Startups face immigration issues at various levels of their business development. This page is focused on providing insight into immigration law options for non-immigrant founders and employees of startups. On other pages, we address the permanent resident (green card) visa options that apply to entrepreneurs and investors including the EB-5 and EB-1 green card options.
The non-immigrant work visa options that are most applicable to startups include the E visa, L visa, H-1B visa, and O visa in certain cases.
This working visa option is geared towards individuals who have worked abroad for a foreign company that is related in ownership to a U.S. subsidiary or parent business. note that the U.S. company does not have to exist at this time as the L visa is available to be used as a visa to enter the U.S. and begin operating a new enterprise. This visa can be used by entrepreneurs, investors, or employees. More details L Visa information can be found here
The E-2 visa option is aimed towards entrepreneurs from certain countries who wish to enter the U.S. to establish a company that they wish to operate. As opposed to the L-1 visa, the E-2 visa does not require that an entrepreneur have a related foreign business in operation. The E-2 visa can also be used to transfer employees as long as the foreign employees have the same nationality as the owner of the U.S. business. The E-2 visa has some great advantages over the L-1 visa however it is limited by a treaty to only specific nationalities. Additionally, moving from this visa to a Green Card is often more tricky then moving from the L-1 to a Green Card. As this issue is of great importance and can be technical it is a good idea to make sure to discuss this carefully with your immigration attorney. Feel free to contact us today for a consultation regarding this issue. E-2 and E-1 Visas can be complex, learn more here.
This visa is oriented towards professional workers, meaning those who have at least a Bachelor’s degree or its equivalent in experience, and who have offers of part-time or full-time employment in the U.S. The immigration service has provided that it is possible to use this visa if you also own a portion of a company in the U.S. although this issue is often very tricky and should be approached with an immigration attorney and often a well versed business/corporate lawyer as part of the team. More detailed H-1B visa information can be found here.
The O visa can be used by individuals in various industries including but not limited to the arts and entertainment fields, business, and sports, who can show prior experience and standing in their field. The O-1 visa is intended for the primary individual who can prove their ability in a particular field. As part of this process, as discussed in greater detail in the articles found by clicking on the O Visa link above, requires a careful analysis of past work and standing in a field. Either an employer or an itinerary of events can be used to prove to the U.S. immigration services that you already have work lined up in the U.S. Learn more about O Visas, for the arts and entertainment industries here.