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What Kind of Businesses Can Immigrants Legally Own

For many immigrants, having a business in the United States might be one of the perfect paths in achieving his or her American dream. To have your own business permits you to become more independent and flexible gives you certain lifestyle advantages and significant financial rewards. It also gives you the most incredible opportunity to work in a field that you enjoy.

When building a business in the U.S. as an immigrant, it poses significant legal challenges. Fortunately, there are many ways to make the dream possible, whether you are a natural-born citizen or a recent immigrant. It is always best to consult with an immigration lawyer for a more in-depth conversation about this matter.

Below is some valuable guidance as you explore entrepreneurship in the United States.

Choosing the right type of business.

The first factor to consider in starting your business as an immigrant is choosing a company structure. For immigrants, you only have two significant models as options: a C-corporation or a Limited Liability Company (LLC).

Both of these structures are very advantageous for immigrants since they do not require residency or citizenship at any point of the process. They are manageable even though an entrepreneur is located outside the country.

  1. C-corporations (or C-corp) are businesses in which the owners or stakeholders are taxed separately from the entity. This model is ideal for immigrants because of their tax and legal benefits, including:
  2. Limited personal liability. As a stakeholder, you are not allowed to be sued or held liable for your company’s debts or obligations.
  3. Separate legal identity. C-corp has its own rights and responsibilities under the law of the U.S. government.
  4. Existence. The C-corporation continues to exist as owners change and members of management are replaced. If you file for bankruptcy, your corporation will also live on.

However, one major disadvantage of C-corporation is double taxation. You are obliged to pay both a corporate level tax and income tax. There are ways to come about this taxation system by consulting an immigration lawyer or tax advisor.

  1. LLCs are business structures allowed by state statute. These are considered “hybrid” which means that they are both limited partnerships and corporations. You must check with your state, through your immigration lawyer, if you are interested in starting an LLC as each state may use different regulations. Advantages of LLC include:
  2. Flexibility. Since LLCs are a form of partnership, you and any other co-owners determine how profits are split.
  3. No bosses. LLCs do not require a board of directors or shareholders meetings.
  4. Easier taxation. Profits in LLC go directly to you – you pay your business’s taxes with your personal tax return. 

Infographic created by Clover Network – a pos systems company


As an immigrant, you will face some additional work and probably more challenges. However, these trials are by no means impossible when you procure the help of a trusted immigration lawyer and trusted professionals to guide you through the process.

It is highly recommended for you to seek the expertise of immigration lawyers familiar with helping immigrants start businesses in the United States with a wide range of industries.