Organising a enterprise in the US with little cash is feasible

“I decided to change my life”. Leaving France in 2018 with a student visa in her pocket, Virginie Delaitre was able to launch her home decor company Virginie Interiors in November 2021 in Fairfax County, just steps from Washington DC. It is the divorce that leads Nantaise, entrepreneur and former student of architecture and space design, to leave everything to go to the United States.

“I always loved museums and art in Washington, I wanted to go there to become bilingual, work a year and go back to France”, remembers the thirties. She is applying for a visa F-1 student who succeeds quite easily and decides to embark on a thorough search for design schools in the United States.

First job $9/hour

A process that she still remembers as difficult: “In France, it was difficult to do research because there are few options. Community colleges are not known and I couldn’t find training at a price that matched what I wanted to do »recalls the young woman who then left for the other side of the Atlantic with her visa and a student loan of 60,000 dollars. “But I haven’t found out enough about the cost of housing”admits Virginie Delaitre. “As I couldn’t find accommodation during my research in France, I decided to rent a room for a month and look for accommodation there”.

She arrives in April 2019 and starts by doing three months of intensive English before starting her first semester. “I couldn’t go to university without having a certain level of English, because they don’t give you a gift”, she says. She then takes a shared apartment, “It wasn’t easy because I didn’t have Social Security Number (SSN)“. Precious sesame, the American social security card makes it possible to obtain a legal job, housing or even an American bank account. “My first job was paid $9/hour, parking was more expensive! But I did it to get my CPF”says Virginie Delaitre, before warning prospective students who want to start in the United States: “You shouldn’t imagine going out on a student visa and finding a local job to support yourself, it’s not possible. » The semester costs 6,000 dollars, to which the housing budget must be added.

Stay despite the pandemic

Virginie Delaitre also had to adapt to the differences between French and American learning. She must first familiarize herself with the different classification systems, but also with much more theoretical content than in France. “There’s less manual stuff and we move it very quickly to IT. For example, there are no drawing lessons in the program I took. It is very academic, there are tasks and homework to do, while in France we do projects. Everything is online and the grade is based on the objective of the exercise. You have to read the instructions and answer the matter very accurately.witness Virginie Delaitre who thinks it’s easier to get an A in the US than a 20/20 in France.

In March 2020, the pandemic covid turns everything upside down. “We never came back from our spring break”, jokes the young woman. She now has two options: return to France and abandon her project, or stay in the United States without being able to see her family indefinitely. “I had already completed two semesters of studies and I told myself that I had to finish my goal: to work in the United States”. Virginie decides not to return to France and leaves for West Virginia to continue her studies and work online. “It really took me away from France”, she regrets. The young woman even received help from her parents to finance the end of her university credits. “because I was at the end of my loan”, specifies Virginie Delaitre, who hadn’t planned on paying for hosting for so long.

From student visa to entrepreneur visa

“After the first two years and if you take the time to do all the integration, everything becomes easier”, believes Virginie Delaitre, who then started an OPT (Optional Practical Training). This job training allows students to extend their F-1 visa by working in a US company. Optional, the OPT allows visa holders to stay and study for an additional year to complete their training.

In July 2021, she decides to stay to found her company. Problem: His student visa does not allow him to stay. “Most lawyers tell me to go back to France and apply for a green card. Another marriage lawyer tells me to get married! », recalls the young woman with humor. After unsuccessfully applying for a green card from her company, she decides to go ahead and apply for an E-2 visa, the entrepreneur visa. “I wrote my 30-day business plan when I had no idea about setting up my business two years ago”, testifies the head of the company. Fortunately, she did entrepreneurship and leads an association of entrepreneurs in France.

She opens her company Virginie Interiors in October 2021 after getting her E-2 visa. In total, she invested $16,000 for this visa, including attorney fees. If she’s made it this far – she’s right – it’s thanks to her tenacity. “I want to prove that it is possible to get there even with little money invested”. She adds: “You really shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions. I sometimes email people I don’t know”assures the young woman who now advises all those who want to start in the United States, as she did four years ago.

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