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Options for Noncitizen Entrepreneurs to Work in the United States

Stay up to date on US Immigration policy. Check out USCIS’s new article “Options for Noncitizen Entrepreneurs to Work in the United States. Please feel free to contact us if you want to learn more and/or need help. You can contact our team at [email protected] or by phone at (206) 292-5237.

Partial article copied from USCIS. Please see link above for full article.

“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, leading to the creation of jobs, new industries, and new opportunities for all Americans.

This online resource provides an overview of some of the temporary and permanent pathways for noncitizen entrepreneurs to work in the United States. This guide also highlights some of the most important immigration-related considerations for entrepreneurs contemplating starting or managing a business in the United States.

More information is available on for temporary and permanent pathways as well as for the International Entrepreneur Rule and Optional Practical Training (OPT) for F-1 students. In addition, the Working in the United States section of provides a general guide to employment in the United States. You may wish to consult with an attorney to determine the best option for you.

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 invest. For some pathways, you may be an owner or investor, but it is not required.

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

Some pathways require that you have a certain 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 lawfully conduct business in the United States 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 classification and the EB-1A immigrant visa classification, are for those with “extraordinary ability.” These require that a person have sustained national or international acclaim in their field of 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 on a permanent basis as a lawful permanent resident, or will I be working on a temporary basis as a parolee or nonimmigrant?

Some opportunities provide a basis for individuals to obtain lawful permanent resident status in the United States. 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 temporarily live and work in the United States. Although some of these nonimmigrant pathways cannot be extended indefinitely, they can provide more time to demonstrate eligibility for a permanent resident pathway.: