Can a Non-Citizen Start a Business in the U.S.?

Business district in the U.S.?

The USA is a land of opportunity for citizens and non-citizens alike. If you’re not a citizen but want to start a business venture in the U.S., it’s possible to do so. The United States government does not restrict who can own a business within the U.S., but it’s important to note that while almost anyone can start a business, you’ll require the proper work permit to work at that company in the U.S.

Starting a business in the U.S. as a non-citizen is not that different of a process from how an American citizen would start a business. Even so, seeking legal advice can help ensure you’re on the right track. For assistance with international corporate and financial matters during this process, work with transatlantic boutique law firm Rooney Nimmo and get a head start abroad. Contact us or call us at (212) 545-8022 to learn how we can help you.

How to Start a Business in the U.S. [for Non-Citizens]

Choose Your Business Structure

The first step to starting any business is creating the business entity. There are two types of business entities available to non-citizens: a limited liability company (LLC) and a C corporation (C-Corp). Each has specific filing instructions and rules regarding the structure.

An LLC protects your assets by establishing your business as a separate legal entity. LLCs tend to have less rigorous paperwork requirements and more tax flexibility than a C-Corp. LLC’s have Members and Membership Interests, as opposed to Shareholders of a corporation.

C Corporations establish your business as a legal entity in which you own shares, protecting your personal assets. C-Corps must report profits and losses on a corporate tax return in addition to other compliance paperwork. If you are seeking outside investment to start your business, a C-Corp is the preferred business structure.

Apply for a Business Visa

While it’s possible for a non-citizen or non-resident to start a business in the U.S., you will still need a visa to live and work there. There are a few visa options for non-citizen business owners in the U.S., with the most practical being the E-2 or the EB-5.

The E-2 visa is the most common visa for non-citizen business owners. It’s suitable for foreign citizens from a treaty country who wish to transfer a small business or start a new business within the U.S.

The E-2 visa is valid for an initial period of two years and can be renewed indefinitely, provided you continue to meet the visa conditions.

The EB-5 visa is available to foreign entrepreneurs opening a commercial enterprise that creates at least ten new full-time jobs for U.S. workers within two years. The business itself must survive more than five years. The non-citizen business owner must invest a minimum of $1.8 million in the new enterprise. This visa can make non-citizen business owners eligible for permanent U.S. residency and citizenship if the venture continues to be successful.

Open for Business

With your business entity created and your visa obtained, you’re ready for business. Depending on the type of business you’ve created, you may need to apply for licenses and permits. You’ll want to check with the Secretary of State and the county clerk to determine the requirements for your business.

You’ll also need to open a U.S. business bank account. The U.S. Patriot Act makes doing so slightly complicated—you’ll need to bring identification for both yourself and your business, as well as your ITIN and/or company EIN.

Rooney Nimmo Will Help Your Business Thrive in the U.S.

Starting a business in the USA for a non-citizen is an exciting and challenging process. Led by Founding Partner Allan Rooney, our firm understands this firsthand. Before committing to the type of business venture you plan to operate in the U.S., turn to the trusted experts at Rooney Nimmo for guidance on the type of entity, visas, tax obligations, and more. Our experienced team can help set you on the road to success.

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