Based in Sydney, Australia, Foundry is a blog by Rebecca Thao. Her posts explore modern architecture through photos and quotes by influential architects, engineers, and artists.

Can a Non-US Citizen Start a Business in the US with an American Co-Founder?

There are really several legal aspects to your question. These mainly are about (1) ownership, and (2) visa options.

Ownership

One of the first things your business will need is an EIN (Employer Identification Number). If you have US resident or citizen co-founders, then you can obtain an EIN in just a few minutes by going to this IRS site.

Since you said that you’re planning on raising significant capital from angel investors and through VC funds, then it sounds like you’ll be opting for a C-corp, rather than an LLC, which makes the process easier for you as far as ownership is concerned.

In any case, whether you choose LLC or C-Corp structure, both allow for foreign ownership. Just be careful about state law when filing your incorporation to ensure they allow foreign ownership.

Residency/Visa Options

This aspect is more challenging. Because you’re unable to invest the minimum amounts required for an E-2 visa, that’s not an option for you at the moment. However, if you’re percentage is less than 50%, then you might qualify for other visas. For instance, you might qualify for an H-1B or an O-1. The H1B might be your best choice. You can learn more about those here.

A B-1 is another option, but it’s limited. It’s ashort-term visa that’s valid for only three to six months, although it can be extended (only once) for an additional six months. It is not a work visa. It is intended for individuals who are visiting the U.S. to attend business meetings, network, obtain funding, secure office space, and negotiate contracts or other business.

Whatever you do, please make sure you get qualified legal guidance. I hope this helps!

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