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Can a Foreign National Obtain an American Visa by Starting a Business in the US?

The United States is comprised of many well established industries, providing great opportunity for foreign entrepreneurs and investors looking to start a business in the United States. By starting a business in the United States, foreign nationals are able to compete in the country’s healthy economy and are also given the opportunity to obtain an American visa.


The expert San Diego immigration attorneys at Kazmi and Sakata can help foreign entrepreneurs choose the visa category that will best fit their business plan and personal business needs. One common visa foreign nationals apply for when starting a business in the United States is the L-1 visa.


The L-1 visa is designed for foreign nationals who currently own or operate a business outside of the United States and are seeking to expand into the United States. There is no initial investment required; however, applicants should invest an amount significant enough to conduct business successfully in the United States and return revenue to the original foreign beneficiary. Applicants are also required to work at least one year in an executive or managerial capacity in order to establish a new branch within the U.S. Upon meeting the requirements, the USCIS will then approve the visa for a new office for a period of one year.

The application process for an L-1 visa can be a complex and lengthy process. Some common issues concerning the L visa application for a new office which applicants should be aware of are as follows:

  • Difficulty showing evidence that the physical premises for the new office within the United States has been secured
  • Providing the USCIS with a detailed business plan that demonstrates the applicant will support an executive or managerial position for one year
  • Petitioning to extend the one year approval period, providing evidence that the business is up and running successfully

For foreign nationals who feel they do not meet the requirements of the L-1 visa to start a business within the United States, the E-2 visa is another option. To discuss the differences between the two visa categories or for more information about visas, visit our website at or call 858-874-0711 to schedule a complimentary consultation with an expert San Diego immigration attorney.

December 2023