Basic Overview of Business Immigration Options

Companies that want to establish and expand their offices in the Unites States have several options for dealing with their immigration needs. What follows is a brief overview of the options:

L-1A/L-1B VisasIntra-company Transfers: Available to those coming to the US to work for a company that has offices (subsidiaries, affiliates, branches, etc.) both in the US and outside the US, where the alien has worked for the company abroad (full-time) for at least one of the last three years as an owner, executive, manager, or an employee with specialized knowledge. Limit of seven year stays for owners, executives and managers; five year stay for special knowledge employees. This visa is also commonly used when a foreign company wants to send a high level employee to open the US branch/affiliate/subsidiary. In this case the initial approval will be for 1 year and then renewals are available subject to showing that the new company has begun operating and is actively doing business in the US. In all circumstances, the foreign company must continue to conduct business abroad during the validity of the L visa. The alien’s spouse and minor unmarried children receive derivative L-2 visas. The L-2 spouse may be issued an Employment Authorization Card. The L-2 child may not work, but may attend school.

H-1B VisaForeign Professionals of Specialty Occupations: Available to people in “specialty occupations” which requires theoretical and practical application of a body of specialized knowledge and either a US Bachelors Degree (or foreign equivalent) or enough experience in the field to equal a degree (generally 3 years of experience for every 1 year of degree study). For example, architecture, engineering, mathematics, physical sciences, social sciences, medicine and health, education, business specialties, accounting, law, theology, and the arts are specialty occupations. Applicants must have an employer in the US willing to sponsor them and pay they the current prevailing wage for the position as determined by the State Workforce Agency in the state where the position is located. Under current law, there is a cap of 65,000 available H-1B visas per fiscal year. The alien’s spouse and minor unmarried children receive derivative H-4 visas. Neither the H-4 spouse nor the H-4 child may work, but may attend school.


B-1 VisaBusiness Visitors: Available to Short term visitors/tourists for business who must show their intention to return to their home country. Some examples of legitimate business travel (as opposed to “work” or “employment” which is forbidden on a B visas) are: conventions/conferences/seminars; commercial transactions such as negotiating contracts, litigation, consulting with clients or business associates; coming to the US to set up a US subsidiary and explore investment opportunities; installing equipment as part of a contract; observing the conduct of business; and attend meetings of the board of directors for corporations; etc. To qualify for a B-1 visa you must prove: 1) Clear intent to return to country of origin upon completion of event in U.S., 2) The alien’s principle business is in the foreign country and that they are coming to the U.S. to further international commerce and trade.

E1/E2 VisasTreaty Traders and Treaty Investors: Available to aliens from a country that has a treaty of commerce and navigation with the U.S., and who currently working for a business that has a substantial volume of trading business with the United States or are investing a “substantial amount” of money in a commercial investment in the US. The alien’s spouse and minor unmarried children receive derivative E visas. The E spouse may be issued an Employment Authorization Card. The E child may not work, but may attend school..

TN VisaSpecial Visas for NAFTA: When NAFTA was signed in 1993, a new visa category for “Professionals” who are citizens of Mexico or Canada. With the TN visa, a citizen of Canada or Mexico may work in a professional occupation in the US provided that 1) the profession is on the “NAFTA list”, 2) the alien possesses the specific criteria for that profession, 3) the prospective position requires someone in that professional capacity, and 4) the alien is going to work for a U.S. employer. The spouse and unmarried, minor children of the principal alien are entitled to derivative TD visas. They may study, but they are unable to accept employment in the United States.

EB-5 Immigrant Visa (“Greencard”)Investor Employment Creation Visa: Available for those investing at least one million dollars in a business in the US and creating at least 10 new (full-time) jobs. The investment must be of “at risk” funds and the investor must be able to prove the legitimate source of the funds. 10,000 immigrant visas per year are available to qualified individuals under this category. The spouse and unmarried, minor children of the principal alien are eligible to get their Greencards as derivatives of the principal alien.

This is only a brief overview of the various immigration options for individuals wanting to come to the USA either on a permanent or temporary basis through their business/company. The information is neither intended to be complete nor exhaustive, and is not intended as legal advice.