The immigrant community is booming with the entrepreneurial spirit. A record number of immigrants are starting their own businesses in the U.S. Approximately 13.7 percent of the population is foreign-born in the U.S. Immigrants also account for 25 percent of startup founders. Often referred to as the land of possibilities, immigrant entrepreneurs make up a significant portion of the small business community- accounting for 30 percent of the small business community’s growth.
However, for those thinking of making the move, the journey can seem long. Your best chance of succeeding as a new entrepreneur in the U.S? Being prepared. Whether you want to expand on one of your online business ideas or launch a new start-up, doing your research and asking yourself a few questions give you the best chance of being one of those success stories.
Do You Know What Visa You Can Apply For?
The good news is that there are several visa options for entrepreneurs hoping to move to the U.S. to start a business. One of those options is the E-1/E-2 visa which allows budding entrepreneurs to move to the U.S temporarily to start or invest in a business. While E-1 visas are suitable for those looking to engage in significant trade between the U.S. and approved treaty countries. An E-2 visa, on the other hand, is a route for investors who either want to start a new business or invest significantly in an existing one within the U.S. Most E-2 visas are valid for 2 years but can be extended.
Recently, a U.S. Bill was also passed and introduced a new startup visa (Let Immigrants Kickstart Employment Act). Under the new category, there are 2 types of startup visas for a period of 3 years. It is also expected to create a new pathway to residency for some immigrant business owners. If you are unsure about which visa is right for you, speak to an immigration attorney to discuss your options.
Does Your Background Help Or Hinder Your Application Chances?
Before you can apply for a visa or funding to start a new business in the U.S., you need to ensure you are well prepared. Spending some time addressing any blemishes on your background can make the visa and business financing process much smoother. To get qualified for one of the immigrant visas for foreign entrepreneurs, you will need to show proof of investment and financial credibility. Start by cleaning up your background and preparing for any errors visa officials may find in your application like criminal convictions. If you happen to already be in the U.S. but are undocumented or have been found inadmissible, you would also need to apply for an I 601 waiver. It also helps to build up your credit score in the lead-up to your application. Spend time paying down your personal debt and removing any discrepancies on your credit file. It will go a long way in helping you secure more favorable terms from lenders. It can also improve your chances of being approved for a visa.
Do You Have The Right Financing In Place?
For any entrepreneur, getting the right financing in place is critical to achieving business success. As someone coming to the U.S to start a business, your options may be more restrictive than U.S. citizens. One way to finance your new business would be to use your savings. Alternatively, you could raise start-up capital from family, friends, or venture investors. If you are considering a business loan, one good option would be a small business loan (SBA). Small business (SBA) loans are open to non-citizens so immigrants would qualify as long as they meet the requirements.
If done right, moving to the U.S. to start a business can be the start of a wonderful entrepreneurial journey. The process of getting it off the ground can be long but by thinking ahead, keeping on top of your credit scores, and mapping out your finances, you can kickstart your startup dreams sooner rather than later.