What visa options are available for startup founders?

Elizabeth Jamae / November, 2017


Elizabeth Jamae, Partner at D’Alessio Law Group explains the visa options available for startup founders.

Video Transcript

What visa options are available for startup founders?

Typically I like to advise founders, in particular, to plan ahead, because visa for founders is challenging but very doable. Some of the visas that are available are the E-2 visa, the L visa, the O1-A and sometimes when appropriate the H1B visa. Let’s talk a little bit about the E-2 visa. An E-2 visa is an investor visa. You have to be a national of a country that participates in our treaty, the E-2 treaty. Some of the key metrics of that visa are that you are coming to the U.S. to open up a business or purchasing an existing company. You’re going to invest some funds into that business. The typical amount that is pretty industry standard is about 100-150 000 USD dollars. I typically like for the client to have spent between 10-25 000 dollars on that initial investment prior to going to the consulate. We also want you to build a company that is not marginal and what that means is a company is going to have growth and support more than just the one foreign national. If the investment is too high for a founder to use the E-2, we typically will look at the O-1 visa or the L visa.

The O1-A is for individuals with extraordinary ability in business, arts, and science. Typically, where we use O1-A for founders is in business. For example, a founder who starts his or her company in their home country and that company receives a lot of press or that founder has patents or the founder or executive team, also important is that we can also do this for other essential employees at the company, then we can apply for the O1-A. We have been using the O1-A in the past couple of years in particular for founders because of the type of landscape we are working in with for US immigration.

Then we can move on to the L1-A and L1-B, this visa is an inter-company transfer visa for executive and managers. The L1-A and the L1-B are for specialized knowledge individuals. The requirements for this visa is that the company has a qualifying relationship with the new or existing US entity. And the applicant for the visa has worked for the foreign company for at least 365 days. In addition to that, for either the executive, managerial or for the specialized knowledge individual we must prove that the individual has worked in that particular capacity for at least 365 days. Sometimes the L1 can be a little bit difficult for the founder to use either because of the timing of the incorporation of the business in their home country or for the cheer factor that there is not a lot of evidence for them to pull from. While the O1-A is focused on the individual themselves and not necessarily the company.



  • Elizabeth Jamae, D’Alessio Law Group
  • November, 2017
  • 4:10
  • Legal

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