6 US Visas for Entrepreneurs

The 18th dimension
4 min readDec 23, 2016

SpaceX, Uber, WeWork, Zenefits. You’ve heard of them. These are the startups imitate all over the world. And in February of 2016, were part of the National Foundation of America Policy study, where they found that over half of the “$1 billion startup companies” have at least one immigrant founder. More importantly, around 70 percent of the companies had an immigrant helping with growth and innovation, whether or not they had a foreign founder.

Hence, how crucial immigration is to entrepreneurship.

Currently, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is working on what has been dubbed as the Entrepreneur Visa, designed specifically for entrepreneurs have created a business within the last three years and want to operate from the U.S. If approved, the visa would allow for stay of two years with a possible of extension of three years. The chance of approval of this new rule is high and by the time the new year rolls in, it could be in effect.

But, as you wait for this new rule to pass, here are other visas that also provide legal status for those seeking to move or start their business in the U.S.

Business Visitor

Need some time to secure investments, work space, have some meetings? Then the Business Visitor visa is for you. It allows to come to the U.S. and stay for up to six months working on your venture. An important aspect of this visa: you must make no income and prove that you have enough funds to cover your stay. Duration: six months

Treaty Investor

If your country already has a commerce, friendship or navigation treaty with the U.S. or if you already have a sizable amount of money invested in an operating business in the U.S., you can self petition the E2 visa. To apply, you must demonstrate that you already have the capital and it is destined only to be invested in said business. Duration: up to three years, with annual extension as requested — and if approved

National Interest Waiver

If your company will provide greater gains that surpases other in the same area, then you can apply for a National Interest Waiver (NIW) and then for the EB2 Classification. This two go hand in hand in terms of entrepreneurship, so the the EB 2 you must have secure your NIW.


A common story among founders is having met in school and concocting a plan for a future company. If you are a student in the U.S. under the F1 visa, apply for an Optical Practical Training. Commonly called the OPT, this visa allows you to stay up to 12 months in the U.S. while working in a business directly related to your field of study. So, if you’ve studied engineering and now plan to start business on recycling, the OPT would allow to work on it for a full year.

EB-1 Extraordinary Ability

Let’s say your company has already seen some success and you’ve proven yourself as an expert in the field and are looking to permanently move to the U.S.

Green Card through Investment

Are you ready for permanent residence? If you are ready to create full time employment for 10 people, invest a million or half a million — if it’s a rural or high unemployment area-, then this is your next step. Once you already have your visa in place and are ready to fulfill the requirement (employment for 10, investment, etc), applying for a green card is the next step.

While the requirements and length for each visa slightly vary, there are basic steps to be taken:

  • Devise your immigration path early. As you start planning and creating your business, check out what type of visas are available for you. The best way to do this is with a professional: an immigration lawyer. You can also consult your consulate.
  • Start gathering your paperwork early. Whether it is birth certificates or documents outlining and officializing your investments and investors, it takes time and there are many outside factors (people, mail) to consider.
  • Be sure to meet all the requirements and have all the necessary paperwork.
  • Fees. Applying for any visa means that you will have to pay a fee. The amount varies
  • NEVER miss a deadline. This could be detrimental to the entire process and, even if you have everything in order, your chances to be considered will be gone.
  • Understand that there’s only a limited amount of visas approved each year. That number includes spouses and under 21 children — which, again, is why you should never miss a deadline.
  • Always request confirmation. Be it a tracking number, a receipt, or an email confirming that it was sent/received on time.
  • Keep copies handy — even if you have worked on everything early, situation may arise that delay your application. Be sure to keep everything accessible and in a safe place. Once you’ve send everything in, it’s good to keep copies of the receipts and other communications nearby. It is a way to be on top of your and your company’s future.
  • Oh, and did we mention that should consult an expert? Seriously, make sure to consult an expert, when you start the process. As an entrepreneur, bureaucracy will become a second language, but you do not want to get lost in translation with your immigration paperwork.

For official visa information, access the USCIS official website

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The 18th dimension

Parallel18 is an innovation hub that represents a unique gateway for global startups to scale from Puerto Rico.