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Starting a business in the United States
Looking to move to the US to get your business up and moving? Here’s how to get started.
Many immigrants in search of the American dream hope to start up and grow their very own business into a thriving enterprise. If you have that can-do, entrepreneurial spirit, the possibilities within the US business sphere provide many opportunities for business success.
The United States has a long history of rags-to-riches immigrant stories. Here are just a few:
- Born in Vietnam, Andrew Ly came to the Unites States with $1. By 2011 he had won the Immigrant Heritage Award for his Sugar Bowl Bakery that pulled in $40 million annually.
- Vinod Dham came from India with $8. Today he is a billionaire and considered the “father of Pentium.”
- Do Won Chang worked three jobs after he and his wife, Jin Sook, moved here from Korea in 1981. In 1984 they started clothing store Forever 21, which now brings in billions every year.
A US Small Business Administration study from 2009 found that 16% of “high-impact, high-tech firms” in the United States have at least one founder who moved here from another country. These immigrant success stories show that the American dream is alive and well.
How to start a business in United States
Starting a business takes work. US laws and regulations mean you’ll need to educate yourself about your particular industry and then jump through a few hoops before you can start earning your first million.
Before coming to US, you’ll need to ensure that you have the correct business-specific visa in place. There are two broad visa categories for entrepreneurs:
- Immigrant visas. For those who intend to move the US permanently.
- Nonimmigrant visas. For those who intend to return to their home country.
Visas specific to those who intend to see permanent residency include:
|EB-2 Visa.||This visa’s subtypes include visas for advanced degree professionals and those with exceptional abilities. EB-2 visas require a job offer, but entrepreneurs can seek waivers.|
|EB-1 Visa — Extraordinary Ability.||This visa is for those with rarified abilities. However, unlike the EB-2 visa, no job offer is needed.|
Visas specific to those who intend to move back to their home countries include:
|E-2 Visa — Treaty Investor.||This visa requires you to invest substantially in a new or existing business, with investment amounts varying by industry.|
|H-1B Visa — Specialty Occupation.||This visa is extended to those who are starting a business that typically requires at least a bachelor’s degree in science, engineering and other specialized fields.|
|O-1A Visa — Extraordinary Ability and Achievement.||If you have proof of outstanding abilities in science, art, education, athletics or business, this visa can help you start a business in your field. But you must show that you are among the best of the best in your specialty.|
Learn more about visas at the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Starting a company in the US means you’ll need to know the type of business structure you’ll use. For example, will you be in a partnership or will you do it alone?
Your business structure will affect how you register your business, pay your taxes, establish your liability, conduct your banking and file documents with local, state and federal government entities.
Business structures in the US include:
- Sole proprietorships
- General partnerships
- Limited partnerships
- Limited liability partnerships
- Limited liability companies
- Worker cooperatives
Each business structures has different rules. For instance, to form what’s known as an S-corporation, the company cannot have more than 100 shareholders, and each must be a US citizen or resident alien, among other requirements.
Learn more about business structures at the US Small Business Administration.
The US Small Business Administration can help you determine the insurance you’ll need to protect yourself and your business. Take the time to research the needs of your specific business.
For free mentorship from experienced executives, consider contacting the nonprofit SCORE. For basic answers about business insurance, consult services like LegalMatch and LegalZoom.
Newcomers often raise capital for a business with savings, credit cards and loans. Loans may come from traditional lenders, but don’t rule out help from the government’s Small Business Administration, which has offices in every state.
Immigrants start businesses at a higher rate than native-born residents, and small businesses employ more than half of Americans. Which means there may be an incentive out there to help get your business off the ground.
You’ll need to set up a US business bank account to manage your finances. However, finding the right account will depend on your business spending requirements and structure. For example, are you looking for a high-interest account to build a savings balance, or do you want minimal fees to look after your everyday transactions? Will you you need a branch nearby, or are you happy handling your transactions through online banking?
WIth so many account options, there are plenty of business banking solutions to choose from. The same goes for business credit cards.
Compare a range of offerings from US financial institutions before deciding on the appropriate products for your business.
What you need to buy or invest in a US business
The US has many business regulations on the books. And each industry has its own specific rules and regulations, which constantly change with politics and reforms.
Before buying a business in US, research the rules and regulations of your specific industry or market to avoid potential problems.
In general, if you’re here with a green card or an appropriate visa — such as the E-2 Investor Visa — you should be able to buy or invest in a business in US.
In fact, if you have a healthy amount of money to invest, you may be able to obtain what is known as a Green Card Through Investment. To start, you’ll need to invest $1 million or at least $500,000 in a rural or high unemployment area. If you meet other criteria, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services may grant you and your family conditional permanent residency.
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With all the rules, regulations, licenses and registrations required to legally establish a business in US, it may be worthwhile to enlist a business broker. Brokers can help you navigate the complex process of buying a business, acting as an independent third party to provide unbiased advice. Brokers can also call on their extensive local knowledge of everything from financial regulations and permits to real estate prices and insurance.
With research and support, you’ll be in a position to build the foundations for a business you can grow into a successful enterprise.
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