How To Start Your Own Business As An Immigrant In The United States

Here are some steps anyone can take when considering innovating in the United States and creating their own business.

learn more about Rodolfo Delgado

By Rodolfo Delgado

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Eight years ago, I took a leap of faith. I left my beloved Mexico to learn and innovate in the United States. I did my due diligence, learning and reading online about which city I could grow in the most.

It is rarely the case that people can move and start a business abroad. Today, I'd like to share some steps anyone can take when considering innovating in the United States and creating their own business.

Related: How Immigrants Help Tech Businesses Grow

Determine your eligibility

There are several ways to move to the United States, including work, family, investment or study. You'll need to determine the best path for you and your situation and then research the specific requirements for each type of visa. I started as a student because I didn't have family, work, or investment connections in the United States. Still, there are multiple opportunities, and you should look into every one of them before making a final decision.

While applying for an educational program, I recommend focusing on programs that offer you an "OPT," short for Optional Practical Training. In short, the university can help you get a temporary work visa.

Related: International Entrepreneurs Now Have an Immigration Pathway to the U.S.

Build a network

Once in the United States, focus on acing your grades while looking for potential mentors and networking opportunities. In my case, I approached my preferred teacher and asked him for mentoring opportunities. Eight years later, he's still a valued advisor of my company. Great opportunities are everywhere, and you have to be on the lookout for them.

Building a network of contacts and business relationships is critical to the success of your business. Attend local networking events, join industry associations, and make connections through online networks to build a strong network of contacts.

Related: The 5 Advantages You Have If You're an Immigrant Entrepreneur

Reach out shamelessly

We have to make the most of what we've got. I recommend creating an excel spreadsheet and adding all your contacts — friends, family, peers, and acquaintances. Next to them, add their job position and the company they work for. Doing so will help you better visualize your contacts if you need a recommendation.

In my case, I reached out to a few who worked at companies whose leadership I admire and asked them for a referral. Tip: Often, companies reward employees who refer a new worker. Most will gladly refer you.

Related: From Student to Tech-Startup Founder, How an Immigrant Entrepreneur Was Able to Thrive in the U.S.

Research the local business environment

During your time on an OPT (temporary job) or internship, search for areas of opportunity. I sought to understand how every part of the business worked. There will always be opportunities passing you by; it's just a matter of being aware.

It's important to understand the local business environment, including laws and regulations, taxes, and the competitive landscape, before you start a new business. This information will help you make informed decisions and ensure that you are set up for success.

Set up your business

The best businesses are born out of a need. Once you've found a business niche that needs improvement, test your idea. Create mockups and wireframes, and search for an audience willing to pay. Once you've found a product market fit, follow these steps:

  • Create a business plan: A business plan is a roadmap for your business and is essential for securing funding and attracting investors. Your business plan should outline your goals, strategies, and financial projections.
  • Register your business: You'll need to register with the relevant government agencies and obtain the necessary licenses and permits. This process can vary depending on the location and type of business, so it's important to research the specific requirements in your area. Insider's Tip: It's not as expensive as you may think, often costing less than $500
  • Secure funding: Starting a business in the United States can be expensive, so you'll need to secure funding to cover your start-up costs and operating expenses. This could come from various sources, including personal savings, loans, or investments from friends and family.

The United States is a challenging yet rewarding place to launch a startup. I can personally attest to the importance of these steps, as I've followed a similar path in founding my company. Preparation and planning are the secrets to achievement. Get your visa paperwork in order, network like crazy, ask your contacts for help, learn about the local business environment, and write a rock-solid business plan. It won't be a walk in the park, but with focus and effort, you can get where you want to go. Wherever you end up realizing your entrepreneurial dreams, I can only say: you got this.

Rodolfo Delgado

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

CEO of Replay Listings

Rodolfo Delgado is bringing transparency to the real-estate industry. He created Replay Listings, the first listings platform in the U.S. focused on unedited video content.

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