If you have a U.S. company and you want to hire somebody from another country to do business activities for you geographically inside the U.S., a work visa is often required.
The process could seem daunting. But when you’re able to equip yourself with the right resources and knowledge about this, there’s definitely a bright light at the end of the tunnel.
It’s time to get creative and strategic with the plethora of immigration options available.
Work Permit or Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
This is a little identity card with the person’s photo on it that has been issued by the U.S. government. It allows the person to work in the U.S. for any employer with some specific categories.
Work Permit for Students
Students in the U.S. come here on F1 visas to pursue a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, or Ph.D. as their full-time pursuit in the United States. Once they graduate with one of these degrees, they then qualify for a one-year work permit called Optional Practical Training (OPT) where they’re allowed to stay in the United States for 12 months.
Certain students who studied science, technology, engineering, or math, they can qualify for an additional two-year work permit called STEM OPT. If you want to hire somebody who’s currently on STEM OPT for a different company, you can transfer their STEM OPT to your company provided you’re able to comply with the specified requirements.
H-1B Visa Transfers and Portability
In other stages of the green card process, you can also transfer, for instance, if somebody already has an H-1B and you’re transferring the H-1B to your company.
If somebody comes to you and says they have something called portability, this has to do with people who are in line for a green card. The normal employment-based green card has three steps. Step 1 is the PERM. Step 2 is the I-140 petition. And Step 3 is the I-485 green card process.
Portability comes in for somebody who already is in Step 3. Basically, you have to be offering this person a job similar to the job the other company was offering them for this green card. If their I-485 adjustment of status application was filed at least 6 months ago then they could already switch to your company.
Other Work Visa Options
Other visas that you could get or transfer people with could include the E-3 for Australians, the TN for people from Canada or Mexico, or the H-1B1 for people from Chile and Singapore. An O-1 visa is for startup founders and this can be renewed indefinitely. L visas are very difficult to transfer because to qualify, the person must have worked for a related company from your company for at least one year out of the last three years. J-1 visas are for those post-OPT conducting research at U.S. universities. J-1 visas are nonimmigrant intent visas so people have to go back home at the end of it.
Visa for Founder or Owner from Another Country
If your company is at least 51% owned by people or companies from another country, and if that country has a treaty with the U.S., employees who share that same nationality may qualify for visas as well.
For more information and resources on the different work visa options, check out Immigration Law for Tech Startups podcast. If you’d like to listen, head over to Episode 008: Who Can and Can’t We Hire at a Startup.