How Can Immigrants Start Their Own Businesses?

We have talked a lot about how the data shows immigrants to be entrepreneurial, and how despite the current administration’s assertions to the contrary, they are job creators. As immigration lawyers, we work regularly on E-2 and E-1 visas for investors and business owners, and we have an extensive background with other visa categories including O1 and National Interest Waivers that allow for entrepreneurship. 

But we know all of this from the immigration side. What do immigrants need to do to start their own businesses? Our friends at New Orleans’ Business Law Group recently answered that question. The firm’s Amanda Butler Schley wrote: 

There is a reason the phrase “American Dream” exists and that the United States is commonly referred to as the “Land of Opportunity.” This country is a goldmine for entrepreneurs who wish to start a successful business. While not every business started in the United States will succeed without good old hard work, the process for starting a business for a foreign citizen is relatively as simple as it is for natural U.S. citizens.

There are no restrictions on foreign ownership of a company formed and operated in the United States. You do not have to become a U.S. citizen or obtain a green card in order to own a C-corporation or limited liability company. You can be a shareholder or income-deriving member of a limited liability company without being in the United States. However, if work is to be performed by you as President or Managing Member in the United States, you must obtain a valid visa. If you wish for your business to be a S-Corporation, you must become a permanent resident of the United States.

The process of forming your business as a foreign citizen is the same as United States citizens, you must file incorporation documents with the Secretary of State for the State in which you want your business to call “home” or be domiciled. Two states that are notorious for being new-business friendly and inexpensive are Delaware and Nevada. Incorporating in Delaware does not even require a physical address or bank account in the United States. 

The process for forming your company varies from State to State but can be performed online. First, you will want to decide on a name for your company and conduct a search to be sure the name is not already taken by searching the Secretary of State's website and the US Patent and Trademark office. Next, you or an individual you decide to be your registered agent must be able to receive documents on behalf of the company at an address located in the State of incorporation. You will then fill out the incorporation documents through the Secretary of State's website and pay the associated fees to the Secretary of State to file your business documents.

Once your filing documents are approved by the Secretary of State and you receive a certificate of Incorporation, you will need to obtain an Employer Identification Number that will allow you to hire employees, open a bank account, pay taxes, and obtain licenses in the name of your company. You can apply for an EIN online with the Internal Revenue Service if you as the principal business owner have a Taxpayer Identification Number. If you do not have this number, you can still obtain an EIN by mail or fax and putting “foreign/none” in the space for Taxpayer Identification Number. 

To maintain your business, you must file an annual report with the Secretary of State and pay any associated taxes or fees.

If you're intending on starting a business in Louisiana, Business Law Group can handle obtaining your FEIN and forming your Louisiana LLC or corporation.

If you have any questions about the business end of this, we refer you to our friends at the Business Law Group. If you have any questions about the immigration end, we’d love to hear from you. 

And don’t forget to vote. 

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