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Visa FAQs: Incorporating a Company in the U.S.

So, you're setting up your company's legal entity. Starting to wonder about sponsoring U.S. visas or green cards for yourself or other employees? Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions that arise while incorporating a company in the U.S.

incorporate a business in the US

Does starting a U.S. business make it easier for me to get a U.S. visa?

Possibly. All U.S. work visas require a sponsoring company. If you don't have a U.S. company willing to sponsor your visa, starting your own company and sponsoring yourself can make it easier for you to get to the U.S. However, you'll also have to consider whether you meet the visa qualifications.

Are there any differences in the types of U.S. immigration options available based on the type of company I form? 

No. Every type of U.S. company (C-Corp, LLC, S-Corp, B-Corp, or non-profit) has access to the same visa and green card options for employees.

Can I start a company while working in the U.S. on a visa at another company?

Yes, with some restrictions. Working for your company without a visa or other work authorization violates your status. Status violations can hurt your chances of getting visas and green cards in the future. 

You can start a U.S. company even if you don't have U.S. work authorization for that company yet. You can also incorporate, apply for an EIN, establish a mailing address, apply for a business license, conduct market research, meet with investors and clients, negotiate contracts, and more. 

Once you want to become an official company employee, you'll need to get work authorization, either through a visa or a green card.

Can I incorporate a company while I'm in the U.S. on a student visa, such as an F-1 or J-1?

The answer here is almost the same as the answer to the last question. You can start a U.S. company when you're in the U.S. on a student visa, but you need to be careful not to violate your status. If you can gain work authorization through your F-1 (OPT or CPT), you may be able to work for your startup temporarily on your F-1.

Can I transfer employees from a foreign entity to a U.S. branch? 

Yes! One visa you may want to consider is the L-1, which allows multinational companies to transfer foreign workers to related U.S. companies. Although the L-1 tends to be an excellent option for companies in this situation, you can also transfer foreign employees with any other U.S. work visa, such as an O-1. H-1B, or E-2

What are the most popular U.S. employment-based work visas?

O-1A: A visa for individuals who meet at least three of eight "extraordinary ability" criteria

L-1: A visa to transfer employees from your foreign office to the U.S. office

E-2: A visa that allows nationals of certain treaty countries to invest in a U.S. company and work for that company in the U.S.

H-1B: A specialty occupation work visa

E-3: A specialty occupation work visa for Australian nationals

H-1B1: A specialty occupation work visa for Singaporean and Chilean nationals

TN: A specialty occupation work visa for Canadian and Mexican nationals

If you have more questions or are ready to file a visa or green card application, Legalpad is here to help! Check our website for business immigration resources, or start your immigration journey today!

About the author:

Annie Blay

Content Marketing Specialist

Before joining the marketing team, Annie helped over 60 Legalpad clients navigate U.S. immigration on the client services team.