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Starting a Business in America: If Foreigners Can Legally Own Businesses, Why Get an EB-5 Visa?

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The EB-5 Visa Program is one of several pathways to obtaining U.S. citizenship, and many people mistakenly believe it is the easiest. Sometimes derided as the “golden visa”, it’s commonly seen as the visa for the rich who want to “buy their way” into the U.S.


But it’s not quite that simple. In fact, the EB-5 visa application process is both lengthy and difficult, and although the visa can lead to a path to citizenship, it’s one of the most complex and expensive ways to get there.


Furthermore, people who want to do business in America might not even need an EB-5 visa, depending on their objective. In this article, we’ll talk about who actually benefits from an EB-5, and options to consider if you’re only seeking to do business in the United States.

Fact: Anyone can start a business in most U.S. states, with limitations.

You don’t need an EB-5 visa to do business, or even start one, in most of the U.S. – although it depends on individual state laws, the majority allow even non-citizens to form various types of business entities, such as LLCs (Limited Liability Companies).


Of course, there are some caveats. Namely, forming a business in the U.S. that legally operates and pays taxes requires your SSN (Social Security Number), EIN (Employee Identification Number), and an address in the U.S.


But of course, a non-resident of the U.S. won’t have these – which is why rather than the EB-5, the E-2 Treaty Visa is a viable alternative to the EB-5.


The E-2 Treaty Visa allows you to travel within the United States for work-related purposes, and has a stay duration of two years. This is a good option if you plan to work in the LLC you form.


Of course, you don’t need to actually stay in the U.S. to manage a business – you can form an LLC in the United States, and manage it remotely from your own country. Of course, your U.S.-based LLC will still need to pay taxes in the United States. A B-1/B2 visitor visa would be a good option, so that you can occasionally visit your business domestically – and in that case, you’d need a U.S. citizen as a business partner to manage the domestic side.


If you’re seeking to conduct business in the U.S. and possibly start a company, it’s better to schedule a consultation with an EB-5 visa immigration attorney. Even if the EB-5 visa isn’t your objective, a qualified attorney can still give you advice on all of your available options, and guide you through the process for any type of visa you’re seeking.

So who actually needs an EB-5 Visa?

The primary reason anyone might want to apply for an EB-5 Visa is the fact that it’s an immigration visa, which means it puts you on the pathway to obtaining permanent residency in the United States.


The other type of investment-related visas, such as the E-1 and E-2, are considered temporary in nature, and don’t come with any guarantees or any permanent status. The E-1 visa is initially valid for 2 years, while the E-2 is valid for five years.


The EB-5, on the other hand, is valid for two years, but also allows you to begin processing the path to a green card after that period. After that, you could petition to obtain permanent residency for an entire family, or request that your spouse and children be granted residency on their own.


So while the E-1 and E-2 visas allow a person to temporarily work in the U.S., or even manage a small business, the EB-5 visa allows a person to obtain green cards for themselves and their immediate family.


I'm a passionate full-time blogger. I love writing about startups, how they can access key resources, avoid legal mistakes, respond to questions from angel investors as well as the reality check for startups. Continue reading my articles for more insight.

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