shutterstock_74614888Immigrant entrepreneurs and investors have always been at the core of the American economy.  Immigrant-founded companies have generated billions of dollars in revenues and contributed intellectual property leading to significant socio-economic advancements within the United States.  Foreign-born entrepreneurs are a critical component to the advancement of the U.S. emerging technology space and it is important to note the variety of visa options available.  This initial post will provide an overview of the nonimmigrant and immigrant visa options available to entrepreneurs and investors in the emerging tech space with future posts focusing on the visa specifics.


Visa Type General Description of Visa
Treaty Investor
The E-2 visa is for foreign entpreneuors who make a substantial investment in a new U.S. business or acquire an existing business.  The visa category allows for self-petitioning by the investor and can be renewed indefinitely based on the viability of the business.  The visa is only available to nationals of countries which have entered into treaties with the United States (notably excluding the BRIC countries).  While legislation has been signed which would allow for Israeli E-2 investors, the agreement between the United States and Israel has not been finalized and therefore as of today, Israeli citizens are not eligible for E-2 visas (exception may exist for Israeli citizens holding dual citizenship with an E-2 treaty country).
Intracompany Transferee
The L-1A visa category is reserved for intra-company managerial transferees where a foreign national has worked for the company abroad and is being transferred to the United States to either start a new office or work for the U.S. subsidiary/affiliate.  This visa category is ideal for foreign companies looking to open a new office in the United States.
Extraordinary Ability/Achievement
The O-1 visa is reserved for those who can demonstrate extraordinary ability or achievement in the sciences, arts, education, business, athletics, film or television.  This visa may be a suitable option for entrepreneurs in high-tech businesses who invent a new technology and receive significant recognition.
Specialty Occupation 
The H-1B visa is for employment in a specialty occupation (generally an occupation requiring the attainment of at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent).  This visa requires employer sponsorship and the petition must evidence that the employer / employee relationship exists where the employer can demonstrate control over the employee.
Specialty Occupation from Australia
The E-3 visa is similar to the H-1B visa however is unique for Australian citizens coming to the United States for temporary work in a specialty occupation.  Like the H-1B visa, it requires employer sponsorship.
Business Visitor
The B-1 visa is for temporary business visitors.  The visa itself does not provide work authorization however does allow the foreigner to engage in limited business activities.
Parole for Foreign Entrepreneurs In November 2014, President Obama announced Executive Action on immigration reform.  One component calls for regulatory changes which would allow entrepreneurs and investors to be paroled into the United States if they are engaged in start-up businesses or are inventors/researchers.  Once implemented, this would allow entrepreneurs and inventors/investors to come into the United States without the need for a visa or other sponsorship, and will be a tremendous benefit for the country.


Visa Type Description of Visa
Immigrant Investor
The EB-5 category is for immigrant investors who invest $500,000 or $1 million in a Regional Center or their own business, and create 10 jobs per investor.  This is an excellent option for foreigners who want to obtain a green card and focus on their entrepreneurial pursuits.
Extraordinary Ability
The EB-1A category is for immigrants who can demonstrate extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics through documented national or international acclaim.  This category allows for self-petitioning.
National Interest Waiver
The EB-2 category is for immigrants who are a member of a profession holding an advanced degree or have exceptional ability.  Though most filings in the EB-2 category require employer sponsorship, there is an exception for immigrants seeking a national interest waiver.  In these cases, the individual may self-petition and request a waiver of the Labor Certification requirement due to the job being in the national interest of the United States.  These are typically favored for foreigners of exceptional ability in the arts/sciences/business, and whose employment would benefit the United States.

This post by Ali Brodie was originally published on Greenberg Traurig’s Inside Business Immigration blog.