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shutterstock_74614888Immigrant entrepreneurs and investors have always been at the core of the American economy.  Immigrant-founded companies have generated billions of dollars in revenues and contributed intellectual property leading to significant socio-economic advancements within the United States.  Foreign-born entrepreneurs are a critical component to the advancement of the U.S. emerging technology space and it is important to note the variety of visa options available.  This initial post will provide an overview of the nonimmigrant and immigrant visa options available to entrepreneurs and investors in the emerging tech space with future posts focusing on the visa specifics.

NONIMMIGRANT VISA OPTIONS

Visa Type General Description of Visa
E-2:
Treaty Investor
The E-2 visa is for foreign entrepreneurs who make a substantial investment in a new U.S. business or acquire an existing business.  The visa category allows for self-petitioning by the investor and can be renewed indefinitely based on the viability of the business.  The visa is only available to nationals of countries which have entered into treaties with the United States (notably excluding the BRIC countries).
L-1A:
Intracompany Transferee
The L-1A visa category is reserved for intra-company managerial transferees where a foreign national has worked for the company abroad and is being transferred to the United States to either start a new office or work for the U.S. subsidiary/affiliate.  This visa category is ideal for foreign companies looking to open a new office in the United States.
O-1:
Extraordinary Ability/Achievement
The O-1 visa is reserved for those who can demonstrate extraordinary ability or achievement in the sciences, arts, education, business, athletics, film or television.  This visa may be a suitable option for entrepreneurs in high-tech businesses who invent a new technology and receive significant recognition.
H-1B:
Specialty Occupation 
The H-1B visa is for employment in a specialty occupation (generally an occupation requiring the attainment of at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent).  This visa requires employer sponsorship and the petition must evidence that the employer / employee relationship exists where the employer can demonstrate control over the employee.
E-3:
Specialty Occupation from Australia
The E-3 visa is similar to the H-1B visa however is unique for Australian citizens coming to the United States for temporary work in a specialty occupation.  Like the H-1B visa, it requires employer sponsorship.
B-1:
Business Visitor
The B-1 visa is for temporary business visitors.  The visa itself does not provide work authorization however does allow the foreigner to engage in limited business activities.
Parole for Foreign Entrepreneurs In November 2014, President Obama announced Executive Action on immigration reform.  One component calls for regulatory changes which would allow entrepreneurs and investors to be paroled into the United States if they are engaged in start-up businesses or are inventors/researchers.  Once implemented, this would allow entrepreneurs and inventors/investors to come into the United States without the need for a visa or other sponsorship, and will be a tremendous benefit for the country.


IMMIGRANT VISA OPTIONS

Visa Type Description of Visa
EB-5:
Immigrant Investor
The EB-5 category is for immigrant investors who invest $500,000 or $1 million in a Regional Center or their own business, and create 10 jobs per investor.  This is an excellent option for foreigners who want to obtain a green card and focus on their entrepreneurial pursuits.
EB-1A:
Extraordinary Ability
The EB-1A category is for immigrants who can demonstrate extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics through documented national or international acclaim.  This category allows for self-petitioning.
EB-2:
National Interest Waiver
The EB-2 category is for immigrants who are a member of a profession holding an advanced degree or have exceptional ability.  Though most filings in the EB-2 category require employer sponsorship, there is an exception for immigrants seeking a national interest waiver.  In these cases, the individual may self-petition and request a waiver of the Labor Certification requirement due to the job being in the national interest of the United States.  These are typically favored for foreigners of exceptional ability in the arts/sciences/business, and whose employment would benefit the United States.

 

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Photo of Laura Foote Reiff‡ Laura Foote Reiff‡

Laura Foote Reiff is the Co-Managing Shareholder of the Northern Virginia Office. She also Co-Chairs the firm’s Labor & Employment Practice’s International Employment, Immigration & Workforce Strategies group. Laura focuses her practice on business immigration laws and regulations affecting U.S. and foreign companies,

Laura Foote Reiff is the Co-Managing Shareholder of the Northern Virginia Office. She also Co-Chairs the firm’s Labor & Employment Practice’s International Employment, Immigration & Workforce Strategies group. Laura focuses her practice on business immigration laws and regulations affecting U.S. and foreign companies, as well as related employment compliance and legislative issues.

Laura advises corporations on a variety of compliance-related issues, particularly related to Form I-9 eligibility employment verification matters. Laura has been involved in audits and internal investigations and has successfully minimized monetary exposure as well as civil and criminal liabilities on behalf of her clients. She develops immigration compliance strategies and programs for both small and large companies. Laura performs I-9, H-1B and H-2B compliance inspections during routine internal reviews, while performing due diligence (in the context of a merger, acquisition or sale) or while defending a company against a government investigation.

Laura represents many businesses in creating, managing and using “Regional Centers” that can create indirect jobs toward the 10 new U.S. jobs whose creation can give rise to EB-5 permanent residence for investment. She coordinates this work with attorneys practicing in securities law compliance, with economists identifying “targeted employment areas” and projecting indirect job creation, and with licensed securities brokers coordinating offerings. She also represents individual investors in obtaining conditional permanent residence and in removing conditions from permanent residence.

Laura’s practice also consists of managing business immigration matters and providing immigration counsel to address the visa and work authorization needs of U.S. and global personnel including professionals, managers and executives, treaty investors/ traders, essential workers, persons of extraordinary ability, corporate trainees, and students. She is an immigration policy advocacy expert and works on immigration reform policies.

Photo of Rebecca B. Schechter ‡ Rebecca B. Schechter ‡

Rebecca Schechter focuses her practice on business immigration and compliance, representing multi-national corporations midsized companies, and startups, as well as individual clients. She has experience with all areas of employment-based immigration, particularly H-1B, L-1, O-1 and E-2 petitions, as well as outstanding researcher…

Rebecca Schechter focuses her practice on business immigration and compliance, representing multi-national corporations midsized companies, and startups, as well as individual clients. She has experience with all areas of employment-based immigration, particularly H-1B, L-1, O-1 and E-2 petitions, as well as outstanding researcher petitions and labor certification applications. Rebecca regularly assists GT clients with global immigration matters, including business and work visas to countries in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America. She also works on state and federal I-9 and E-Verify audits. Rebecca has a thorough understanding of third party contractor issues and experience handling complex naturalization, deportation defense, family and employment-based adjustment applications.

Admitted in Maryland and Connecticut. Not admitted in Virginia. Practice limited to federal immigration practice.