INTRODUCTION TO TYPES OF US BUSINESS VISAS

You can start and own a US company without a visa, and without even coming to the US. Managing an LLC from outside the US is allowed, but may be not be permitted within the US without a valid work visa. Being a director, as well as a shareholder, of a US corporation is allowed without any kind of visa, but being an officer and performing your duties within the US is generally not allowed. Working for your corporation or LLC within the US without a valid work visa is not allowed.

If you are planning to come to the US to start a business, you will need to have one of the various types of US business visas. Without a visa, you can be the owner or manager of a US company, but you cannot legally work before. If you do work for your own company without the proper visa, you can be deported without right of return, and your company can be fined for hiring an illegal alien.

TYPES OF US BUSINESS VISAS

NameDescriptionLengthLimitations
B1Short term business visa Not allowed to sign contracts or perform work for  hireTemporary, up to 6 monthsCan negotiate but cannot sign contracts
B2Short term Tourist visaTemporary, up to 6 monthsCan negotiate but cannot sign contract
E-1Treaty trader visa. Good for setting up a business that will trade with the visa-holder’s home country. Must be with a country with an appropriate treaty with the USTemporary, can be renewed until business is no longer in operationIs only valid as long as there is a business. Children  under 21 cannot work, and lose their status once they turn 21
E-2Treaty investor visa. Allows a citizen of a treaty country to come to the US to start a businessTemporary, can be renewed until business is no longer in operationIs only valid as long as there is a business. Children  under 21 cannot work, and lose their status once they turn 21
EB-5Investor Green Card program. Requires an investment of $500k to $1MM, must hire at least 10 US residents within 2 years and survive more than 5 yearsLeads to permanent residence after probation period
L-1Intercompany transfer visa. Allows holder to transfer from foreign company to a US company subject to restrictionsOne year, with up to 3 extensionsEmployee must have worked for foreign, related company for more than one year in the last 3 years
H-1BSpecialized labor visaThree year, extendableAnnual quota restricts number of visas available. Cannot be used for self-employment.
O-1Extraordinary Ability visaUp to three years, extendableMust be able to document extraordinary ability
TNNAFTA temporary work visaUp to three years, extendableCannot be used for self-employment

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