Resources for Your Business Partners Abroad

Doing business abroad requires that both you and your business partners complete forms mandated by the U.S. Government. Below is important information for non-U.S. citizens with whom you do business:

Business Visas 101: Temporary and Permanent Business Travel

Many small businesses chose to operate with foreign partners, investors, or workers in some capacity.  Before you start booking plane tickets there are travel and immigration laws that you must consider. Any non-U.S. citizen or resident who wishes to legally participate in business related activities in the United States will require a visa - a document attached to a passport that gives permission to apply to enter the United States. The type of visa will depend on the visitor's intended purpose in the U.S. and whether or not their travel is temporary or permanent.

Temporary Business Travels

For business related travel to the United States on a temporary basis, foreigners must obtain a nonimmigrant visa.  While there are many different types of nonimmigrant visas, most fall into one of two categories:

Business Visitor Visa (B-1) - This visa is required to visit the United States for specific business related purposes where the visitor will not be compensated by a U.S. based company or entity.  Traveling for a consultation with U.S.-based business entities, for a business conference, or for business investment purposes are all examples of travel that would require a B-1 visa.

To obtain this type of visa, visitors must schedule a visa interview appointment and apply through the U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country.

For more information, check out the Department of State's frequently asked questions on Visitor Visas for Business.

Temporary Worker Visa (H, L, O, P, Q, etc.) - This visa is required for temporary work or employment in the United States for foreigners that will receive payment, income, or salary from a U.S.-based company or business entity.  The type of temporary worker visa required will depend on that person's specific business purpose. Temporary worker visas are common in specialty occupations and fields requiring highly specialized knowledge.

To obtain this type of visa, the U.S. based business or employer must file a petition (Form I-129) and supplemental documentation with United States Customs and Immigrations Services.

For more information applying for this type of visa, check out the USCIS guide to Temporary Workers.

Permanent U.S.-Based Business Operations

For permanent business employment or operations in the United States, foreigners must obtain an immigrant visa.

Employment Based Visa (EB-1 through EB-5) - This visa is required for foreigners that intend to permanently work, be employed, and/or be paid by a U.S. based company.  This visa applies to any foreigner, in a skilled or unskilled position, that will maintain any permanent status in the United States.  Employment based visas are classified from 1 to 5 based on their preference level.

To obtain this type of visa, the U.S.-based entity and the foreign applicant must complete the process to become an immigrant through employment.  In some cases, the process begins through the approval or a labor certification request from the Department of Labor, and once approved, the U.S. based entity must file a Immigrant Petition (Form I-140) with USCIS under the appropriate preference category.  The immigrant applicant will then receive a immigrant visa number.

If the immigrant applicant is currently residing in the United States they must then apply to adjust their status to permanent residency.  If they are outside the U.S at the time, they will be informed of their approval and must complete the process at their U.S. embassy or consulate.

For more information on applying for immigrant status through employment, check out USCIS guide to Permanent Workers and How Do I Apply for Immigrant Status Based On Employment.

After the Visa...

Once a foreigner has been approved for and received the appropriate business related visa, they are subject to U.S. immigration and employee eligibility laws.  Employers must pay attention to these compliance requirements after a foreign partner or employee has been approved.

7 Indispensable Tech Tools for The Small Business Traveler

Recommended technology solutions for business travelers, from Industry Word guest author Anita Campbell.

If you travel on business regularly, or even occasionally, you know how important it is to get work done while on the road.

I travel one to two times a month, usually by plane. I've done that for many years, both as a small business owner and previously when in the corporate world.  Over the years my "travel rig" as I call it, has changed.  As new technology comes along, I find myself trying out and adopting new solutions. Today these solutions are smaller, more convenient and ... more fun.

I'd like to share a few tips I've learned including my current set of 7 indispensable technology tools for the small business traveler:

  1. Smartphone -  Whether you choose a BlackBerry, iPhone or other brand, a smartphone will allow you to stay connected to your phone and light email while traveling -- 2 indispensable communication links.  Choose a device with a comfortable "QWERTY" keypad.  Be sure to sync up your contacts and calendar so that you have that important information with you at all times. Another necessity: get one with a good camera. The built-in cameras to today's smart phones offer resolution of several megapixels so the picture quality is decent. You won't need to lug around a separate camera just for a few casual shots.

  2. Netbook computer -- I used to travel with a 7-pound laptop. Now I travel with a 3-pound netbook -- the 4-pound difference sounds small but feels huge when trudging through airport terminals.  Some  netbooks are stripped down with a very small hard drive. I prefer a netbook designed specifically for  business users, with enough RAM and hard drive to run business apps like PowerPoint, and a sturdy metal  outside which stands up to travel better than plastic.  Also, look for one with a nearly-full-size keyboard, built-in webcam (for saying goodnight to the family at home), and extended battery life of 5+ hours.

  3. Internet connectivity - You are going to need Internet connectivity if you expect to handle email from your computer and access Web applications.  You have several options:  a mobile broadband card; Internet access at the hotel or in airports and now even on air flights; or free WiFi hotspots. A mobile broadband card is convenient in that you never have to hunt for an Internet connection -- you have one wherever you go. If you travel more than a couple days a month, it may be worth the cost (still north of $50 a month with many carriers). Otherwise, opt for Internet access provided by hotels or in airports or on the plane (now available on some airlines).  This can get expensive, too, but an increasing number of hotels make Internet connectivity complimentary with your room. Even some airports now offer complimentary wireless. I never have the time to seek out coffee shops or similar places while traveling. So it may not be wise to  expect to rely on the usual free WiFi hotspots on the road.

  4. Remote access to files - If you travel regularly, chances are you also will need remote access to your work files. There are a number of ways to accomplish this. You can have your IT administrator set up a remote login to your company network. Or, a simple DIY-way to achieve a remote login is through an application such as Go To My PC, which will cost just a few hundred dollars a year. Or you can load key applications and files on a USB thumb drive that you can slip into your briefcase.  Or you can use online software applications, such as Google Apps, which just require an Internet connection and a browser to access.

  5. iPod or other entertainment device - You have a lot of dead time to fill when traveling, so why not enjoy it?  I could just kiss my iPod Touch every time I travel -- it's my own personal entertainment device. I can watch movies; listen to music and podcasts; play games such as Sudoku; and even read books on the free Kindle app for iPod Touch.  I never leave the office without it. Of course, if you have an iPhone (or one of the other smart phones that allows you to download movies, music and books) you may not have to carry two devices.  I still use a separate iPod, though, to conserve my phone's battery.

  6. Nylon briefcase/bag with protective neoprene netbook sleeve - Your choice of briefcase or tote bag is very important in these days of checked-baggage fees making in-cabin space highly competitive. Gone are the days when I used to have a rather large, leather wheelie bag for my laptop. Now I opt for a light nylon bag compact enough to go under the seat in front of me in a pinch. My netbook is protected in a neoprene sleeve and quickly slips in and out of the bag.  At airport security I don't even have to take the netbook out its neoprene sleeve as it is approved to go through scanners. Place all cords and accessories in a separate zippered pouch inside your briefcase or bag, to keep them organized.  Nothing is worse than a tangle of cords, plug adapters, thumb drives and batteries spilling out of your briefcase.

  7. Follow me anywhere phone service - The final thing not to leave the office without is "follow-me" phone service (or call forwarding) that routes your office calls to your mobile phone.  This assures that people can reach you on the road as easily as in the office.  Sure, you could always just dial in to your voice mail back at the office.  But if you are waiting for that crucial client call-back or other important call, you won't want to miss it. My final bonus tip is how to deal with your gear when you get back to the office following a trip.

Recharging and Set-up Station -- Your life will be a whole lot easier if you have a recharging station set up back in your office where you can unpack your gear after each trip. If you use your laptop or netbook or iPod only for traveling, you are going to want to power them up, check for software updates (including antivirus updates), and sync any files with your main computer system or desktop computer, before your next trip. For your iPod, you may wish to download new music, films and books. Syncing files and downloading can take time (especially for videos, which can take several hours), so be sure to start a day or two before your trip.