Generally, in order to come to the United States lawfully as a nonimmigrant to work temporarily in the United States your prospective employer must file a nonimmigrant petition on your behalf with USCIS.
U.S. businesses frequently want to hire foreign workers. Even more often, small business owners want U.S. Immigration benefits for themselves. A small business can sponsor a worker for a green card, but a small business owner normally cannot use his or her business to sponsor himself or herself. Therefore, the small business owner may have to choose between working for someone else who can act as a green card sponsor or being satisfied with one of the nonimmigrant visas.
Nonimmigrant categories available to employees of smaller companies are the B-1, E-1, E-2, H-1B, H-2B and L- 1 visas. E-1 and E-2 (treaty trader and investor) visas are especially useful for providing immigration benefits to owners as well as their employees. Although we list L-1 visas, called intracompany transfers, as a possibility for smaller businesses, they are usually difficult to get for companies having only a very few employees. L-1 is, however, another category where owners stand a good chance.
With any kind of work-related visa, the smaller company must be prepared to show the U.S. government that it is financially stable and able to pay foreign workers reasonable wages. This is most likely to be an issue with companies having fewer than 100 employees.
It is very common for large U.S. businesses to hire foreign workers. In fact there is probably no large business in existence that does not do so. The U.S. immigration system offers large businesses several different options for bringing foreign workers to the U.S. Either green cards or nonimmigrant visas can be used. If a company wishes to hire the foreign worker on a permanent basis, the worker should have a green card.
The biggest consideration for the company in picking the best category is time. If the worker has the equivalent of an advanced university degree, or at least a bachelor’s degree and some experience, it may take several months to a year to get a green card. When the worker has no college degree and little experience, the wait will be a minimum of several years, up to ten years or more.
A large U.S. business can more quickly bring in foreign workers on a temporary basis for periods ranging from several days to several years by getting them nonimmigrant visas. Frequently they can then go on to apply for green cards while they are working in the U.S. Many nonimmigrant visa categories may be used, depending on the particular circumstances and the formal legal structure of the business. B-1, E-1, E-2, H-1B, H-2B, L-1, O, P and R visas all serve the employment needs of U.S. businesses.
In many cases, these same visas are available to the large business owner. Although none of them are strictly available for the self-employed, many legal entities, such as corporations, are treated as separate from the individual who owns the company. Generally, only owners of larger businesses can be sponsored for green cards and visas as employees of their own companies.