I’m the founder and CEO of a startup in Istanbul.
I’ve heard that articles in publications about an entrepreneur or a startup can be a big plus when applying for an O-1A or H-1B visa. Is that true?
Which publications are valid? Tier-1? Should they be in English? Thank you for your help!
— Tenacious in Turkey
TLDR: Being featured in a publication or news report is one of the qualifying criteria for the O-1A extraordinary ability visa. However, it’s not a requirement for the H-1B specialty occupation visa. The publications or news reports do not need to be tier-1 with millions of readers or viewers. And they can be in any language other than English as long as it’s a major publication or news outlet and is translated into English by a certified translator. Read below for more details about alternative visa options for you to consider if your startup has not set up business operations in the U.S. just yet. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter for the latest immigration news and our upcoming webinars on hot immigration topics.
Thanks for reaching out to me with your questions! I’m thrilled to hear you’re exploring ways to come to the United States to expand your startup! It’s a great time to start putting your immigration plans into motion before immigration fee increases proposed by both the U.S. Department of State and Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), go into effect.
I recently chatted with the co-founder and CEO of the GreenTech startup Return Protocol, Kieran White, about Immigration Capital and Climate Change and his journey to join his U.S.-based co-founder and team via an O-1A visa. Keep in mind that both the O-1A and H-1B, like most all other work visas, require a U.S.-based employer sponsor or agent.
Alternatives to the H-1B and O-1A
Before I dive into your questions, there are two other visas you should also consider, particularly if your startup is not yet set up to do business in the U.S. If you have been working for your startup for at least one year, you may want to consider an L-1A visa for an intracompany transferee executive or manager. With an L-1A, you can come to the U.S. to open an office for your startup. Unlike the H-1B or O-1A, the L-1A has education or few eligibility requirements. The L-1A offers a maximum stay of seven years and a direct path to a green card: The EB-1C green card is for a multinational executive or manager.
Another option is the E-2 visa for treaty investors, which is a great option for international founders whose home country has a trade and commerce treaty with the U.S. The U.S. Department of State maintains a list of treaty countries, which includes Turkey. The E-2 enables an international founder to live and work in the United States.
Check out this previous Dear Sophie column in which I discuss the pros and cons of both the L-1A and E-2.
Now, let me dive into your questions about how an article in a publication can help you on your journey to the U.S.
Being featured in a publication is one of the qualifying criteria for the O-1A extraordinary ability visa. However, it’s not a requirement at all for the H-1B specialty occupation visa.
In many respects, getting an H-1B visa is based on luck of the draw with the annual lottery and the sponsoring employer meeting certain basic objective requirements about the company, job, and candidate, including:
- Offering a job to an H-1B candidate that requires specialized knowledge and at least a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent.
- Registering the H-1B candidate for the annual H-1B lottery in March for a first-time H-1B.
- Promising to pay the H-1B beneficiary the prevailing wage based on the job and location of the job.
- Attesting that hiring the H-1B candidate will not negatively impact the wages and work conditions of American workers.
The only achievement that the H-1B visa requires a beneficiary to have is at least a bachelor’s or equivalent required for a specialty occupation. The bar for qualifying for an O-1A is much higher than those for an H-1B. Even so, I find that most startup founders with a product and some early traction can easily qualify for the O-1A.
What publications count, don’t count?
For the O-1A, which is reserved for those with extraordinary ability or achievement, an individual must either be a recipient of a major internationally recognized award, such as a Nobel Prize or must meet at least three of eight criteria. One of the criteria is that articles either by or about an O-1A candidate are published in major newspapers, magazines, trade journals, or other professional publications.
The specific legal requirement is that you can demonstrate “Published material in professional or major trade publications or major media about the beneficiary, relating to the beneficiary’s work in the field for which classification is sought, which must include the title, date, and author of such published material, and any necessary translation.”
While helpful, the publications or news reports do not need to be major, tier-1 media with millions of readers, subscribers, or viewers. And the publications do not need to be in English. However, your application must demonstrate that the article had an impact on your field, such as it generated a high number of views or a response from a prominent leader in your field. And you will need to have any non-English articles translated by a certified translator.
For startup founders, I typically recommend at least five articles written by you or six or more articles written about you or your startup in general newspapers, which can include newspapers from your home country, online news publications in your field such as TechCrunch, business magazines such as Forbes or Entrepreneur, or trade publications in your field. Book chapters count, too!
What doesn’t count? Newsletters and press releases that were never published in a major publication don’t count. Articles in student-run or university publications usually don’t count. Posts on Medium and blogs, and YouTube videos usually do not count—unless they go viral.
Take a look at this previous Dear Sophie column in which I lay out how to qualify for each of the O-1A criteria.
You’ve got this!
All my best,
Have a question for Sophie? Ask it here. We reserve the right to edit your submission for clarity and/or space.
The information provided in “Dear Sophie” is general information and not legal advice. For more information on the limitations of “Dear Sophie,” please view our full disclaimer. You can contact Sophie directly at Alcorn Immigration Law.
Sophie’s podcast, Immigration Law for Tech Startups, is available on all major platforms. If you’d like to be a guest, she’s accepting applications!