Here’s another edition from “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.
“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that empowers people around the world to push beyond limits and chase their dreams,” says Sophie Acorn, a Silicon Valley immigration lawyer. “Whether you’re in people management, a founder, or looking for a job in Silicon Valley, I’d love to answer your questions in my next column.”
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I lived and worked in the United States on an L-1B for a year and then switched to an H-1B for 2.5 years before moving back to India (where I am a citizen) and starting a startup.
Now I want to go back to the US to raise money for my startup. What are my options for returning to the US as a founder?
– Fast moving founder
Dear Fast Moving,
Congratulations on launching your own venture and making the move to jump back to the United States to expand your startup and attract investors! I recommend working with an immigration attorney to determine the best options based on your long-term goals, as well as a corporate attorney to discuss the best structure for your startup’s U.S. entity to make it attractive to investors. Most US investors prefer to invest in a parent company based in the US, a Delaware C corporation.
Depending on the non-immigrant visa you are pursuing, you may be able to avoid having to go through an in-person consular interview until the end of this year as you have completed the interview process for your L-1B intracompany transferee specialized knowledge worker visa. The US State Department has extended the visa interview waiver program through the end of this year. Consular officers are free to waive the visa interview requirement for certain work visas such as the O-1A and H-1B if the beneficiary has previously obtained a visa and has never been denied one. Unfortunately, for the L-1 visa, the interview cannot be waived.
You have a few visa options for returning to the US as a founder, so let’s dive in!
If you want to set up your startup’s US entity, look for office space, or meet with potential investors, you can do so with a B-1 business visitor visa. The B-1 allows you to enter the US and stay for up to six months. However, you cannot do any work while on a B-1. Your immigration attorney can tell you what activities are allowed.
When you arrive in the US, be aware that the US Customs and Border Protection officer at the airport may ask you what business activities you plan to do during your stay.
While in the US on a B-1, you can change your status to one of the visas below without leaving the US