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Profiles in Immigration – Royal United Company

Royal United Company founder Richard Smith always knew he would work with gamebirds – it was, after all, a trade passed down through generations in his family. “I have been involved in the industry my whole life,” Richard said. “My father, my grandfather, my great grandfather – we have always been gamekeepers.”

Gamekeeper and Royal United Company founder Richard Smith with his bird dogs.

Richard’s family legacy is a storied one – he comes from a long line of British gamekeepers who protected the English countryside while breeding and caring for the pheasants, partridge and other gamebirds used in the hunts by British gentry and nobility.

Bringing British Traditions to the U.S.

But for Richard, his future as a professional gamekeeper would take him far from the bucolic countryside of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. After a stint as a full-time gamekeeper at Longleat Estate in Southwest England, Richard knew he wanted something different.

“When you are a gamekeeper, your job is to look after birds, and everything else is run by an estate manager,” he said. “I wanted to be involved in the business, from the birds, to the hunt, to the overall client experience.”

Richard’s entrepreneurial spirit brought him to the United States. Based on his travels to the U.S., he knew the American hunting market would support his vision for traditional English driven gamebird shooting. With a business plan, a location, and funding in place, Richard came across an unexpected obstacle – finding the appropriate visa to allow him to live and work in the United States.

After exhausting the time limits on J and P visas, Richard met with FordMurray founding partner Russell Ford, who suggested the E-2 visa for foreign investors. “I worked with other attorneys, and this was never on my radar screen. The E visa worked out the best it could have.”

An Entrepreneur’s Visa

The E-2 Visa is geared specifically to foreign investors from E Visa Treaty Countries who would like to start a business in the United States. One of the primary obstacles Richard faced in his search for an employment visa was categorizing his position as a “gamekeeper,” a position steeped in history and common in the British vernacular but without an American equivalency. The flexibility of the E visa provided the avenue Richard needed – the E Visa can apply to any business, as long as the business owner has a concrete business plan and can show a substantial personal investment in the business. While the E Visa does not provide a pathway to a U.S. green card, business owners can remain in the United States while their business is active.

In 2011, Richard received a five-year visa for his business. Since then, Richard has continued to grow the reach and scope of Royal United Company. Today, Royal United sends hunt-ready pheasants and partridge to locations across the United States. His extensive experience and generational knowledge helped him create a gamebird breeding program based on traditional English gamebird rearing and complemented by modern technological advances.

Royal United also hosts hunts that give American hunters access to traditional European driven gamebird shooting. Hunts are hosted at hunting clubs in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. Property owners can also hire Royal United to set up hunts and claybird shooting on their personal property. Royal United recently added mobile clay shooting, a popular offering for sporting clubs, corporate outings and fundraisers.

Richard said his business model allows him to provide some of the intangible qualities of a good hunt he learned from his father and grandfather.

“We offer unparalleled quality of the shooting,” he said. “I help create an atmosphere and put the right people in the right places. It’s about more than a good day of shooting.”

An American Dream

Russell was able to help Richard through the complicated E Visa process, but that was not the end of the immigration partnership. Earlier this year, FordMurray helped Richard through the process of applying for a spouse-sponsored green card, allowing him to become a permanent lawful resident of the United States. With an American wife, two children, and a business positioned for continued growth, Richard’s looks forward to a life of continuing to meld the culture of his native country with his chosen home.

“The best part of my work is being able to work with a variety of hunters,” Rich said. “Sometimes we host hunters who know what to expect, and sometimes we are introducing people to new traditions. I am proud to be in a position to help the sport grow.”

Interested in learning more about the E visa, or other employment visas? Contact us today.