You want to move to the US, but you don’t have a job offer from a company that is willing to sponsor you. Many clients are pleasantly surprised to learn that there are options for those who are interested in either buying an existing business or creating a start-up. Self-employed UK citizens find the visa options below lend themselves well to continuing their businesses in the US.
E-2 Treaty Investor
An applicant from a treaty country, who has invested a substantial amount of money into the purchase or creation of a new business in the US, may be eligible for an E-2 visa. The United Kingdom is one such treaty country* and allows for businesses which are at least 50% British owned to qualify for this visa category. An investor must show that they will be in a position to direct and develop the company in the US and that the business is not marginal.
An employee of the same nationality as the company can apply for an E-2 employee visa. The employee must be undertaking a managerial or executive position or be able to show specialized knowledge of the company or its products.
For more information on an E-2 visa, please click here.
L-1 Intracompany Transfer
If a company is already established outside the United States, then it may transfer certain employees (including owners) to work for its US office if they have worked for the non-US company for at least one out of the past three years. These employees must have certain job responsibilities, generally falling into either the L-1A category of managers and executives or L-1B (employees with specialized knowledge). This visa category is often used for owners and employees who are needed to set up new US offices.
For more information on an L-1 intracompany transfer visa, please click here.
E-1 Treaty Trader
Similar to an E-2, an E-1 visa allows for owners and employees with the same treaty nationality of the company to work in the US if the company has had substantial trade with the United States. Substantial trade means more than 50% of the company’s international trade is with the United States. This is generally shown through invoices and pay bills.
An employee of an E-1 company must also show that they have duties which are executive/supervisory in nature or alternatively special skills which make their services essential to the operation of the business.
For more information on an E-1 treaty trader visa, please click here.
While the above will give a general idea of whether a company and applicant may qualify for a visa, the requirements as written and visa types listed are not exhaustive. Therefore it is best to speak with an Immigration Lawyer who can assess your chances of success and go into depth about other options. The above is also not legal advice and should not be relied upon as such.
* For a current list of E-1 & E-2 treaty countries, please see the State Department’s list here.