By Michael Monnot – www.InfinityBusinessBrokers.com
Immigration. Walls. Visas. Bans.
The news cycle in the last few months has been awash with immigration upheaval, so much so that many people have started to tune it out.
If you are a business owner, especially one that is considering selling sometime in the near future, you really need to be paying attention to what’s going on in the world of immigration. The negative perception recent immigration changes created may end up having a dramatic effect on your business and your ability to successfully sell.
If you are a foreign investor who is considering a move to the United States, you should also be paying attention because immigration issues and changes could potentially slow down those plans.
Take the two on-hold travel and refugee bans. These bans not only stopped people from the seven and then six Muslim-majority nations from entering the United States, it made a dramatic and symbolic declaration about where America as a whole stands on issues of religious acceptance – whether that was the intention or not. In the wake of the travel ban there was a wave of canceled trips to the United States that affected the tourism industry (and the small businesses that industry supports) in a big way. Many foreign tourists canceled their trips to the U.S. because the bans created a perception that they might be stopped at the border or might face intolerance while here.
The second big piece of news was the new guidelines that will affect the H-1B Visa. While this Visa isn’t typically used by small businesses, the ripple effect of changes to this Visa program are being felt across the small business world. Like the travel ban, scaling back the recruitment of specialized foreign labor, especially in the technology sector, has damaged the perception of the United States as a tolerant place to work.
Visas were also in the news because of the Kushner family and their pitch to Chinese investors about the EB-5 as a pathway to citizenship in the United States.
The EB-5 program is much smaller than it’s more well known H-1B counterpart, and is vastly different in both purpose and requirements – but the reporting on both have cast the entire Visa system in a very negative light. The EB-5 is an investor Visa, meaning those who qualify have the intention of investing a substantial amount (think upwards of $500,000) in a business within the United States that will create jobs for American citizens – and the investor is granted a Visa for themselves and their immediate family (spouses and children) in return. EB-5 Visas are good for the economy in general and have long been used to fund major building projects that would in turn help small businesses in the surrounding areas. Losing or major restriction of the EB-5 would likely cause big problems for new building projects that boost the local small business economy.
Another major Visa program that touches the small business world is the E2 Visa. Like the EB-5, the E2 is an investor Visa – although it requires less capital. The E2 is typically used when foreign entrepreneurs want to buy a small business and use that ownership as a means to immigrate to the United States.
Although the E2 hasn’t caught the attention of the media or the current presidential administration, it would be worth paying attention if your business would help a foreign investor qualify for the E2 (pre-qualifying your business opens your pool of potential buyers to international buyers – a smart move). Changes to the E2 could result in fewer foreign investors coming to the U.S., which would be bad for small business sellers and foreign investors alike.
What’s a business owner to do? If you are considering selling your business, you might want to keep an eye on immigration policy changes, especially if your business is one that would qualify for the E2. If you are a foreign investor, don’t panic. If you’ve been keeping tabs on our immigration news cycle then you know that every potential change to the immigration system has been met swiftly and intensely with legal maneuvering, push-back and protest. The United States is a country made up of immigrant entrepreneurs and the descendants of those immigrant entrepreneurs. Massive change has little chance of long term survival because those changes are proving to be highly unpopular.
Have more questions about the link between small businesses and immigration? Contact us with any questions you may have.
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