For most visa types you must have a physical office space to work from in order to get your visa application approved. The good news is that an office does not need to be expensive.
Traditional Office Spaces
In traditional office spaces you secure a lease for a commercial space for at least one year, and for as long as three, five, or ten year periods. These leases are difficult to break, but can be cheaper on a per month basis than co-sharing spaces for the same amount of space. If you believe you will need space for at least a year and you are not in a high-growth period a traditional lease can be a good option. If you cannot project how quickly your business will grow this is not likely a good option to start with.
If you are opening a business that depends on commercial space, such as a restaurant, import-export business, or factory, a traditional lease is almost a necessity.
Sub-leasing Traditional Office Space
Many companies have more space than they currently need in their offices. Some companies will sub-lease an office or offices. These can be good values as the offices are frequently already furnished and you will often have access to tools like a copier, printer, and phone service. From the perspective of securing a visa this can be a good option as you can negotiate a short or month-to-month lease, have the perks of a traditional office, and get a lease for the space. These arrangements can be found through a real estate broker, but also on Craigslist.
Co-working and Shared Office Spaces
This category of office space has grown tremendously over the past couple of years, with WeWork leading the way. Each city has unique co-working spaces and providers available. Some of these spaces offer amenities and connections to help you grow your business. You can get a hot desk at WeWork for a couple of hundred dollars per month. Most co-working spaces allow month-to-month leases which will allow you the flexibility to move or grow as your business scales. These office spaces are move-in ready with the desks, chairs, and utilities included in the price of the plan.
Work from Home
While it is not impossible to start a business and apply for a visa based on working from home we do not recommend it. The government strongly prefers to see that you use an office space outside the home. If you do decide to work from home, you will need documents showing you have access to the space (a lease or a mortgage), and proof that you have enough room to work in, such as photos of the work space and floor plans showing how the desk are arranged.
When setting up your new business please keep in mind that you will need to spend money on an office. If you are applying for an E-1, E-2, or E-3, or O-1 visa it is not particularly important how long you keep the office after the visa is approved. However, for individuals benefiting from H-1B and L-1 visas it is important to maintain the office space as the USCIS has the ability to visit the listed work location at any time, unannounced.
For more information on starting your business and how to prepare for a visa application, schedule a call with an attorney.