Entrepreneur Visa Guide: Comparing the Top Startup Visas

The United States offers a few visa options for entrepreneurs who either want to start a business in the United States or who want to invest in U.S. workers. Each visa has its requirements, benefits, and drawbacks. 

Our guide will discuss the different types of startup visas for business owners and go over the eligibility requirements. We will compare the best visas for immigrant entrepreneurs, including;

  1. EB-Visas
  2. H-1B Visa
  3. E-2 Treaty Investor Visa
  4. L-1 Visa
  5. O-Visas

Immigrants Play a Central Role in the US Economy

According to one study, for every 100,000 immigrants, 520 became entrepreneurs in a given month. In 2016, for example, immigrants made up nearly 30% of all new entrepreneurs.  

Immigrants are not only overrepresented in the labor force relative to their share of the population, but they also start businesses in the US at a higher rate than people born in the United States. 

Immigrant entrepreneurs also create job opportunities for other people. 

As of January 1, 2015, immigrants founded nearly 51% of US startups worth $1 billion or more. Each of those startups employed an average of 760 people. 

The immigration attorneys at David Hirson & Partners, LLP (DHP) can help foreign entrepreneurs and their business/corporate sponsors with planning, preparing, and filing the complete immigration package with the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). 

What Startup Visas Are Available in the USA?

Generally, there are two types of visas available for immigrants who want to start businesses in the United States. 

One path leads to permanent residency (“green card”), while the other is considered a “non-immigrant” visa (visitor, study, or work permit).

Permanent Resident Visas vs. Non-Immigrant Visas

A permanent resident visa or “immigrant visa” is intended to allow the individual to live and work in the U.S. indefinitely. 

A non-immigrant visa does not grant the option to become a permanent resident in the U.S. The individual must qualify under one of the green card categories and file a separate application. Non-immigrant visas are utilized most often for individuals who are in the U.S. for temporary reasons, such as:

  • Tourism
  • Business
  • Temporary work
  • Studying
  • Medical treatment

Although they are not permanent, non-immigrant visas can still enable an immigrant to live and work in the U.S. for several years.

Our team at DHP can help you decide which type of visa makes sense for your immigration goals.

The Best Startup Visas for Entrepreneurs

Generally, these visas are what we would recommend for individuals or company owners seeking to start a business in the U.S.

Comparing EB-Visas

EB-1 Visas: Employment-Based Immigration, First Preference

The EB visa is for individuals who want to work permanently in the US. EB visas are available to certain individuals based on their job skills. 

Only roughly 140,000 immigrant visas are available in this category every year. 

EB visas have five “levels,” each with a different order of preference. EB-1 visas are given first preference. 

EB-1 applies specifically to individuals with:

  • Extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics through national or international acclaim – No offer of employment required.
  • Outstanding professors and researchers – Must be pursuing tenure or tenure track at a university or other institute of higher education.
  • Multinational manager or executive (This is the immigrant version of the L-1 Intracompany Transfer visa.)

Each type of EB-1 visa qualification has its unique requirements as well. 

EB-2 Visas: Employment-Based Immigration, Second Preference

Second-preference immigrants will receive higher priority compared to other employment-based applicants, except EB-1 applicants. Having higher priority means that you are more likely to get into the roughly 140,000 spots available for EB visas. 

EB-2 visas specifically apply to those who meet at least one of the following qualifications. 

  • The job involved must require an advanced degree or equivalent in education and experience.
  • You have exceptional ability in sciences, arts, or business.
  • You are requesting that the labor certification (“PERM”), that would otherwise be required, to be waived because it would be in the best interest of the United States to permit you to live and work in the country.

Other qualifications include things like showing you have at least ten years of full-time experience in your occupation and that you are licensed to practice in your chosen profession. Your unique circumstances will dictate what type of evidence you need to provide for an EB-2 visa application.

Family of EB-2 visa holders can also be admitted to the US under an E-21 or E-22 visa. For this visa, “family” includes your spouse and any unmarried children under the age of 21. 

EB-5 Visas: Employment-Based Immigration, Fifth Preference

The other EB visas operate very similarly to the first two, with each preference having fewer qualifications and requirements. The last EB visa is EB-5. It is more focused on people who want to invest in the United States rather than simply gain employment. 

In general, it permits an investor, their spouse, and unmarried children under the age of 21 to get an EB-5 visa if certain conditions are met, including:

  • Meeting a minimum investment amount that varies based on where the business will operate.
  • Creating or preserving at least ten full-time jobs for qualifying workers.

Recent EB-5 Changes

The EB-5 program changed as a result of the U.S. government’s regulatory changes to the program that went into effect as of November 21, 2019. Specifically, the minimum investment amount was increased to $1.8 million (and $900,000 for investments located in targeted employment areas) and changing how targeted employment areas are defined.

DHP is highly experienced in preparing and successfully filing EB-visas. Contact us to learn more about how we can help.

H-1B Visas: Specialty Occupations

An H-1B non-immigrant visa may be available to those who perform services in a “specialty occupation.” They may also work with the Department of Defense cooperative research and development, or they could be a fashion model who has distinguished merit or ability. 

The “specialty occupation” qualification is the most common reason that this particular visa is used, but it is not a common visa. The H-1B visa is highly selective.

“Specialty occupation” is not defined in terms of a particular industry. Instead, it is based on whether the worker has a bachelor’s degree or equivalent, and whether that particular job would require this precise expertise. 

The employer files this visa application on behalf of the individual, but it must go through a specific job offering process for US workers before getting the required Labor Condition Application (“LCA”). 

Additionally, the employer must offer the worker the job ahead of time to qualify for the visa. Learn more about the highly-specific requirements of an H-1B visa, or contact our business immigration attorneys for help.

E-2 Visa: Treaty Investors

A treaty investor is a foreign national of a country with which the United States holds a treaty of commerce and navigation. This individual must have also invested a minimum amount of money in a business venture in the US.

Certain employees of this particular company may also qualify for an E-2 visa. The USCIS maintains a running list of countries that have this type of treaty with the United States. 

Although EB visas are similar, the key differences between an EB-5 visa and an E-2 visa include:

  • The E-2 visa requires a lower minimum investment, no fixed minimum number of employees, has country-specific requirements, and requires a reasonable return on investment within a reasonable time to qualify for the visa. 
  • On the other hand, an EB-5 visa has no country-specific restrictions and its rules apply to applicants from all countries. 

As an E-2 treaty investor, holding the nationality of a treaty country, you must own at least 50% of the enterprise or possession of operational control by managing or meeting specific employment qualifications. The investment may not be “marginal” and must be “substantial” as defined in the Foreign Affairs Manual (“FAM”) and U.S. statute and regulations. Learn more about our E-2 visa services.

L-1 Visa: Intracompany Transferees

L-1 visas come in two varieties: L-1A and L-1B. 

L-1A is specifically for executives and managers, while L-1B is for those who possess specialized knowledge but do not necessarily serve in a management role. 

This visa allows a US employer to transfer a worker who meets specific qualifications from a company outside of the US to a related business at a location in the United States. 

It also allows companies to send an executive from another country to the U.S., to establish or manage a branch, affiliate, or subsidiary of the foreign company.

The O-1 Visa: Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement

The O-series visas are for those who have extraordinary abilities, usually signified by “national or international acclaim.” 

The individual must also prove they are living in the US on a temporary basis to work in their area of extraordinary ability. 

The O-series visas only apply to the following categories of work: 

  • Education
  • Sciences
  • Business
  • Athletics
  • Arts
  • Motion picture or television industry

More About O-Visas

O-2 visas are available to those who will accompany someone who qualifies for an O-1 visa. This person must be an “integral part” or “essential” to the O-1 visa holder’s work. 

O-3 visas are available to spouses and children of those who have O-1 visas. The EB-1 green card category has similar requirements but a higher standard.

Choosing the Best Startup Visa Option 

Every company has different needs, and your visa needs tied to a corporate sponsor will depend on many factors. Perhaps the most important consideration is what you and the company want to accomplish. Are you or your company more interested in bringing workers to the U.S. from another country? Are you looking to make a substantial investment in the United States? Do you want to expand your existing company to the U.S.?

Ready for the Next Steps?

The immigration attorneys at David Hirson and Partners, LLP can help you review all of your options as an entrepreneur or business owner, looking for startup and existing business visa pathways to the United States. Contact us today to get started.

TEA Designation changes for EB-5 program

New Rules for Targeted Employment Area (TEA) Designations in the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program

Targeted Employment Area (TEA) Designations for EB-5 Projects [infographic]

On July 24, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security published the final rule for The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program Modernization. The final rule for The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program Modernization went into effect on November 21, 2019.

However, this new rule still leaves some uncertainty and risks, particularly with Targeted Employment Area (TEA) designations. TEA designations are important because a project that is designated as being in a TEA can accept EB-5 investors at the lower investment amount of $900,000.


Changes to TEA Designations EB-5 Program

EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program: New Regulations [infographic]

On November 21, 2019,  new regulations went into effect, dramatically altering the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program. Here’s what you need to know:


New regulations for EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program

David Hirson & Partners, LLP Educates and Sponsors Immigration Conference in Vietnam

Attorney Phuong Le, Partner at David Hirson & Partners, LLP (DHP) recently returned from educating Vietnamese nationals about U.S. immigration strategies and standards. Attorney Le is recognized in Vietnam as a trusted source for U.S. immigration law and innovative immigration strategies.

On October 5, 2019, Attorney Le presented at the Khai Phu Vietnam Investment & Migration Summit held at Le Meridien Saigon. Attorney Le discussed and answered questions about EB-5, L-1, and E-2 visas. These visas are all popular and valuable pathways for Vietnamese families to successfully immigrate to the U.S. Attorney Le talked about how upcoming major changes to the EB-5 program make now the best time to invest and apply for an EB-5 visa.

After November 20, 2019, the EB-5 program changes, including increasing the minimum investment amount. DHP’s experienced attorneys can help you understand all of the changes to the EB-5 program as well as other U.S. visa possibilities.

While Attorney Le leads DHP’s dedicated Vietnam practice, DHP also has other teams of immigration professionals ready to assist individuals and families from all over the world with their U.S. immigration plans.

Contact us today to schedule a strategy session and find out your best options for U.S. business and family immigration.

Tel: +1-949-383-5358                            Web: www.Hirson.com                                          Email: info@hirson.com

Questions we're asking about EB-5 right now

EB-5 Legislative Update: Mid-September

This post addresses 3 ideas that are currently being discussed in the EB-5 world:

  • Will President Trump do something to “save” the EB-5 program?
  • Will the new EB-5 regulations be repealed by Congress?
  • Will Congress finally enact new EB-5 legislation?

These are all good questions to consider, but the simple answer to all of them is: No. Let’s take a look at each question in a little more detail:

1. Will President Trump do something to “save” the EB-5 program?

Many people look at Trump’s interests and track record with real estate development and believe that he understands and supports real estate deals across the U.S. Trump is not in a position to “save” the EB-5 program as President. Not even his use of executive orders can change the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The APA is the government’s rules on how to change its own rules. The APA is a set process that takes time in order for any change to be made.

2. Will the new EB-5 regulations be repealed by Congress?

Senator Rand Paul from Kentucky has been trying to get Congress to use the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to overturn or stop the new EB-5 regulations. While there have been many attempts to use the CRA since 1996, there have only been 3 times when the CRA was successfully used to overturn new government regulations. 3 CRA overturns in 23 years is not a very high percentage of overturns.

3. Will Congress finally enact new EB-5 legislation?

While the EB-5 industry continues its efforts to lobby Congress for new EB-5 legislation, there is no real result in sight yet from these efforts. Everyone can see how divided the U.S. Congress is, especially when it comes to immigration issues, including EB-5. With no consensus in Congress, there can be no legislative changes for the EB-5 program either.

The conclusion from all of this is:

  • Be prepared for a Continuing Resolution (CR) to most likely be passed by Congress which allows the EB-5 Regional Center Program to continue unchanged from September 30, 2019 to November 21, 2019; and
  • Be prepared for Congress to pass another CR in order for the EB-5 Regional Center program to continue after November 21, 2019.
    • Note: Direct EB-5 investments and petitions can continue without needing any CR from Congress. Direct EB-5 investments will have to follow the new EB-5 regulations after November 21, 2019 though.
  • Be prepared for the new EB-5 regulations which will come into effect on November 21, 2019.

Contact us with your questions and to speak with one of our immigration attorneys to discuss the best immigration pathway for you and your family.

Tel: +1-949-383-5358                            Web: www.Hirson.com                                          Email: info@hirson.com

EB-5 attorneys help family receive travel ban waivers and approval to enter the U.S.

David Hirson & Partners Guides Client Through Heightened Vetting Process to Receive Travel Ban Waiver

Earlier this summer, David Hirson & Partners, LLP (“DHP”) successfully helped an EB-5 investor client’s entire family of nine obtain travel ban waivers. These waivers were required in order for the family to be issued immigrant visas and enter the U.S.

Our client received approval of their EB-5 petition back in 2017 and attended their consular interview in Abu Dhabi in 2018. During their interview, the entire family was asked to complete Form DS-5535 (except the minor children under 14). This is an enhanced vetting form that requires the disclosure of the following for each applicant:

All: Past 15 years of: Past 5 years of:
Passport numbers & country of issuance Travel history Telephone numbers
Names birthdates of immediate family members Home addresses Social media usernames/handles
  Employment History Email addresses

After completing the requested forms, this family’s case remained “pending in administrative processing” for a few months, at which point DHP was retained to file a travel ban waiver packet for the family. Our firm compiled and filed the travel ban waiver packet based upon the family’s and investment’s given circumstances.

A travel ban waiver packet is evaluated based on three factors:

(1) entry is of national interest to US (here the EB-5 program);

(2) denying entry would cause undue hardship (here to the family, petitioner, and project); and

(3) entry would not pose a threat to national security or public safety.

Less than six months after DHP submitted the travel ban waiver packet, the consulate emailed the client for continued processing, asking for updated medical exams and passports, along with new DS-260 submissions. The applicants were also required to come to the embassy to retake the oath. The client and family members completed everything that was asked of them and they were all approved to enter the U.S.

All DHP attorneys and staff share a common goal of helping immigrants lawfully navigate the U.S. immigration system. Contact our office to schedule a consultation to see how we can help you and your family’s immigration dreams.

Tel: +1-949-383-5358                            Web: www.Hirson.com                                          Email: info@hirson.com

EB-5 investor visa updates coming in November


Original English version


  1. 新投资额:最低投资额为1,800,000美金。位于目标就业地区(TEAs)的项目最低投资额为900,000美金。但是目标就业地区认定过程的可能使该目标区域的大多数项目难以获得TEA认证。
  2. 更新的目标就业地区(TEAs)认定:目标就业地区(TEA)的认定将由美国公民及移民服务局(USCIS)决定,并且由于对连续人口普查的聚集和合并区域的限制,可能认定范围将会越来越窄。如果投资项目仅限于单个或者“直接相邻”人口普查区域,则可能导致大多数项目的投资额达到1,800,000美金。
  3. 优先日期保留的新规定: 如果投资申请人以后必须提交新的I-526申请,他们将能够保留其先前被批准的I-526申请的优先日期。这种灵活性可以保护投资人已经获得了1-526申请的批准,但是由于他们无法控制的情况(例如区域中心终止)可能会使其资格收到损害的情况。这种灵活性还允许在提交投资计划中的一些创意的转换,而不会危及到优先日期。不会将主申请人或投资人的优先日期赠送或者转移给衍生受益人。
  4. I-829灵活性: 如果投资人自己的I-829申请中没有包含其衍生家庭成员,那么衍生家庭成员必须在I-829阶段提交他们自己的申请。

重要的是了解这项新法案将于2019年11月21日生效,即自联邦公报发布之日起的120天。根据现行的EB-5规定,在此之前 “适当提交请愿书” 将被裁定。(备注:请注意,鉴于法案生效前有120天的空档期, EB-5投资计划可能会被重新授权(在2019年9月30日之前),新的改革可能会是从美国公民及移民服务局通过一项新的重新授权的法规。



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