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Do I need a visa to own a business in the U.S.?

By December 21, 2021Immigration
A business owner standing in her shop smiling while holding a notebook

If you want to buy a business in the U.S., you don’t necessarily need a visa. This depends on whether you want to move to the U.S. to run the business, or whether you just want come to the U.S. couple times a year for short period of time to check on the business.

Here are some options if you want to move to the U.S. and manage the business you are buying:

E-2 Investor Visa

This is a great option for you if you plan to buy a business in the U.S., you want to move to the U.S. to manage the business and you are from an E-2 visa treaty country. To qualify for an E-2 visa, you have to make a substantial investment (if you are buying a business, the investment would be the purchase price for the business). Please see all the E-2 visa requirements here.

E-1 Visa

This may be a great option if you are an E-1 treaty country national and the U.S. business you are buying is engaging in international trade with your home country. One advantage of an E-1 visa is that you don’t necessarily have to hire U.S. employees, like you need to for an E-2 business. Please see all the E-1 visa requirements here.

L-1 Visa

If you own a business in your home country, and you want to set up a business in the U.S., an L-1 visa may be an option. The L-1 visa permits a U.S. employer to transfer an employee with specialized knowledge relating to the organization’s interests or a manager/executive from one of its affiliated foreign offices to one of its offices in the United States.

Eb-5 Green Card

Another option, especially if you are interested in getting a green card is an Eb-5 green card. You could qualify for an Eb-5 green card if you invest $900,000 (or 1.8 million USD. You can see all the Eb-5 requirements here.

If you want to keep living in your home country and only occasionally come to the U.S. and check on the business

If you want to stay living in your home country (or outside the U.S.), then you do not need a visa to buy a business in the U.S. A U.S. visa is only necessary if you want to live and work for the business while you are in the U.S. Additionally, if you want to occasionally come to the U.S. as a business visitor to check on the business, then you will need a B-1 business visitor visa (or if you qualify for an ESTA, you can enter as a business visitor on ESTA and would not need a B-1 visa).

Example

You want to buy a business in the U.S. and you live in Australia. You don’t want to move to the U.S. to manage the business as you have other businesses in Australia. You do want to come though to check the business before you buy it and thereafter you may want to come couple times a year for a short period of time to attend board meetings/to meet with your business partners.

In this scenario, you don’t need a U.S. visa to buy a business. However, if you want to come to the U.S. to check the business before you buy it/and come couple times a year to check on the business after you buy it, entering on a B-1 business visitor visa may be the best option for you. If you enter on a B-1 visa, you may engage in activities such as meeting with your business associates, meeting with your employees, or attending meetings, but you cannot work for the business. Please see the full list of B-1 permitted activities here.

If your plan is to buy a business in the U.S., but you don’t plan to come to the U.S. at all, that is also fine and you do not need a U.S. visa to buy a business in the U.S.

Please note that this blog post only analyzed the situation from a U.S. immigration law perspective. If you buy a business in the US, there may be for example tax or business law implications for you as a foreign business owner and you should talk to a tax/business attorney.

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