Did you know that if you’re a recent (or not-so-recent) immigrant to the United States, you can start your own business? According to Inc. Magazine, one-quarter of all American businesses are begun by immigrants; they even refer to them as “the most entrepreneurial group in America.” It may surprise you to learn that you don’t even need to live in the U.S. or have a green card to start a business, but if you do plan to live and work here, there are visas you can apply for that will allow you to set up a business of your own.
Business Norms offers information and ideas selected to help your business prosper. For everything from financial information to shaping your marketing strategies, bookmark our page. And for help in starting your own immigrant-owned enterprise, read on!
Know Your Visa Types
While obtaining American work-related visas is not easy and many of them require you meet strict specifications, there are quite a few routes to get one:
- F-1, M-1, and J-1 visas are student visas
- H-1B and B-1 visas are temporary work visas
- EB-1 Extraordinary Ability and EB-2 Advanced Degree visas are for highly specialized professionals who have valuable, in-demand skills and talents
- Refugee Status will allow you to work in the U.S., however, you must apply for a green card and permanent residence after one year
- EB-2 and EB-5 Investor visas are specifically for those whose country is part of the E-2 treaty
Do Your Research
It’s important to have a good business idea and make sure your idea will work in a country and culture that is different from your native ones. Some states are more business-friendly than others, and larger cities tend to be easier for immigrant entrepreneurs than rural areas. Depending on the type of business you plan to launch, you need to choose the appropriate business structure. This boils down to either an LLC (limited liability company) or C-corporation. Both provide liability protection, but an LLC offers pass-through taxation, while a C-corporation will essentially tax you twice.
To apply for funding and receive small business, term, or short-term loans, ValuePenguin notes lenders have various requirements. At the minimum, you will need a green card or valid visa. There are also grants available to immigrants that you can apply for, such as business development grants and those from the Minority Business Development Agency.
Find a Mentor & Nurture Relationships
Launching a new business in the United States can be especially challenging for immigrants who are unfamiliar with American business practices, etiquette, laws, and culture. If you can find a mentor from your home country who has successfully navigated the process, it would be extremely helpful to have his or her encouragement, support, and insight. You are likely to encounter delays, red tape, and frustrations, and it’ll take time for all the pieces to fall into place. Be patient and don’t get discouraged.
Make sure you have people to lean on — it can be lonely if all your family and friends are still overseas. Thankfully, there are plenty of free communication options thanks to technology. You can use apps like FaceTime or Skype to chat, no matter where in the world your loved ones are.
Things get more complicated — and more expensive — when you want to stay connected in other ways. Traveling to your homeland, as an example, will add up quickly. To ensure you don’t overpay, check around for the best deals through online services. For instance if your spouse, parents or other connections are in Mumbai, Momondo provides quotes for hotels, flights, car rentals and packages. If you want to send a box of gifts, MyStory suggests checking several international shipping companies. You can similarly compare florists in Mumbai, and if you’re sending money home to those you love, you can even compare secure transfer services; some services like Remitly offer two delivery options — economy and express — each with its own benefits. By being careful, you make sure you’re getting the best price for whatever connection methods make sense for you and those you love.
Your future as an entrepreneur is bright and holds much promise for success and fulfillment. Take your time to carefully walk through each step of the process and before you know it, you’ll be on your way as a business owner in America.