There are different non-immigrant visa types that are worthwhile for founders and Silicon Valley startups to investigate. Here are the most common ones:
- H-1B Visa
This is for an employee of a U.S. company working in a specialty occupation. This is not for self-employment. If you’re a founder out there and you don’t have a company that can sponsor you, you actually don’t qualify.
- O-1A Visa
This is for individuals of extraordinary ability. Unlike the H1B, there’s no annual limit. There’s no lottery. They’re available any time of the year. You could transfer them between companies indefinitely. They’re really flexible. They don’t have the same prevailing wage requirement as the H1B and it could be for part-time employment too.
This is is for Canadian and Mexican professionals. They don’t have to be born there, but they just have to be a citizen. This is a professional status in the United States under the NAFTA treaty. This visa is very difficult to convert into a green card.
- J-1 Internship Program
The J-1 visa is for recent college graduates from other countries where they can come and work for a year. The J-1 training program allows people to come work in the U.S. for 18 months, while the J-1 researcher program allows people to come work in the U.S. for 5 years.
- E-2 Visa
This is important for foreign entrepreneurs of countries that have a special treaty with the U.S. This does not apply to Indian owners or Chinese owners.
For more information and resources on what visa types work for you, check out Immigration Law for Tech Startups podcast. If you’d like to listen, head over to Episode 003: The Different Types of Nonimmigrant Visas.