If you’re a startup founder looking to move to the United States so you can run your startup from here, there are different immigration options available for transferring international employees – whether temporarily or permanently.
Nonimmigrant visas are always temporary. They’re for a specific purpose. And usually, the person who is receiving it is only authorized to do one type of work, usually with a particular company.
Overview of the L visas (L-1A and L-1B)
Purpose: To enable multinational companies to transfer international employees to an existing branch office, subsidiary, or affiliate in the United States, or to come here to establish one.
- L-1A: for executives and managers
- L-1B: for employees with specialized knowledge and skills
Benefits of the L-1A and L-1B Visas
- They are dual intent.
- Your spouse can get a work permit so they can work as well.
- It’s available all-year-round.
- L visas don’t require that employers post and file LCAs (Labor Condition Applications).
- There’s no minimum educational requirement. You could be a college dropout and still come but you obviously would still have to prove the other elements (ex. that you’re a manager or you have specialized knowledge).
The Green Card Pathways
Green cards are permanent resident cards. You can work for whomever you want. And you have the opportunity to naturalize and become a US citizen one day.
1. EB-1C Green Card (for multinational managers and executives)
Purpose: To enable multinational companies to sponsor foreign executives and managers to live and work permanently in the United States.
2. EB-2 (for people with specialized knowledge)
If your work is sponsoring it, most employees on L1-B visas would make the transition to a green card through a company in the:
- EB-2 category if they have an advanced degree
- EB-3 category for somebody with a bachelor’s degree
These green card pathways would typically require that the company go through the PERM process before initiating the I-140 petition with USCIS.
- EB-1B – researcher option through your company
- EB-1A – for extraordinary ability self-petition without a company
Benefits of the EB category:
- No labor certification required (for EB-1A category).
- This is the highest preference for employment-based green card classifications.
Company requirements for L-1A, L-1B, and EB-1C:
- There has to be a qualifying corporate relationship and a US company. You need a business that is providing goods or services inside the United States.
- You need to show that there’s an existing branch office subsidiary or affiliate in another country.
- You have to show that the individual was actually employed as an employee (not a contractor).
- The person doesn’t have to be working in their country of origin or their country of citizenship.
- If the company is well established, this doesn’t have to be built on the Silicon Valley tech startup model.
For more information and resources on the different immigration options, check out Immigration Law for Tech Startups podcast. If you’d like to listen, head over to 021: Intracompany Transfers – L-1 Visas and EB-1C Green Cards for Multinational Managers, Executives and People with Specialized Knowledge.