When immigrants come to the U.S., the overwhelming majority do so because they want to be successful. Most immigrants have dreams of perhaps starting their own business, and also being able to send money to their family back home.
There are a lot of elements of the immigrant mindset and their unique experiences that make them excellent entrepreneurs. For example, many immigrants who come to the United States are inherently willing to take a risk, which is so essential in business. Immigrants also tend to know what it takes to make ends meet even when they’re on a limited budget, and perhaps putting all of their extra money back into their business.
Immigrants also tend to feel that they’re resourceful. Even without a ton of startup capital, there is an appreciation and embracing of bootstrapping and making the most of what is available that seem to be common themes among immigrant entrepreneurs.
So what are some of the specific things someone who has immigrated to the United States should know about starting a business?
What Do You Need?
Based on information from the U.S. Small Business Administration, you need to have one of a few things to start a business as a foreign national in the U.S.
One option is a green card, which is also called status as a permanent resident. When an immigrant has their green card, they can still have their citizenship in a foreign country, while also being able to start a business.
There’s also the EB-5 investor green card, which usually involves making particular investments in commercial businesses or to create jobs. There are also quite a few other visa options that are available for people who want to become entrepreneurs in the U.S. such as the EB-1 and the EB-2.
There’s something called the Employment Authorization Document as well, which is a permit for employment but may in some cases be used to cover being employed in your own business. However, you would have to speak with an immigration lawyer to determine if this would be an option for you.
Immigrant Business Ownership
Some immigrants may be unsure if there are going to be hurdles when it comes to starting their own businesses, but studies show that immigrants have higher formation and business ownership rates than nonimmigrants.
With that being said, some states may make it easier for immigrants to start businesses than others, so you will want to research what your specific state says. Of course, there are also tax considerations to keep in mind. Some states have no state tax, which can make it a better option when business owners are deciding where to operate.
Use Past Experiences to Identify New Opportunities
A great thing about being an immigrant entrepreneur in the U.S. is the fact that you can easily see new opportunities here, just based on your previous experiences. For example, there may have been a market for a particular service or product in your home country, and there may be a similar need in the U.S. that’s not yet being filled.
Finding a Mentor
When you’re new or relatively new to a country and you want to open your own business, it can be overwhelming. A good way to have guidance is to find a mentor. A lot of new business owners will connect with a mentor as they’re getting started and they’ll usually work with business owners for free. It can be best to find a mentor who is also an immigrant and has an understanding of the particular challenges that can come with opening a business in these situations.
Different organizations offer connections between new business owners and entrepreneurs and potential mentors. Some of these organizations include SCORE, Small Business Development Centers, and the Minority Business Development Centers.
If you do work with a mentor, to ensure you get the most out of the relationship, stay consistent with your meetings and be organized when you come together. Make sure you have a structure for each of your meetings and interactions, so you know what questions you want to ask and what objectives you have. It can also be helpful to create a list of actionable items that you can work on in between each meeting and discuss how you progress.
Finally, if you are an immigrant and you’re interested in starting a business, it’s always a good idea to speak with an immigration lawyer. They can help you make sure you have everything in place to build a successful, thriving business.