By Sang Shin, Attorney
Each year, the U.S. Department of Commerce and each of the 50 states court foreign companies from all over the world to encourage and incentivize investment. The Department of Commerce’s flagship event, the Select USA Investment Summit, rolls out the red carpet to companies by touting the benefits of bringing their services, products, and ideas to the United States. During the Summit, the Exhibition Hall hosts all 50 states, and each sponsors a booth and staffs it with trade representatives ready to market their respective states’ business climates. Company representatives are able to speak to state trade representatives directly to better understand why one jurisdiction may be more suitable than another. The parties discuss incentives and the creation of U.S. jobs in a way that truly demonstrates the United States is “open for business.”
However, the Department of Commerce’s strong welcome message can become diluted as companies and their workers apply for immigration benefits with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Department of State. With heightened scrutiny on immigration filings, it has become increasingly difficult for companies to secure approval of their initial filings, and even extension petitions, without some sort of glitch. Be it a request for more evidence or even an initial denial, there is often some interruption in the process. Still, foreign companies identify the United States as their destination of choice due to the many benefits of doing business here.
Because the benefits of the U.S. market remain attractive, foreign companies seeking to invest in the United States may find the following tips helpful in planning for successful market entry:
- Connect with Your Country’s Commercial Officer. The Department of Commerce employs Commercial Officers/Specialists at U.S. embassies around the globe to work with international companies to help them develop a plan for entry into the United States – especially with respect to investment and/or trade. These officers often serve as advocates for companies and can provide resources/statistics on the likelihood of success – especially from an economic/financial perspective. These officers also assist with coordinating events in the company’s home country and trips into the United States to find the best location for the company.
- Reach out to the U.S. State or City Economic Development Council (EDC). Based on your service, product, and/or industry, one location may be a better fit for the company, depending upon state and local incentives and regulations. It’s wise to reach out to the EDCs of the state, county, and/or city once the company’s physical location is decided or narrowed down. These EDCs can advise on how their respective locations best meet the needs of the company.
- Select Competent Service Providers. As a new company, you may not be aware of the laws in the United States and the location of your business. Surround yourself with experts on Immigration, Tax, and Business Law; Banking; Insurance; and other matters. A good immigration attorney can help you pursue the visa that is the right fit for the company and its workers no matter where you are located. Certain service providers, like immigration attorneys, are able to represent the company in all 50 states whereas others are restricted to their respective states. Reaching out to these providers early will help the company understand critical timing considerations prior to commencing business in the United States.
While there may be some discord in messaging between and among the various U.S. departments and agencies, with some welcoming new business and others being more restrictive, being proactive and carefully planning allows a foreign investor or company to navigate and enter the United States more efficiently and smoothly.