U.S. Immigration Rules 101

If you are based outside the United States, you probably realize that the U.S. online market is the biggest in the world; over $153.8 Billion will be spent online in the United States in 2010. If you live in Australia, New Zealand or the UK and you are attempting to capture a larger share of that market for your online business, it makes sense to develop trust with the U.S. consumer. The U.S. consumer is skeptical (just as you may be) if they are buying a product or service online and the company that is offering it is based in another country. What goes through the U.S. consumer’s mind is what happens if the customer service is not good, what about a refund…do I have any recourse against this foreign company? That typically turns into the U.S. consumer clicking on the back arrow in the search and going to the next search entry to find a similar product or service that is based in the U.S. Now they feel more comfortable. The best way to develop trust with the U.S. market is to have a U.S. company with a U.S. office and phone number. Now, you are operating in your home country and now you have a U.S. company, your business instantly becomes multinational! The question comes up, does that mean you can now work in the U.S. for the new U.S. company?

That falls under the U.S. Immigration laws. This article is not an attempt to give you legal immigration advice, just an overview and I will provide you with a great resource if needed. Business Immigration to the United States allows people who are desired by U.S. employers to be admitted to the United States to work on a temporary or permanent basis. How does it work when you have a U.S. company? First, if you never physically enter the United States, you will not have any U.S. immigration issues. The U.S. company can earn money and even pay you, which is ok. The issue comes into play when you physically come to the United States. The key question when you arrive at the U.S. airport will be, “What is your primary purpose for coming to the United States?” The key word is “primary,” not what is everything you are doing. If your primary purpose is to come to the U.S. for an internet seminar paid for by your home country entity (that is key), you should be fine with a visitor’s visa. It is recommended to show an agenda of the seminar, perhaps a page from the website, perhaps your payment for the tickets from your home country entity. If you have to sign some basic corporate or LLC documents, that may be ok, as long at the “primary” reason is not to work for the U.S. entity. That is where you get into immigration issues and you will need a proper immigration visa. Now let’s assume you want to come to the U.S. for an extended period and work for your U.S. company, now you get into the different Business VISA options.

Each one has different fees and times frame for application and approval.

Here are some of the common options:

1. An Investor VISA (may need to invest $100K to $500K to $1 million (depends upon several factors) Or 2. A Trader VISA (has to do with goods) 3. An Intercompany Transfer VISA-L1 (meaning you work for a company in your country and looking to come to work for the US company and there is common ownership). A. The L-1 VISA may be the most popular when you have a foreign company and a U.S. company with common ownership. There may be an advantage to file the L-1 after one year in business in the U.S. (all the more reason to file your U.S. entity sooner) vs. during the first year. B. The E Visa (trader and investor) are quicker to get, may be one month to 2, the L VISA, with intercompany, can be 3 to 4 months to get. 4. Legal fees may be $3,500 to $5,000 for the L VISA and E VISAs

Below are more details on each classification:

B-1 Business Visa The B-1 Business Visa is a non-immigrant visa allowing individuals to visit the United States for business purposes. B-1 visa holders are not allowed to work for a salary in the United States, but they may conduct “business activities” such as hold presentations or attend seminars. The main advantage of the B-1 Visa is that the visitor may change status to another work visa (e.g. H- 1B, H-2B or even apply for a Green Card) while being in the United States. This process is called change of status. E-3 Work Visa for Australians The E-3 Treaty Professional Visa is a relatively new work visa category, available only to Australian citizens. It is usually issued for 2 years at a time. The primary E-3 work visa applicant must be going to the United States to work in a specialty occupation similar to the H-1B Visa requirement. The spouse and children of the main E-3 Visa applicant do not need to be Australian citizens. Spouses of E-3 Visa holders are entitled to E-3D (dependent) visas and work authorization. The E-3 Visa holder can apply for a Green Card if a company wants to sponsor his or her application.

L-1 Visa General Information: Individuals who are employed outside the United States as executives, managers or in a position that requires specialized knowledge may qualify for an L-1 Intra-company Transfer Work Visa. If the applicant is already in the United States, a change of status might be possible. A change of status enables the individual to obtain L-1 status without leaving the country and having to apply for the L-1 Visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad.

E-2 Treaty Investor Visa Eligibility Requirements: The applicant is required to come to the United States to develop and manage the operations of an enterprise in which the applicant has invested or is actively in the process of investing a substantial amount of capital. In addition to the investment in a business enterprise, the investor must be coming to the United States to develop and direct the operations of the enterprise in which he or she has made the investment. The applicant must have more than fifty (50%) percent ownership of the investment, unless the applicant is coming as an employee of the enterprise. Operating a U.S. company can be a powerful branding and marketing strategy. The key is to play by the rules if and when you come to the U.S. and be clear that you have the proper documentation.

Here is a resource if you have any immigration questions:

Attorney, Sarah Flannery
Thompson Hine LLP
3900 Key Center 127 Public Square
Cleveland, Ohio 44114-1291
Sarah.Flannery@ThompsonHine.com
216-566-5718 direct number

About The Author: Scott Letourneau is the CEO of Fast Business Credit, Inc. When it comes to securing cash and vendor lines of credit and avoiding costly mistakes his company is the authority. For further assistance regarding the development of business credit go to http://www.FastBusinessCredit.com or call FBC at 1-888-313-6333 or 702-977-5246.