Buying a Business? What I Recommend Foreign Buyers to Do

Many foreign nationals come to Central Florida to purchase a business in order to get visas into the US on a somewhat permanent basis — so long as the business is viable, the visa holder may stay, if not, they may have to get back to their country of origin. The two most common types of visas are the L1 and E2 visas.

The L1 visa is normally available to foreign business owners who wish to acquire a business in the U.S. and assign a person — on an inter-company transfer-to manage the enterprise. The person managing the U.S. enterprise gets the L1 visa. The good news is that normally the L1 visa can be converted into a green card within two to three years.

The E2 category of US visas is normally given to foreign nationals who have bought a company in the US and wish to manage it. To qualify, you must be a national of a country that maintains a treaty with the United States. Additionally, the foreign national needs to make a “substantial and non-marginal investment of no less than $100,000.” However, size and nature of the business may also be determining factors. I have sold and heard of many businesses being sold for E2 reasons which do reach the $100K plateau.

Please understand that the above are generalizations and that you need to know more. However, now that I mentioned the types of visas, let me make some recommendations to foreign buyers.

1. Get proper legal (immigration) advice.
2. Get an ethical and reputable Business Broker to broker the transaction.
3. Get good financial advice from accountants or CPA’s. By the way, normally one of the requirements for the visa is a five (5) year business plan.
4. Buy a business which has solid financial records. Audited Financial statements and tax returns and normally good when dealing with US immigration.
5. Please do not buy “cheap,” buy good. It is better to pay more for an enterprise that has long term potential than not. Remember, after a couple of years you will have to renew your visa and the financial results of your company may determine whether or not you stay in the country.
6. Perform a very detailed Due Diligence. Your visa depends on it!! The due diligence will help you determine the viability of the business and verify that what you bought is what you are going to get.
7. Do not spend it all on the business acquisition; you may need more to run your investment.
8. Understand your life style expense requirements and buy an enterprise which supports it.
9. Buy a very simple Business Model-they normally succeed.
10. Talk to other foreign nationals with E2/L1 visas. Understand their successes and struggles.

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