Tech Startup Visas — Discussion at Draper University

Elizabeth Jamae
May 6, 2016 · 3 min read
Elizabeth Jamae, speaking about immigration to the Draper University Spring 2016 class

This post was on the Jamae Law Group blog.

This Wednesday, Jamae Law Group visited Draper University’s Spring 2016 class. Many of the tech startups going through the program are looking to relocate to the United States. They asked us to talk about different tech startup visas available to entrepreneurs. It was a great session that touched on different issues related to being a foreign founder. There were some really good questions, so we thought we would post a few of them here:

I already have a company in my home country, does this help/hurt my ability to get a work visa to the US?

In general, it helps your U.S. visa case if you have already established a presence in your home country, or outside the U.S, in general. Establishing a presence outside the U.S. helps lend credibility to you as an entrepreneur to the adjudicating officer in your case. Also, without an existing business presence outside the U.S. you can’t do an L1 intracompany transfer visa for yourself or others employees.

As an Australian, do I need a degree to get an E-3 visa?

Not always. You can use a combination of school and work experience to gain the equivalent of a U.S. bachelors degree. Or, in some situations, if you’ve accumulated over 12 years of experience and no school, you might be able to have your experience evaluated and that could equal a U.S. bachelors degree.

How long does the E-2 visa process take?

The E-2 visa process and procedures vary for each U.S. embassy around the world. This variance causes the processing times to vary greatly across different countries. For example, the U.S. embassy in London takes about 90 days from the time the application is submitted for an E-2 visa interview. In Santiago, Chile, you simply walk into your E-2 visa interview with your application and the officer reviews the information right there. In almost all cases you find out at the time of your interview if you have been approved for the E-2 visa.

I am a CEO from the U.K. and my investor is a U.K. venture capital firm, how does that affect the ownership issues for E-2 purposes?

For the E-2 visa, you must prove that your company is owned at least 50% by U.K. nationals. For this example, if you are the CEO and a U.K. national, you and your investor(s) must own 50% of the company. You as an individual will provide your passport data page to prove your U.K. nationality. Your investor will need to prove that the VC firm is at least 50% owned by U.K. nationals as well. How do you do this? You will need to gather the ownership documents for the VC firm and the passport data pages of the shareholders to prove that your company is at least 50% owned by U.K. nationals.

What tech startup visas are available to me if my country does not belong to the E-2 Treaty with the U.S.?

For countries like China (excluding Taiwan), India, and Brazil, who do not belong to the U.S. E-2 treaty, the L1 visa is usually your best option when moving to the US to start your company. This ties back to this first question asked above.

Just a friendly reminder that these are just my opinions and general answers. You should always consult an immigration attorney before proceeding with your case. If you’re exploring options for different tech startup visas, please fill out our and one of our attorneys will get in touch with you to discuss your options.

Jamae Law Group

U.S. immigration topics for startups and investors

Elizabeth Jamae

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Jamae Law Group

U.S. immigration topics for startups and investors