Imagine you own a foreign software development company. You have finally developed your product, assembled a quality staff of engineers and programmers, and begun to gain the attention of some major investors. The next step is to market your product in the United States, the consumer capital of the world. This requires setting up a branch office in the States, and obtaining a visa which will allow you to travel there to be able to do so.
This scenario has become more prevalent in many industries, and in countries such as France, UK, India, China, Israel and even Belarus. The following are some of the activities involved when a business based overseas opens an office in the United States:
- Set up local banking arrangements
- Incorporation of the business in a U.S. State
- Locate office space and negotiate a lease
- Negotiate contracts with U.S. partners and customers
- Retain a recruitment agency to find local employees
The owner or other senior executive with the foreign business can apply for a B-1 Business Visitor Visa. The B-1 visa allows a foreign national to travel to the United States for temporary business-related purposes. These can include attending business meetings and conferences, finding office space and negotiating contracts. The B-1 business visitor cannot be employed or manage the business while in the States. Therefore, his or her salary must continue to be paid by the foreign company. The U.S. company can pay expenses related to the trip itself.
It is important to understand that the B-1 visa is for temporary business trips and it is not a work visa. The line between allowed business activity and prohibited work activity is often difficult to discern. If the visa is needed to work in the United States, another visa such as a H-1B, L-1 or E visa might be more appropriate. As each situation is different, I carefully review the business activities you are looking to do while in the U.S. with you, and determine the most appropriate visa for your purposes.