Any Immigration News for Entrepreneurs?

By Sabine Weyergraf –


There have been many discussions about our Immigration Laws lately and a lot of ideas on how to change the system. While there have been small changes in some areas of the law, nothing major has changed for foreign entrepreneurs. There are still four main visa categories: L-1 Intercompany Transfer Visa, E-2 Investor Visa, E-1 Trade Visa, and EB-5 Investor Immigrant Visa.


A new trend in the L-1A Intercompany Transfer Visas is that Immigration now emphasizes the “size” of the already existing foreign business more than it did before. For smaller businesses with less than ten employees, it has become very difficult to receive an L-1 visa to open up their U.S. subsidiary. However, if the foreign business is indeed large enough, the L-1 Visa category is still very much alive. The U.S. subsidiary can be a start-up or an existing business that is purchased.  The U.S. business does not have to be in the same line of business as the foreign business.


The E-2 Visa is still the most practical visa category for most foreign entrepreneurs.  It does not require that a foreign business already exists. The major requirement is that the entrepreneur invests at least $100,000 in the purchase of an existing business, a 50% partnership or a start-up company. If an existing business is purchased, Immigration wants to see the last three years of Federal Income Tax Returns for the business and, if possible, see that the company already has employees in place. However, there are always exceptions to this rule. If the business has not been active for three years or has only engaged workers on a 1099, it is very important that the business plan shows the full potential of the business. When applying for an E-2Visa, it is critical to show the officer how the investor will develop the business to be profitable and able to hire employees over the next five years. For E-2 Visas, the applicant must create a clear picture of what the business is and its potential to make a significant economic contribution to the U.S. economy.  It is also important to know your U.S. Embassy, as most E-2 Visas are applied for directly at the Embassy of the home country or place of residency of the investor.


Immigration seems a little more open minded when it comes to E-1 Trade Visas. The E-1 Trade Visa is now not only used for the classic trade of goods between the U.S. and another country, but also for the trade of services, for example insurances, construction, or consulting. The E-1 Trade Visa requires that trading is already in place when the application is presented. However, there is not a minimum requirement for the amount of investment or number of employees, which makes this an attractive visa category.


There are always changes in the EB-5 category.  Sometimes these are for the better, but more often, they are not.  An investor still can invest $500,000 to $1 Million into either his or her own business or a Regional Center, create jobs for ten full-time employees within 2 ½ years and in exchange receive a permanent right to stay in the United States. However, there is a tricky point with this.  The first green card (permanent right to stay) is only issued for two years, if the 10 full-time employees are not in place by then, the final permanent green card will not be issued.


It remains to be seen if Washington will make it more attractive and predictable for foreign entrepreneurs to invest in the United States.




Sabine Weyergraf is the funding partner and New York licensed attorney practicing solely immigration law with Weyergraf Immigration, PA in Sarasota, Florida.

Contact: 941-706-4102,
This article is provided for general informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice.



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