Information on applying for a visa in the USA
Relocating your startup to Silicon Valley generally means a complex visa process. To simply experience Silicon Valley as an entrepreneur, an ESTA authorization can be enough. That allows you to stay in the US for 90 days without permission to work. If you want to stay for longer a B-1 (Business) visa might be a perfect fit.
This allows you to use your time in the States to consult with business associates, attend conferences, settle an estate and negotiate contracts. It allows you to stay in the US for up to six months. If you decide that you actually want to relocate your business to the States it is wise to take a lot of time for the visa process, no matter which visa you decide to apply for.
We’ve listed some visas that could be applicable for startups and entrepreneurs. Unfortunately the US does not (yet) have a startup visa as the Netherlands does, but there is a large number of possibilities. Note. This article should not be considered legal advice; it is just an overview of options for visa applications that might be helpful.
E2 Treaty Investors:
This visa might come the closest to a startup visa. These are the conditions:
- You have invested or are actively in the process of investing a substantial amount of capital in a bona fide enterprise in the US.
- You enter the US solely to develop and direct the investment enterprise. This is established by showing at least 50% ownership of the enterprise or possession of operational control through a managerial position or other corporate device.
- There is a maximum initial stay of 2 years. Requests for extension may be granted in increments of up to two years each. There is no maximum!
- Your spouse is eligible for a work visa too.
- There is no official path to a green card, you’ll permanently be regarded as a non-resident alien.
Green Card Through Investment
If you are planning to invest a lot of money in the US, this Green Card procedure might be something for you.
- Only 10.000 visas are issued each year
- You must invest $1,000,000 or at least $500,00 in a targeted employment area (high unemployment or rural area). In return, USCIS may grant conditional permanent residence to the individual. It must create at least 10 fulltime jobs (35 hours per week or more) for US citizens, permanent residents or other authorized immigrant workers.
- You must have an approved Form I-526 Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepeneur (to prove that you have invested the money)
This is the standard professional working visa. But there are some limitations:
- The USA only issues 65,000 H1B visas each year (plus another 20,000 for those with Masters degrees from a US University).
- You must have at least a bachelor’s degree to apply.
- H1B requires a high salary (+/- $80,000 a year).
- The immigration office needs to be convinced your startup is an active business
- You need a sponsor to sign the H1B petition. Furthermore you will need to set up a company and hire a US citizen who can act as a sponsor before you can apply for H1B.
- You can only apply from April 1st and if granted you can only begin work on October 1st of that year.
- Your employment cant’ be in your own control, otherwise you’ll be deemded as self-petitioning. So you’ll have to state your investors or board hired hired you, so it’s clear you could be fired in the future.
- If you get the visa it’s for 3 years initially. It can be renewed for a maximum stay of 6 years.
This visa is a non-immigrant visa which allows companies operating both in the US and abroad to transfer certain classes of employees from its foreign operations to the US operations for up to seven years.
- You need to have a qualifying relationship with a foreign company.
- Currently be or will be doing business as an employer in the US and in at least one other country, directly for or through a qualifying organization for the duration of the beneficiary’s stay in the US as an L-1 visa holder.
- You have generally been working for a qualifying organization abroad for one continuous year within the three years immediately preceding his or her admission to the US.
- Be seeking to enter the US to provide service in an executive or managerial capacity for a branch of the same employer or one of its qualifying organizations.
- You’ll have to have been employed by a related company in a foreign country for at least one year before applying to the transferred to the US company.
- The initial period for the visa is one year if you are setting up a new company in the US, but it can be renewed for up to a maximum stay of 5-7 years.
- With a startup it can be difficult to renew your visa when your company did not expand in that first year.
- Your spouse will be eligible to apply for a work visa.
This nonimmigrant visa is for those who possess extraordinary ability science, art, education, business or athletics, or who has a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry and has been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements. Conditions:
- This is a temporary visa.
- This visa is very fast: you can file it at least 45 days (1,5 month) before the date of employment.
How do you prove that you are extraordinary?
- Copies of articles, papers and other publications that you’ve written.
- Evidence of judging the work of other.
- Articles written about you.
- Awards received in recognition of professional accomplishments.
- Memberships in professional organizations requiring high level of achievement.
- Evidence of original contributions.
November 25th, 2015 by Annemarie Coevert