with an EB-5 investment to allow the investor valid status in the United States to manage their investment while waiting to obtain their Green Card status.


  • EB-5 (Immigrant Investors)

  • E-2 (Treaty Investor)


Type 2: Investment-Capable Classifications


The second type of investment-based classifications have the capacity to incorporate elements of investment to supplement their fundamental purpose.


The EB-1A (Alien of Extraordinary Ability) is a classification that grants permanent residence to foreign nationals who have reached the top of their field. This is open to a wide range of individuals, from artists to business executives. Those who qualify under this classification do not need to be sponsored by a U.S. employer nor do they need any certification from the Department of Labor. The foreign national, however, is required to show that they intend to continue in their field of expertise upon entering the United States. An established entrepreneur who wish to develop a new business in the United States in a field that they are known for can consider this classification to meet their immigration objective.


The L-1A is a nonimmigrant visa that allows foreign companies with a qualified U.S. entity to transfer their managers and executives to direct their U.S. operations. It can be obtained quickly and used by the foreign company to establish, purchase, and operated U.S. businesses. This can be a good option for foreign business owners who wish to expand their operations in the United States. The EB-1C is the immigrant classification for managers and executives. It has very similar requirements to the L-1A and is often the most intuitive path to Green Card status.


The EB-2 is an immigrant classification for professionals with advanced degrees and individuals with exceptional abilities. EB-2 classification typically requires a job offer from a U.S. employer and obtaining a Department of Labor certification showing that there are no qualified U.S. workers for the position offered. These requirements can be eliminate through qualifying for a National Interest Waiver (NIW). It allows a foreign national (with advanced degree or exceptional abilities) to qualify based on a self-directed undertaking that benefits a particular national interest.


The E-1 Treaty Trader is a nonimmigrant classification for foreign nationals  to oversee trading activities in the United States. To qualify for the E-1 classification, the foreign national must be from a designated list of Treaty Countries. The foreign national also needs to show that they would oversee substantial trading activities between the United States and the designated treaty country. This is a good option for certain foreign entrepreneurs with U.S. businesses involving international commerce (import-export of goods).


  • EB-1A (Aliens with Extraordinary Ability)

  • L-1A (Managers and Executives)

  • EB-1C (Managers and Executives)

  • EB-2 (National Interest Waiver)

  • E-1 (Treaty Trader)


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