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Succeeding as an Immigrant Entrepreneur

You are about to make a  big, life-changing decision. You are about to decide to move to another country and see how your business skills match up with local investors, competitors, and customers.

Succeeding as an Immigrant Entrepreneur

You are not alone. Each year, thousands of entrepreneurs and experienced business executives decide to move to another country for any number of reasons – for example:

  • The market opportunity is greater than where you now do business;
  • There is less bureaucracy than in your native country;
  • Taxes are lower;
  • You have safety concerns for your family;
  • You want a better education for your children; or
  • You want to fulfill a lifelong dream.

Having made the decision, now the immigration process begins. It is critical that, from the start, you realize this is not an easy process. Governments establish strict guidelines for all types of immigrants, including investor immigrants, and it is the duty of the immigration authorities to ensure that in granting investor visas, those guidelines are carefully and clearly followed. In an earlier post, we provided a summary of investor visa requirements for many countries. For investors and entrepreneurs wishing to come to the U.S., the two most often used programs are the E-2 Treaty Investor visa and the L-1 visa.

Suggestions for Successful Visa Adjudication

Patrick Klauss, an immigration attorney with Berd & Klauss, PLLC in New York City, offers some excellent tips for making the immigration process less stressful and less time-consuming. Here are some of his suggestions:

  • Be organized. Know the documentation that will be required by the immigration authorities and have it in a presentable form and in the language stipulated.
  • Hire an immigration attorney as early in the process as possible. Your attorney will help you avoid costly and time-consuming errors, and will provide step-by-step guidance along the way.
  • File the paperwork to establish a legal entity (e.g., a corporation) for the business in the new country.
  • Most countries require that you invest a minimum amount of your own capital in your new business, while others require an undetermined amount just as long as it is sufficient for the entrepreneur to successfully launch the business and take care of his or her family in the early years of the investment. Mr. Klauss suggests that after forming the new legal entity, you open bank accounts in the new country and deposit sufficient funds for the launch of the business as well as the care of your family. You will need separate accounts for your business and your family.
  • In addition to the funds to be deposited into the new bank account, you will incur other expenses throughout the process. You must have proper receipts and other documents that will prove you have made these investments/expenditures. These expenses might include:
    • Costs related to the investment of the new business;
    • Professional fees;
    • Travel-related costs for you and your family; and
    • Temporary living costs for you and your family.

Importance of a Professional Business Plan

In our experience, the heart of any successful investor/entrepreneur visa application is the business plan.

Seeking a visa is very similar to going into a bank to get a business loan. The loan officer will want to know what the business is about, the characteristics of the market it operates in, what competition it faces, management’s qualifications to run and grow the business, and any other factors that will influence whether or not the business is likely to succeed and repay the loan within the next few years.

In the immigration context, the applicant is not seeking a loan, but rather the right to do business in the new country. But the criterion for approval is still the same: demonstrating to the immigration adjudicator that this business will succeed financially and make a healthy profit after it has paid all expenses (including the salary of the owner/investor).

The old expression, “do it right the first time” has never been more critical than in navigating the complex process of applying for and receiving an investor/entrepreneur visa. As early in the process as possible, we suggest that you get help (perhaps from somebody like us), be organized, follow the rules, and embrace the process.

Welcome to your new country and good luck.

Jimmy's background includes over 40 years in international, commercial, and investment banking, and nearly a decade as the principal shareholder and CEO of a rapidly growing manufacturing and distribution business in California. Today, Jimmy spends his time advising and consulting with entrepreneurs on matters related to business planning, as well as capital markets and funding strategies. Jimmy works with clients throughout the world in industries that include financial services, real estate, manufacturing and hospitality. View details.

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