The midterms have just passed, but it won’t be long before campaigning for 2020 elections kicks in. No doubt, many candidates will talk about how small businesses drive the U.S. economy.

Turns out immigrants play a significant role in the creation of small businesses in the U.S. About one-quarter of new businesses started nationwide are created by immigrants, according to a report on immigrant entrepreneurship by educators from Harvard University and Wellesley College. In states with a high immigrant population, such as California, New Jersey and New York, immigrants account for more than 40 percent of new businesses.

Business ownership to green card status

Many foreign-born citizens seeking to live in the U.S. own a business in their own country. Some file a petition for an E2 visa, which allows them to set up a business in the U.S. E2 visas require a significant investment (typically a minimum of $100,000) and are restricted to citizens of countries that have a Treaty of Trade Commerce with the U.S.

An E2 visa allows an entrepreneur to stay in the U.S. indefinitely by receiving two-year extensions as long as E2 qualifications are maintained. E2 visa holders can be accompanied by their spouse and dependents under age 21.

Many entrepreneurs get to the U.S. on a visa and then work their way to gaining green card status. Business owners who have success in their native country relocate to the U.S. and gain permanent residency. It’s smart to work with a knowledgeable immigration lawyer who can review your options and help you navigate the path that makes the most sense.