Ask Sophie: What are the visa choices for a startup founder with household? 


Right here’s one other version of “Ask Sophie,” the recommendation column that solutions immigration-related questions on working at know-how corporations.

“Your questions are important to the unfold of information that permits individuals everywhere in the world to rise above borders and pursue their desires,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration lawyer. “Whether or not you’re in individuals ops, a founder or searching for a job in Silicon Valley, I’d like to reply your questions in my subsequent column.”

TechCrunch+ members obtain entry to weekly “Ask Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to buy a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.

Pricey Sophie,

I’m a startup founder in Berlin. I simply returned from a go to to Silicon Valley the place I met with a brand new buyer. On the journey, I noticed I have to be primarily based within the U.S. to develop our base with U.S. prospects. 

What are one of the best visa choices for me and my household? Will any of them permit my husband to work and proceed his profession?

— In search of Scale 

Hey there, In search of!

Kudos to you on your online business successes up to now — and in your braveness to take the following massive leap to relocate to the U.S.! I’m honored that you simply reached out as you and your loved ones start your journey. I’ve bought you!

You might be able to keep away from having to undergo an in-person consular interview for L-1 or O-1 visas should you apply now as a result of till the tip of this yr, the Division of State has given consular officers the discretion to waive the visa interview requirement for sure work visas if the beneficiary was beforehand issued a visa and has by no means been refused one.

Seek the advice of an immigration lawyer who can information you to one of the best immigration choices in your and your loved ones primarily based in your circumstances, timing and targets. There are a number of choices that may apply to you, primarily based on numerous elements resembling having a co-founder in a particular function or your citizenship in sure nations, however for now let’s dive into two of the visa choices for you and your loved ones so you possibly can evaluate the overall pathways!

L-1A is a prime choice

When you have labored in your startup for at the least 12 steady months prior to now three years and may doc your employment via payroll slips or tax paperwork, your startup can file for an L-1A visa for intracompany transferee executives or managers so that you can come to arrange an workplace in Silicon Valley.

To get an L-1A visa to open a brand new workplace in the USA, your organization might want to sponsor you for the visa and present that you simply’ve secured a bodily workplace location. Your organization may submit enterprise plans, progress fashions, and group charts. If you happen to’re establishing a brand new workplace within the U.S. and are authorised for an L-1A, that kind of visa will may be initially legitimate as much as one yr. To increase the L-1A past that, you must present that your U.S. enterprise met your progress fashions and that the enterprise is viable.

In case your startup applies for an L-1A in your behalf whilst you’re in your house nation, as soon as the petition is authorised, you have to to use for a visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate. Consular posts have the discretion to waive interviews on a case-by-case foundation at the least via the tip of 2023.

Some individuals go to the U.S. first on ESTA or a B-1 enterprise customer visa to safe an workplace and meet with potential prospects. It’s essential to remember the fact that the B-1 will not be a piece visa, so whereas working within the U.S. will not be allowed, you can carry out some enterprise actions, resembling taking part in conferences and signing a lease or different agreements. When you might have an workplace and meet all the opposite necessities of the L-1A, your startup can petition you for an L-1A.

The B-1 visa is sweet for six months initially (ESTA is legitimate for under 90 days at a time) and may be renewed as soon as from the U.S. for an additional six-month interval if vital. Premium processing is obtainable for the L-1A, which suggests for a price, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Providers (USCIS) will both determine in your case or subject a request for proof inside 15 days.

In case your husband desires to accompany you to the U.S. to easily apply and interview for jobs whilst you scout for workplace house, he can enter on ESTA or apply for a B-1 visa as properly. The B-1 and the B-2 customer visa for pleasure are issued collectively, so it’s essential that you simply and your husband let the U.S. immigration officers know, notably on the airport, that you may be conducting enterprise whereas within the U.S. Failing to take action could put your capacity to remain within the U.S. and any future visas and inexperienced playing cards in danger.

The partner and dependent kids of L-1A visa holders are eligible for an L-2 visa. As an L-2 visa holder, your husband can be eligible to work. Since 2021, people who’ve an L-2 visa now not have to use for or renew their employment authorization doc (EAD), in any other case referred to as a piece allow. The USCIS will subject Kind I-94 itemizing “L-2S” when granting your husband a standing change to an L-2. That’s thought-about equal to an EAD card and it’s an amazing profit for households!

The utmost keep within the U.S. on an L-1A visa is seven years. The L-1A provides a path to the EB-1C inexperienced card for multinational executives and managers. The necessities for the EB-1C are just like these of the L-1A: Your organization should sponsor you, and you will need to have been employed within the U.S. as an government or supervisor for at the least one yr.

O-1A is an choice, however . . .

If the L-1A will not be an choice for you, we’ve had a variety of success serving to founders get an O-1A extraordinary capacity visa. However remember the fact that in contrast to the dependent partner of an L-1A visa holder, the O-3 dependent partner of the O-1A visa holder will not be eligible to work. Nonetheless, your husband can work if he finds a job along with his personal employer prepared to sponsor him for a piece visa.

If you happen to pursue the O-1A, it’s simpler in your firm to qualify for an L-1A, however the general bar in your accomplishments is increased. Nonetheless, I typically discover that the majority startup founders with a product, maybe some funding, and a few preliminary traction can simply qualify. To qualify for the O-1A, you will need to display at the least three of eight standards, resembling receiving worldwide or nationwide awards; unique, invitation-only membership in organizations; and being featured in skilled, commerce or main media. Take a look at this earlier Ask Sophie column during which I dive into methods to meet every of the eight O-1A standards. Premium processing can be obtainable for the O-1A.

As a result of the EB-1A extraordinary capacity inexperienced card has most of the similar standards because the O-1A, the O-1A is a reasonably simple attain to an EB-1A or some founders pursue an EB-2 NIW if their wait time is suitable.

E-2 can be an choice, however . . .

The E-2 treaty investor visa allows worldwide founders whose house nation has a commerce and commerce treaty with the U.S. — as Germany does — to reside and work within the U.S. whereas investing substantial capital to construct a enterprise right here. (The U.S. Division of State maintains a listing of treaty nations.) However remember the fact that at the least half of your U.S. enterprise have to be owned by individuals or corporations out of your nation of citizenship to take care of E-2 standing, which will get tough notably if and when your startup begins elevating funds.

Though the E-2 necessities don’t specify how a lot capital you will need to make investments to construct your U.S. enterprise, immigration officers search for massive investments in workplace house, gear and stock, someplace within the $100,000 vary. That may make it troublesome — however not unimaginable — for startup founders to qualify for the E-2. Whereas the E-2 doesn’t particularly require job creation, immigration officers could take into account your U.S. enterprise to be too “marginal” with out it.

One other main issue is that the E-2 visa software course of happens immediately on the consulate, and there’s no choice for premium processing if you’re searching for a a number of entry visa in your passport.

The partner of an E-2 visa holder is eligible to use for an EAD. Just like the L-2 visa holders, E-2 dependent visa holders routinely have work authorization with their visa and can obtain a Kind I-94 that serves as proof they’re licensed to work.

Just like the O-1A, there’s no restrict on the variety of occasions the E-2 visa may be prolonged. Nonetheless, for the E-2, immigration officers will need you to display that you simply nonetheless keep a residence and ties to your own home nation and intend to finally return there. That is referred to as non-immigrant intent, and immigration officers will wish to see that you don’t intend to and haven’t any need to stay within the U.S. completely. In distinction, the L-1A and O-1A visas can help you pursue a inexperienced card (everlasting residency).

Immigration officers closely scrutinize each the L-1A and E-2 visa functions, so I wish to gently remind you ways essential it’s to work with an immigration lawyer to current a powerful case no matter route you determine to take.

Get pleasure from your journey!

— Sophie

Have a query for Sophie? Ask it right here. We reserve the appropriate to edit your submission for readability and/or house.

Sophie Alcorn, founding father of Alcorn Immigration Regulation in Silicon Valley, California, is an award-winning Licensed Specialist Lawyer in Immigration and Nationality Regulation by the State Bar Board of Authorized Specialization. Sophie is obsessed with transcending borders, increasing alternative, and connecting the world by training compassionate, visionary, and professional immigration legislation. Join with Sophie on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Sophie’s podcast, Immigration Regulation for Tech Startups, is obtainable on all main platforms. If you happen to’d wish to be a visitor, she’s accepting functions!


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