Basic Business Startup Tips for Immigrant Entrepreneurs

This is an example of a great business resource that you can find on Keep It Local.

Some might imagine that starting a business as an immigrant would be nearly impossible, but this is far from the case. Yes, starting a business is a lot of work — and yes, immigrants have additional hurdles to clear in the path to entrepreneurship. Nevertheless, many immigrant-owned businesses do extremely well. In fact, the percentage of small-business owners who are immigrants to the United States increased by over 50 percent in the past two decades. Here are some guidelines for immigrants hoping to launch their own business in the United States.

Find out what kind of visa you will need.

An E-2 Visa is popular for immigrant business owners because it allows you to reside in the United States and direct a business without seeking a green card. For prospective business owners with a great deal of capital, the EB-5 Visa may be an option. This visa grants green cards not only to you but to your immediate family, as well. However, it requires incredibly expensive investments and involves a great deal of red tape. Highly educated immigrants may want to aim for the EB-2 (C) Visa or the O-1.

Choose your location with care.

Getting your location right is always crucial to the success of a business, and this is especially the case for immigrant entrepreneurs. Research which states and regions are the best for new business ventures and what the laws and regulations on businesses are, from one state to the next. It’s also wise to choose an area that is welcoming to immigrants. Larger cities tend to be more immigrant-friendly, but don’t rule out smaller towns or even rural areas. Some small towns are going out of their way to welcome immigrants to help fuel the economy and slow population decline.

Seek and maintain support networks.

One challenge immigrants face when launching a business venture is isolation due to having few connections in their local communities. If you are not fluent in the language, this can make it even harder to network. Seek out organizations that will help you learn the language and settle in your community. Even if you are fluent, it never hurts to brush up on your speaking skills. Use social media to make new acquaintances and form ties based on shared interests. 

Be sure to maintain your connection with friends and family in your home country. Without support coming from (and going to) loved ones back home, you may find it harder to push through stressful situations. Get creative and be sure to budget for family conversations and visits. Fortunately, many companies offer affordable solutions. If you’re connecting with family back home in India, as one example, you can purchase affordable calling cards, ship care packages cheaply, book inexpensive flights, and send money transfers for free when you send more than $1,000 at a time. Keep your head up and work hard to maintain your connections so near and dear – even when you’re far away.

Choose a business type that works for you.

There are several different types of legal business entities in the United States, but the two most likely to benefit immigrants are the limited liability company and the C-corporation. Neither of these types requires residency or citizenship. Once you have chosen a business structure and gone through the work of putting together a business and financial plan, you will need to register your new business. Different states have different procedures on how to register, but wherever you live, you will likely need to register your business name. All businesses must register with the IRS.

Seek out funding.

Even if you are bringing some capital into the business, it’s wise to look for additional funding sources as this may present you with extra advantages. You may be eligible for some of the grants and loans that exist for specific minority groups. You can also seek an SBA loan for businesses that are at least 51 percent run by non-citizens. Look for state-run programs and independent programs specifically focused on helping immigrants thrive.

The labor of starting a business can be stressful and intimidating. But remember that there are many organizations and resources put in place specifically to support you. As an immigrant, you have much to offer your new community, so stay confident and remember that the success other immigrants have won as business owners here can be yours, as well.

Keep it Local can assist members in forming a network for their businesses. Check out the many free resources available to get started.

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