One of the most common questions potential clients ask us is whether they can travel freely to the US on a tourist visa if they own an LLC or C-Corp in America.
To make sure that we provide an accurate answer to this question, we turned to several US immigration consultants who mediate in obtaining US visas and who have gone through thousands of applications so far.
One of them is a former visa officer who has been making decisions about who gets a visa and who doesn’t in several US embassies around the world.
We can sum up the answers from all of them in the following sentence: “We want you to do business in America, we want you to come here as tourists, but we don’t want you to come to the US as tourists and work here.”
If you have a company in America, you can travel there as a tourist. You can also go for business-related work. But you can’t work for your own company unless you get a visa that allows it. There is a fine line between business-related work and working for your company, and we will delve into that in a minute.
We will explain the possibilities of traveling and immigrating to America for owners of American companies, for each type of visa separately. For each of them, we will sum up the advice given to us by the consultants.
The B1/B2 visa allows you to enter America as a tourist or for business purposes but does not allow you to work from there.
Let’s say you have a marketing agency. With this visa:
- You can travel to the US as a tourist
- You can travel to the US to make contacts with clients and business partners
- You must not provide marketing services while staying there
A few recommendations regarding applying for this visa:
- Don’t hide that you are a US LLC member
- Explain that you are going to work on your business (not in the business) and visit the US as a tourist
- Travel for a shorter period, for example, 3-4 weeks, because that looks like a business or tourist trip
- If you’re traveling for a longer period, you might get suspicious (for example, if your return ticket is in 4 months, they’ll wonder how you’ll support yourself in the meantime)
- They may give you a visa and deny you entry at the airport if it looks like you cannot support yourself while being there (for example, if you return home in five months or so)
- You can organize the trip by having meetings with possible customers, suppliers, with business partners, and in the meantime, you will explore the country.
- You can mention that you are considering applying for an E2 visa as well (more on E2 later)
- If you become suspicious of anything during the visa interview, your visa application will most likely be denied.
In short – a US LLC member can travel to America with this visa as long as it is used for what it has been issued for.
E2 is an investor visa. If you have established a company in the United States, then you are also an investor in the country. But that does not automatically mean that you will get this visa.
This visa allows you to go to the USA and develop your business from there. Again, that doesn’t mean employment there either. You can work on your business, but not get employment.
If you are applying for E2, the authorities will want to see that you are generating economic activity there. That economic activity can be:
- Money input. If you get an investment or if you bring in your own capital, then you bring in money. There is no required minimum. You can also deposit zero dollars, but then you have to invest through…
- Generating economic activity in the United States. They want to see that you hire US labor (preferably agencies or freelancers to keep to 0% tax), use US suppliers (not just AliExpress), and so on.
E2 is issued for five years and can be extended for another five years.
The L1 visa allows a company from abroad to relocate an employee to America in its subsidiary.
If you have a company in Macedonia, Serbia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, or any other country in the world, that company can establish a US LLC as its US subsidiary. In such a case, you can qualify for the visa. However, your company shall be the US LLC founder, not you as an individual.
Of course, you will also need to prove that you have something to do there. Simply incorporating an LLC does not guarantee to get a visa.
If you want to visit the US as a US LLC owner, you can. It is only important that you do not lie to them that you are going as a tourist when you are actually going there to work.
Visa officers have interviewed countless applicants. In addition to being unethical, it is also not intelligent to lie to them or cover something up. They know how to find out. And if they doubt that you are hiding something, you’ll get denied.
The USA, as a country, played nice with you and allowed you to run a business that would be more difficult to run in your home country. You should also play nice with them.