(Webinar Recap) Stepping into Success: Navigating the U.S. Market with Confidence

Recently, two Harris Sliwoski attorneys, Jonathan Bench and Akshat Divatia, presented this webinar for international companies interested in entering the U.S. market. 

General U.S. Business Portion 

Jonathan Bench, Chair of the International Transactions Group, led the general business portion of the webinar. He began by discussing the pros and cons of establishing a venture in various U.S. states, including smaller states such as Delaware, Wyoming, and Nevada. He also discussed his home state of Utah, which recently received accolades for housing the #1 best performing city in the US, having the best economic outlook for the 16th year in a row, having the #1 best economy overall, housing four of the five best small cities for starting a business, being the #2 most financially literate state, and being the best state to start a business. 

He also focused on states with the largest population centers in the U.S., namely California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Illinois, ranked in that order. These states also house millions of foreign language speakers, and companies new to the US market may want to focus on states with affinity groups or diaspora populations. The three most likely scenarios for entering the U.S. market are via direct registration of a foreign entity or forming a C corporation or limited liability company (LLC). 

Then various business incentives to foreign direct investment were discussed, including those focusing on rural areas and key industries, while making key connections with state government leaders that are incentivized to bring investment to their states. At the national U.S. level, two pieces of legislation were passed in 2022 fostering clean energy, healthcare, and semiconductor manufacturing. These are the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS and Science Act. 

Last, he canvassed the various methods for raising capital in the U.S. and required compliance, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, state securities regulatory bodies, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS). He also discussed outbound investment restrictions from the U.S., which are expected this year. 

U.S. Immigration Portion 

The immigration component of the insightful webinar, which featured Akshat Divatia, Chair of the Immigration Group at Harris Sliwoski, broke down the intricacies of the U.S. business immigration landscape. Using case studies involving HR professionals, multinational corporations, entrepreneurs, and F-1 students, his presentation delivered actionable insights and invaluable tips to successfully navigate the labyrinth of immigration. 

He used a longstanding immigration case titled Matter of Hira, 11 I&N 824 (BIA 1965; A.G. 1966), to illustrate that the B-1 and ESTA visitor entries allow for temporary stays in the U.S., which exclude any engagement in productive work or payment from a U.S. source beyond modest reimbursement for expenses. Permitted activities for business-related visits include attending meetings or conferences, consulting with business associates, and evaluating potential for future investment, but restrict holders from taking up work that could be performed by a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident.  

Furthermore, he scrutinized H-1B and O-1 visa categories, specifically in the context of their use by HR professionals and talent acquisition managers. The H-1B visa caters to foreign employees in only those occupations that require at least a bachelor’s degree, whereas the O-1 visa is designated for individuals showcasing extraordinary skills within their profession. Both visas are crucial in sourcing international talent. Understanding their distinct stipulations, especially given the high demand for H-1B visas, can streamline the hiring process. 

In addition, he suggested L-1 and E-2 visas as viable options for multinational corporations and entrepreneurs seeking to extend their operations to the U.S. The L-1 visa enables the intra-company transfer of managerial or executive personnel from a qualifying overseas office to a U.S. office. Meanwhile, the E-2 treaty investor visa serves entrepreneurs from treaty countries aiming to make substantial capital investments in a U.S. enterprise. 

Lastly, he discussed the International Entrepreneurial Rule as a potential lifeline for F-1 students nearing the conclusion of their post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT). This rule allows these students to remain in the U.S. for a combined period of up to five years, provided they can demonstrate considerable public benefit through robust business expansion and investment or job creation. 

To sum up, the webinar furnished attendees with an understanding of various visa categories and options tailored to diverse circumstances within the complex sphere of U.S. immigration. This knowledge is essential for HR professionals, multinational corporations, entrepreneurs, and F-1 students to make well-informed decisions about their immigration paths. 

 For further inquiries about the webinar content or for personalized advice on your unique situation, reach out to the lnternational Transactions or Immigration groups at Harris Sliwoski.