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I want to start a company in the US (Hawaii to be specific if that matters) and move there with my family. I already have a potential customer that would offer me enough to pay my monthly salary, so that part is not a problem, the problem is getting a visa and/or starting a company.

About my situation, I am a Swedish national, my wife is a Japanese national, and our two small children have Swedish/Japanese dual citizenship. I do not have a university education, if that matters.

I would like to get permanent residency for me and my family (or if that's not possible, the next best thing, whatever that is).

What kind of visa can I obtain, and are there any legal obstacles for me establishing a company in the US?

5

Sweden has an investment treaty with the US, so you would be eligible for an E-2 visa. You'd need to convince the consul examining your file that your business will be legitimately sustainable but there is no "hard" minimum capital requirement. Friends of mine in similar situations were able to obtain an E-2 visa this way years ago for consulting businesses of their own.

There are some caveats to the E-2 visa:

  • It depends on your business. If your business folds, you won't be authorized to work for another company and your visa will probably not be renewed.

  • There's significant variation in the kinds of criteria enforced by various consulates. At renewal, your fate is in the hands of a consular officer's best judgement about your future business prospects. (A friend whose business didn't turn out to generate as much revenue as he had expected was unable to renew.)

  • It is a non-immigrant visa — does not convert to a green card for you or your family. This really forces you to consider your stay as temporary. This may not sound like a big deal now (get in first, deal with this later) but once you take a liking to your new life it could feel a bit cruel.

Alternatives are EB-5 (but with higher capital and employment requirements, you're better off running a restaurant or hotel to meet them than a consulting business) and the diversity visa (aka green card lottery).

Good luck!

More background at http://www.eb5investors.com/magazine/article/e2-versus-eb5-understanding-differences-transition

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    That’s a stellar article!! Great find. +1 – RoboKaren Mar 23 '18 at 16:13
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Your best bet is the EB-5 investor visa. You’ll need to have $500,000 to $1 million in assets you’re bringing to the USA and create at least ten jobs for Americans.

The requirements are quite high and rules complex. It’s best to go through an immigration lawyer. I should mention that Canada has a lower investment limit but is considerably colder than Hawaii.

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    Thanks for the answer, but it appears I didn't prove enough information: I do not have anywhere near $500,000. Are you saying there is no way for a non-US citizen to start a company in the US without having that kind of money? (Also, props on the temperature information ;)) – Rik Mar 22 '18 at 9:28
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    Could you raise the funds from investors? The requirement to employ 10 Americans is part of the reason you need substantial capital. Compare this with Sweden's self employment visa which enables smaller businesses but still needs you to have money in the bank to support yourself for 2 years. – user16259 Mar 22 '18 at 11:39
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    The current USA is not immigrant friendly, even to Swedish. If you were Norwegian then the current president might fast track you (joke). The other opportunity is the green card lottery, which may be disappearing. – RoboKaren Mar 22 '18 at 13:53

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