- Are there any restrictions on establishing a business in Virginia?
A company can choose to operate as a sole proprietorship, a partnership, a limited liability corporation or incorporated company in Virginia. As long as major state and local tax, labor, occupational and environmental regulations are observed, there are no restrictions. Legal, financial and other professional advice is strongly recommended when establishing or enlarging a business. Please see the Virginia Guide to Establishing a Business.
- Where can I get advice on finding a suitable location for my business?
The Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) provides comprehensive information on available sites and buildings. The VEDP’s services are available free of charge, and business inquiries remain strictly confidential. Please contact our International Investment Managers for additional information.
- What services does the VEDP provide?
The VEDP provides comprehensive information on available sites and buildings, labor availability and wages, industrial training programs, state and local taxes, utilities, transportation services, financial services, environmental regulations, business incentives, and quality of life throughout Virginia. The VEDP’s services are available free of charge, and business inquiries remain strictly confidential. A VEDP representative will work with a company from the initial inquiry until the project is in operation in Virginia. Please contact our International Investment Managers for additional information.
- How do I legally register my company?
Registration depends upon how a company chooses to do business in Virginia. Corporations, limited liability corporations and certain partnerships require registration with the State Corporation Commission. Sole proprietorships do not require registration. Please see page 6 of the Virginia Guide to Establishing a Business. Legal, financial and other professional advice is strongly recommended when establishing or enlarging a business. An International Investment Manager can introduce you to legal resources that can assist with this process.
- How long does company registration take?
Registration is an administrative process that simply requires filling out the proper forms. It can be as short as hours or days. Visit the State Corporation Commission for additional information. ,
- How much does it cost to register my company?
The fees for this could be as little as USD $50, but depends on the sophistication of the company and the nature of their business identity (LLC, partnership, Corp., S-Corp, etc.) Visit the State Corporation Commission for additional information. A VEDP International Investment Manager can introduce the company to legal resources that can assist with this process.
- I am looking for office space, can you help?
Virginia has a wide variety of office space options available to an international company. We are ready to help you with the process of finding your best location. Most of our communities maintain a list of available locations in their area. VEDP will coordinate with the local community to provide you a list of locations suitable to meet your specific requirements for the type and size of office space needed. Virginia also has incubator programs in some communities that can provide start-up companies with small office space. Please contact a VEDP International Investment Manager for assistance.
- What professional support services exist to help me get started doing business in Virginia?
VEDP has a established a network of professionals with international business experience in law, finance, real estate, mergers and acquisitions, and employment that your company can contact for assistance. This program is called VITAL (Virginia International Trade Alliance) and is available by contacting a VEDP International Investment Manager.
- What assistance is available to manufacturers in Virginia?
The manufacturing sector is given access to all of the services and resources that VEDP provides. The Virginia workforce development agencies that are available to help with hiring and training employees are particularly effective for new manufacturing companies. Virginia is a “right to work” state which eliminates a company’s requirements for a unionized work force. This assists manufacturers in keeping labor costs competitive .Virginia is located within 1000 kilometers of 50% of the U.S. population and 50% of the U.S. manufacturing activity. This provides easy access to customers and suppliers.
- What services are provided in an industrial park? An office park? A business park? A science park?
A “business park” that specializes in industrial, office, light industry or science and research provides services such as water, sewer, gas, electricity, communications, access roads and location identity. These parks often provide ready-to-occupy buildings or ready-to-build land. All of these features save a company start-up time and costs compared with a completely greenfield location. Some parks within cities have access to public transportation that provides employees a low cost and reliable way to work.
- How do I open a bank account?
As an individual establishing a presence in the United States, you will need a bank account. This is an easy and quick process requiring identification, mailing address and a small amount of money. A bank account for an individual can be opened within a day. When you are ready to open your business bank account, you will need a U.S. federal tax identification number. This is obtained easily by visiting a local U.S. government office and completing a rather simple form. VEDP can provide you a list of local accounting or legal firms that can provide assistance in this process if needed.
- What visas do I need to come to Virginia and establish a company?
The type of visa that you will need to come to Virginia to establish a company or venture depends on several factors, including your nationality, the proposed duration of your stay and the purpose of your visit. As long as the purpose of the visit is to explore opportunities and attend to the logistics of establishing the venture, then it is possible for you to enter in B-1 business visitor nonimmigrant status (either under the Visa Waiver Program or pursuant to a B visa) for short periods of time to accomplish such objectives. When entering in B status, you are precluded from engaging in employment, but are otherwise permitted to engage in a wide variety of activities to see that your venture is established. Such activities can include site acquisition and leasing, meeting with prospective customers or clients, entity formation, and entering into agreements. As the company or venture is established and the duration of your stay needs to be longer, then you will need to consider more involved visas in the E, L or H categories and be mindful of their inherent requirements and limitations.
- Am I eligible to work in Virginia for a long period of time?
Yes, you are able to work in Virginia for a reasonably long period of time, provided you apply for and are granted the proper nonimmigrant status. Such status can be in one of a number of nonimmigrant categories, including, most commonly, the E, L or H categories. In the E visa category (the one designated for Treaty Investors and Treaty Traders for persons who share the same nationality as the entity abroad), you are typically granted successive entries of two years for the duration of the visa. In the L visa category (the one designated for Intracompany Transferees), you are typically granted up to seven years of employment authorized status if you are an executive or manager, and up to five years if you are what is known as a 'specialized worker'. In the H visa category (the one designated for Specialty Occupation workers, namely those whose position requires at least a bachelor's degree of skill to perform), you are eligible for up to six years of employment authorized status, but this particular category is limited by the annual quota of visas that are allocated to such workers.
- Once I have a work permit, can I change jobs?
This all depends on the nature of the 'work permit' you may have. If you hold a nonimmigrant status, you are permitted to change jobs, but only in limited circumstances and only after complying with certain specific requirements and being mindful of the limitations associated with your specific nonimmigrant status. The one category where changing jobs (i.e., changing employers) is most easily permitted is the H nonimmigrant visa category. If you currently hold such status with one employer, you may switch to another employer if the new employer files a timely petition and you continue to satisfy the requirements of the H category. Changing from other nonimmigrant visa categories may be difficult or complicated.
- Can I hire staff from overseas for my business?
Yes, you may hire staff from outside of the United States for your business, provided that each person you seek to hire qualifies for and obtains the requisite visa and/or nonimmigrant visa status. Staff who have specialized knowledge and who share the 'nationality' of the investing company may qualify for the E visa. Those who can serve in an executive, managerial or specialized knowledge capacity and who have been employed with an affiliated entity abroad may qualify for the L visa. Those who are not eligible for the E or L categories may seek entry in the H category if they qualify to be employed in a specialty occupation and successfully navigate the H quota/cap process.
- Can families accompany staff?
Yes, dependent family members (i.e., spouses and unmarried dependent children under the age of 21) can accompany staff, but each such person must obtain his or her own nonimmigrant status/visa. Spouses who accompany staff in the E or L nonimmigrant categories are also permitted to be employed either with or independently of the venture. In regards to dependent children, those who high-school age or less are permitted to attend local schools. College-bound children are typically required to obtained separate student visa status.
- How do I recruit staff for my business?
The Virginia Department of Business Assistance will assist you with all of your recruitment needs. They can assist with all aspects of recruiting, training, and ongoing workforce development.
In addition to The Virginia Department of Business Assistance the Virginia Economic Development Partnership and our regional and local allies will be able to recommend you to reputable, established employment agencies with networks of skilled workers to help you identify the right people for your business.
- What are typical wages in Virginia?
Labor costs in Virginia are competitive and in some cases lower than the rest of the United States. Due to Virginia’s diverse economy and its urban and rural business centers labor costs will vary depending on the location selected. An International Investment Manager will be glad to assist you in identifying labor costs in a specific location. In addition the VEDP website provides information about labor costs by locality: Community Profiles.
- What employment taxes am I required to pay in addition to wages?
The major employment taxes in Virginia are Unemployment Insurance and Worker’s Compensation. These taxes are approximately 40% lower in Virginia than in the rest of the U.S. Further information about these taxes can be found at: Virginia Guide to Establishing a Business , page 16.
In addition to state taxes there are federal taxes. legal , financial and other professional advice is recommended for these matters.
- Do my employees need to belong to a union?
No. Virginia has Right-to Work legislation in place. This allows an employee to work for a company without joining a union even if one is present in the company. Please refer to the following for further information about Virginia's Positive Business Climate.
- What taxes do I have to pay for my business?
Taxes vary by state and locality. Generally, a company will pay federal income taxes (paid on the profit of the company), Virginia corporate income taxes (paid on the profit of the company), state sales tax (paid on certain purchases) and the required employment taxes discussed in question 21 above.
At the local level, real estate tax is the major tax, followed by personal property, business tangible property, business professional and occupation (BPOL) and machinery and tools tax. Please see the
Virginia Guide to Establishing a Business, pages 8-15 for further tax information.
- Does the Virginia government provide tax incentives?
Yes. There are various incentives available for a company to locate in Virginia. The incentives are based on the project size (number of employees and capital investment), type of business, and where the company locates within the state. All incentives are designed specifically to meet each company’s needs. For further information about incentives please refer to:
Virginia's Business Incentives.
For more detailed information refer to: Virginia Guide to Business Incentives
- Are there free trade zones (FTZ) in Virginia?
Virginia offers six general-purpose FTZs geographically located around the state. Foreign trade zones allow businesses to defer paying U.S. Customs duties on imported goods held within the zones until the goods enter the United States for domestic consumption. No duties are paid if goods are re-exported.
Businesses are allowed to store goods within foreign trade zones for an unlimited period of time. They are also allowed to manufacture products within zones and pay duties on either the foreign parts used or on the finished product, whichever is most advantageous to the company. Companies may also request the establishment of a subzone on company property which provides all the benefits just described. To view a map depicting the location of FTZ’s in Virginia on page 13 in the Virginia Guide to Business Incentives click here.
- Does Virginia offer assistance in finding companies for me to acquire?
In Virginia we understand the obstacles international companies face when considering the acquisition of a U.S. company. The Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) has developed a comprehensive procedure for processing M&A inquiries. The VEDP has established a referral network of experts (e.g., investment bankers, accountants, lawyers, consultants, etc.) from around the Commonwealth of Virginia to help international companies identify and address the issues.
Or for more information please visit the Mergers and Acquisitions page.
- What intellectual property protection exists in Virginia?
In the United States, intellectual property is governed primarily by national law (not state) and falls under one of three forms:
1. Trademark, for trade names or logos.
2. Copyright, for artistic works such as published work.
3. Patent, for unique inventions, dictated by intellectual property law.
If you are doing business in the U.S., you may have ideas you want to protect under intellectual property law. Your International Investment Manager can assist with intellectual property issues through introductions to specialized law firms.
- Can Virginia offer assistance in obtaining environmental permits?
Yes. The VEDP works closely with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), the agency responsible for most environmental permitting within Virginia. For more information, please visit DEQ’s website: Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.
- What international air connections does Virginia offer?
One of the nation’s busiest airports, Washington Dulles, located in Virginia, provides service to 27 million passengers annually. From Washington Dulles, passengers and freight fly directly to international destinations, and 81 U.S. destinations. Click to access the Washington Dulles website.
- What ship services does Virginia offer?
The Port of Virginia is the second-busiest port on the East Coast. Fourteen lines provide approximately 3,000 sailings annually to over 250 ports in 100 foreign countries. The Port, offering one of the largest intermodal networks on the East Coast of the U.S., handled 2.12 million containers in 2007. In addition, APM Terminals in Portsmouth, Virginia and the Port of Richmond in central Virginia operate multi-modal freight and distribution centers.
In the next two decades, cargo capacity through Virginia ports is expected to double. Virginia is adding capacity to meet his increased demand in several ways, including the Craney Island Port Expansion and an inland port in Front Royal, Virginia. Virginia’s shipping infrastructure includes extensive rail from two of the nation’s largest railroads, Norfolk Southern and CSX. Please click here for more information on the Port of Virginia.
- Whom do I go to if my business needs help after I am established in Virginia?
The VEDP will continue to assist you after your company locates in Virginia. Your Virginia-based International Investment Manager can provide assistance to you from the many resources we have in-house or will put you in contact with the appropriate organization.
- If I need to expand my business, who will help me?
Assistance with your expansion is just a phone call away. Your Virginia-based International Investment Manager is available to assist you with the various issues associated with the expansion of a business in Virginia.
- Do you provide export promotion assistance to help sell my products to other countries?
The VEDP has a nationally recognized International Trade Program that provides export assistance to Virginia companies. With international professionals in five offices in Virginia the VEDP is available to assist Virginia exporters with the complex issues and obstacles facing companies in the global marketplace. Please visit Export Virginia for additional information on the many programs and services available to Virginia exporters.
- What product registrations are required in the United States?
The determination for product registration is based on the product and is regulated by appropriate agencies of the U.S. national government. Your Virginia-based International Investment Manager can assist you in determining where to register your product or service. Legal assistance is strongly recommended for product registration.
- Where do I obtain market research on the potential for my business?
If you are currently in Virginia and are looking for new overseas markets for your product or service, the VEDP International Trade Team can assist you in obtaining the information you need to be successful. The Global Network is a program that engages consultants in 26 countries to provide Virginia companies with market entry research. Please click here to find out more about this program or visit our website at Export Virginia .
Market research on the potential of the U.S. market is available through a number of private sector market research firms. Your Virginia-based International Investment Manager can assist you in locating a professional marketing firm.
- What other companies from my country/sector are already doing business in Virginia?
There are currently over 700 internationally owned firms that call Virginia home. Please click here for a list of foreign-owned companies in Virginia.
- Are there international schools in Virginia for children of my expatriate staff?
Virginia offers a wealth of opportunities for international children residing in the Commonwealth to maintain contact with their native language and culture. Fourteen international schools across Virginia provide language and cultural instruction related to British, Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Korean and general international studies. Many parents who would like their children to be fluent in their home language have taken advantage of the foreign language schools that are located throughout Virginia. While the main function of these schools is teaching a foreign language and culture, they also play an important sociological role by serving as places of, direction and identity to its members. Please contact your International Investment Manager for more specific information.
- How is the Virginia school system structured?
Virginia’s elementary and secondary schools are state governed and locally operated. Virginia’s education system is ranked as one of the best in the U.S. More than one million students are enrolled in Virginia’s 2,000 public elementary, middle, and high schools, and centers of learning. Public high schools in Virginia graduate about 80,000 students annually. Please visit the Virginia Department of Education for additional information.
- How is healthcare delivered in Virginia, specifically for expatriate personnel?
Medical care is provided by private institutions in Virginia. Most businesses buy health insurance for their employees and pay a portion of the cost (called premiums). Individual employees pay a portion of the premiums and also pay a small amount, typically around $35.00, each time they visit a doctor. Your International Investment Manager can put you in touch with insurance companies who will quote you various health insurance alternatives.