Law Offices of Chris M. Ingram

American Dream – Starting Your Own Business

Starting Your Own Business

Starting your business is an excellent way to enter the US on a long-term basis. Although many people try to hold on to any substantial capital they can raise so that they can buy a house, using that money instead to buy a business could be a better option.

There are several key advantages to starting your own business in the US.

Not Having to Find a Sponsor:

One of the biggest frustrations for many people is the fact that they have to find an employer or family member to sponsor them into the US. This can be very difficult as some people either have no immediate family in the US or find it very difficult to find an employer prepared to go through the red tape of hiring them when they could more easily hire a US citizen. By starting your own business this issue is avoided altogether.

Control Over the Timing of Your Relocation:

It’s really difficult to plan your move if you can’t quite figure out when you will be relocating. If you are waiting to find a sponsor then it’s not really possible to start the serious working of packing up, finding schools and taking all the practical steps in relocation. Maybe you have children that need to start their new school year at a certain time. All these are key issues and are dependent on matters outside of your control. By starting your own business this could also be avoided.

Being Your Own Boss:

If you have never lived in the US before, working for a US employer can be quite a steep learning curve. The number of days you are given as paid leave is about half of the average in the UK. Also paid holiday is not always a given. That’s just the American way. You may find that you have to work a nine-hour day instead of the European average of seven and a half. There are many American cultural differences that you have to quickly learn and adapt to and this can be interesting to say the least.

For immigration purposes the principal guide that will determine whether you will be granted a visa to set up your business in the US is, will your business bring an economic benefit to the community? In other words, the US government wants to encourage foreign investment, large or small, if this will create jobs or provide something that is of benefit. So if you decide to open up a restaurant then this should create jobs for US citizens. Alternatively if your business is only going to provide jobs for the visa applicants and their family, then there is no real benefit to the local community.

If your business was to set up a training center to teach local Americans useful skills such as an after school program or workshops that taught mechanics, carpentry, plumbing, electrical and other contracting skills to the locals, then this would be a benefit as training in these skills would benefit the community. Again, look at what value your business will bring to the local economy and your visa application will be looked at more favorably.

How much capital do I need to invest? This is a very common question. The answer is you need to invest as much as is required to satisfy the above guiding principal. In addition, you need to show that you have sufficient capital of your own (not from a local US bank) to fully fund the business in all aspects including marketing, rents and running costs until the business turns a profit itself. Your immigration attorney will work with you to help you demonstrate in report form that your business has sufficient merit to q ualify for an investment-based visa.

Work Permits For Spouses:If your spouse will not be involved in the business they can apply for a work permit. This permit will function similar to a green card in that the spouse will be able to seek employment from anyone who will hire them just like an ordinary American. The US employer will have no difficulty in this regard. This work permit will last as long as the business the other spouse has set up continues in operation. There is always the possibility that the employer of the spouse could want to sponsor them for a green card and this would cover the entire family. Detailed specific legal advice from an attorney will be required on this. Work Permits For Children:

Children of holders of investment visas will not be granted any kind of work permit although they will be able to attend school up to age 18. After that they could apply to go to college as a non-permanent resident alien.

What Documents Will I Be Required To Prepare?:

The precise make up of what documents you will be required to prepare in your overall application will depend on the nature of your particular business, but common items will include the following:

1. An overview statement of your business.

a. A glossy brochure might be useful as a picture can paint a thousand words.

2. A detailed business plan.

a. Ideally this should be drafted by an accountant or qualified independent consultant. Their impartiality and credentials will lend weight as to the merits of your case.

3. Proof of Financial Strength.

a. This would include bank statements

b. Schedule of assets and liabilities

c. Company accounts if relevant

These documents would constitute the core of the required documents and your attorney will be able to work closely with you during the information gathering process to fine tune your case.


If you have run any kind of successful business in the past, the above should not prove to be a substantial undertaking. Having possibly applied for business loans in the past would have given you some experience in presenting the strengths of your company. If you have never ran your own business before then a good attorney will certainly be able to assist you and walk you through the entire process, although this may take additional time.

If you are looking to buy a franchise only consider the largest possible companies with proven and well-documented successful track records as your application will be based on the credibility of the franchise, as much as on your ability run that particular business. Also, the franchise must be able to provide you with detailed documentation as to anticipated profitability so that the immigration inspector can consider your business proposal.