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UK to US: Business & Visa Guide

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By Sanwar Ali:

The US market presents a wealth of opportunities for UK businesses. Whether you're an emerging tech startup looking to tap into the innovation culture of Silicon Valley, a finance firm aiming to get a foothold on Wall Street, or a manufacturer seeking new customers, the US has much to offer. However, expanding to the US is not without its challenges. Among these, navigating the country's complex immigration system to secure work visas for your employees can be particularly daunting. This guide aims to demystify the process, providing you with an overview of U.S. work visas, including the H-1B, L-1, and E-2 visa types.

1. The US Market: Opportunities and Relevance for UK Businesses

1.1 Why Expand to the U.S.

The US is home to one of the world's largest and most diverse economies. Its business-friendly environment, robust infrastructure, and large consumer base make it an attractive destination for foreign investment. For UK companies, the US market can provide access to new customers, potential partners, and valuable resources.

1.2 Emerging Opportunities and Market Trends

The US market is constantly evolving, with new opportunities emerging in sectors such as technology, healthcare, renewable energy, and ecommerce. UK companies that can tap into these trends may find significant opportunities for growth.

1.3 Understanding Cultural Differences

Doing business in the US can be quite different from the UK. Understanding these cultural differences – from communication styles to business etiquette – can be crucial to your success.

2. Navigating U.S. Immigration: An Overview

2.1 Importance of Work Visas

If you plan to send UK employees to work in the US, you'll need to secure the appropriate work visas. These work visas grant your employees the legal right to work in the US for a specified period.

2.2 Types of Work Visas

The US offers several types of work visas, each tailored to different types of workers and employment situations. The H-1B, L-1, and E-2 visas are among the most commonly used by UK businesses.

3. H-1B Visa: For Specialized Workers

The H-1B visa is designed for skilled workers in specialized occupations. If you're looking to hire or transfer highly specialized employees – such as IT professionals, engineers, or scientists – to your US operations, the H-1B visa is likely the most appropriate.

3.1 H-1B Visa Requirements

To qualify for an H-1B visa, the role must be a specialty occupation typically requiring a bachelor’s degree or higher. The worker must possess the necessary qualifications, which can be shown through degrees, work experience, or other credentials.

3.2 Application Process

Many employers will need to enter the US H1B visa lottery to find out if they can apply for a visa. Unfortunately, the likelihood of success is likely to be quite low. The employer will also need to obtain a prevailing wage and a labor condition application from the Department of Labor in the US. The employer then submits a Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Once approved, the worker can apply for the visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate.

3.3 Key Considerations

The H-1B visa is subject to an annual cap, which can make it challenging to secure. However, certain employers (such as universities and non-profit research institutions) are exempt from the cap.

4. L-1 Visa: For Intercompany Transferees

The L-1 visa allows multinational companies to transfer executives, managers, and employees with specialized knowledge from their foreign operations to their U.S. operations. The employee or in a role similar to that of an employee, needs to have worked for the business outside the US for at least one year in the last three years.

4.1 L-1A and L-1B Visas

The L-1 category includes two types: L-1A visa for executives and managers, and L-1B visa for workers with specialized knowledge.

4.2 Application Process

The employer must file a Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, with the USCIS. If approved, the employee can apply for the visa.

4.3 Key Considerations

The L-1 visa can also be used to send an executive or manager to the U.S. to establish a new office.

5. E-2 Visa: For Investors and Traders

The E-2 visa is for individuals who invest a substantial amount of capital in a U.S. business. It's a good option for UK entrepreneurs looking to establish or acquire a business in the U.S. It can also be used for larger businesses.

5.1 E-2 Visa Requirements

To qualify, the investor must be a national of a treaty country (which includes the UK), and must have invested or be in the process of investing a substantial amount of money in a bona fide U.S. enterprise.

5.2 Application Process

The investor must first register the business as an E-2 company and prepare a detailed business plan. They can then apply for the visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate.

5.3 Key Considerations

The E-2 visa can also cover certain employees of the treaty investor or treaty company, provided they meet certain requirements.

6. Other Visa Types

In addition to the H-1B, L-1, and E-2 visas, there are other visa types that may be relevant to UK businesses. These include the O-1 visa for individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement, and the E-1 visa for treaty traders.

7. Conclusion: Expanding to the U.S. – A Worthwhile Endeavour

Despite the challenges, expanding to the U.S. can offer numerous benefits for UK businesses – from accessing a large and diverse market, to tapping into new opportunities and resources. With the right preparation and guidance, you can successfully navigate the U.S. immigration system and set your business up for success. helps with US Work Visa: L1, H1B, E2, and O1 Visas

There are various types of US visas that individuals can apply for, depending on their circumstances. Some of the most common employment-based visas include:

  • L1 visa: This visa is for intracompany transferees who work in managerial or executive positions or have specialized knowledge.

  • H1B visa: This visa is for specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields.

  • E2 visa: This visa is for investors who have made a significant investment in a US business and, management or essential skills employees.  Only certain nationalities can apply.

  • O1 visa: This visa is for individuals with extraordinary abilities in the arts, sciences, education, business, or athletics. is a specialist visa services firm with over thirty years of experience dealing with visa applications. For more information and advice, please contact us on 0344 991 9222 or at sends e-mail)