Ask Sophie: What are the visa options for a startup founder with family? 

Ask Sophie: What are the visa options for a startup founder with family? 

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

“Your questions are very important to the unfold of data that enables folks all around the world to rise above borders and pursue their goals,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration legal professional. “Whether or not you’re in folks 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.

Expensive 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 spotted I should be primarily based within the U.S. to develop our base with U.S. clients. 

What are one of the best visa choices for me and my household? Will any of them enable 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 thus far — and on your braveness to take the following huge 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 obtained you!

You could possibly keep away from having to undergo an in-person consular interview for L-1 or O-1 visas when 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 legal professional who can information you to one of the best immigration choices on your and your loved ones primarily based in your circumstances, timing and targets. There are a selection of choices which may apply to you, primarily based on numerous elements akin to having a co-founder in a particular function or your citizenship in sure international locations, however for now let’s dive into two of the visa choices for you and your loved ones so you possibly can examine the overall pathways!

L-1A is a prime choice

When you have labored on your startup for at the least 12 steady months previously three years and might 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 US, 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. In case you’re organising a brand new workplace within the U.S. and are permitted for an L-1A, that kind of visa will might be initially legitimate as much as one yr. To increase the L-1A past that, it’s essential to 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 permitted, 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 folks go to the U.S. first on ESTA or a B-1 enterprise customer visa to safe an workplace and meet with potential clients. It’s essential to take into account that the B-1 is just not a piece visa, so whereas working within the U.S. is just not allowed, you can carry out some enterprise actions, akin to taking part in conferences and signing a lease or different agreements. When you’ve 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 nice for six months initially (ESTA is legitimate for under 90 days at a time) and might be renewed as soon as from the U.S. for an additional six-month interval if vital. Premium processing is on the market for the L-1A, which implies for a payment, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Providers (USCIS) will both determine in your case or difficulty a request for proof inside 15 days.

In case your husband needs to accompany you to the U.S. to easily apply and interview for jobs whilst you scout for workplace area, 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 can be conducting enterprise whereas within the U.S. Failing to take action could put your potential to remain within the U.S. and any future visas and inexperienced playing cards in danger.

The partner and dependent youngsters 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 not have to use for or renew their employment authorization doc (EAD), in any other case generally known as a piece allow. The USCIS will difficulty 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 a fantastic profit for households!

The utmost keep within the U.S. on an L-1A visa is seven years. The L-1A presents 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 should have been employed within the U.S. as an govt or supervisor for at the least one yr.

O-1A is an choice, however . . .

If the L-1A is just not an choice for you, we’ve had loads of success serving to founders get an O-1A extraordinary potential visa. However take into account that not like the dependent partner of an L-1A visa holder, the O-3 dependent partner of the O-1A visa holder is just not eligible to work. Nevertheless, your husband can work if he finds a job together with his personal employer keen to sponsor him for a piece visa.

In case you pursue the O-1A, it’s simpler on your firm to qualify for an L-1A, however the general bar on your accomplishments is increased. Nevertheless, I usually 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 should exhibit at the least three of eight standards, akin to 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 wherein I dive into easy methods to meet every of the eight O-1A standards. Premium processing can also be out there for the O-1A.

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

E-2 can also be an choice, however . . .

The E-2 treaty investor visa allows worldwide founders whose dwelling nation has a commerce and commerce treaty with the U.S. — as Germany does — to dwell 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 international locations.) However take into account that at the least half of your U.S. enterprise have to be owned by folks or firms out of your nation of citizenship to keep up 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 should make investments to construct your U.S. enterprise, immigration officers search for giant investments in workplace area, gear and stock, someplace within the $100,000 vary. That may make it tough — however not inconceivable — 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 utility 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 robotically have work authorization with their visa and can obtain a Kind I-94 that serves as proof they’re approved to work.

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

Immigration officers closely scrutinize each the L-1A and E-2 visa purposes, so I wish to gently remind you ways necessary it’s to work with an immigration legal professional to current a robust 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 precise to edit your submission for readability and/or area.

Sophie Alcorn, founding father of Alcorn Immigration Legislation in Silicon Valley, California, is an award-winning Licensed Specialist Legal professional in Immigration and Nationality Legislation 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 knowledgeable immigration legislation. Join with Sophie on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Sophie’s podcast, Immigration Legislation for Tech Startups, is on the market on all main platforms. In case you’d wish to be a visitor, she’s accepting purposes!


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