Starting a business while in the United States on an L-1A visa (or any type of visa) is generally an easy process, depending on the state in which you reside. There exist numerous benefits for incorporating your business, including tax benefits and liability protections. There are, however, some very strict requirements concerning work authorization that must be considered while you are in the United States on your L-1A.
Determine the proper corporate entity. Under U.S. law, there exist several different types of corporate structures such as C-corporations, S-corporations, partnerships, limited liability companies, limited partnerships and others. The fundamental difference between them concerns tax rates. You should consult with an accountant or tax attorney to determine which corporate structure will work best for your business.
Incorporate. In many states, officially setting up your business and registering it with the state can be done online. All states have a Division of Corporations that handles the registry of corporations for the state. You will need to provide the name of the company, its principal place of business, and (in some states) the type of corporate structure. You generally need to pay a filing fee with the state as well.
Obtain a tax identification number. After incorporating, you need to obtain a federal tax ID number for your company. You can do this online through the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and they will provide you the number right away. Keep this number handy as you will need it often.
Open corporate bank accounts. It is essential that you keep your personal finances separate from your business finances. You need to open a corporate bank account, at a bank of your choosing, using the tax ID number of your company.
Staff your company and operate. Once your business is set up and has corporate accounts, you can begin operations. It is a good idea to consult with an accountant during the entire formative process to make sure all of your accounts are in order and that you are prepared to address tax concerns. It is also good to speak with a lawyer about protecting yourself and your business from legal liabilities. As your company grows, you can begin to reap the benefits of being a U.S. business owner.
- Your L-1A visa is tied directly to your employer. As such, you may NOT draw a salary of any kind from your new business, nor may you transfer your L-1A to your new company unless it is affiliated with an overseas company (similar to your current employer). You may, however, draw dividends from your company without running afoul of immigration laws--you should speak to your accountant about this. Also, if you want to explore other visa options to run through your new company, be sure to speak with an immigration lawyer.
- You cannot ever be "over advised" in business formations, particularly if you reside in heavily regulated states such as New York and California. It is advisable to keep an accountant and a lawyer involved in every step of the corporate formation and operational processes.
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