In absence of a specialized “startup visa” in the United States, an O-1 visa may be the ideal solution for some foreign entrepreneurs, tech founders and professionals in the technology fields.
The O-1 visa is a work visa for aliens of extraordinary ability in the fields of arts, science, education, business and sports. It is used frequently for artists, scientists, educators and athletes. Meanwhile, the “business” category of O-1s, which covers entrepreneurship as well as all technology professions, remains largely unknown among general public and underutilized.
Tech startup founders, entrepreneurs and business executives of technology companies, as well as software developers, web designers, UX designers and other tech professionals may be able to take advantage of the O-1 visa. To qualify, the person must have a record of prior achievements in his or her field of endeavor. In the technology field, one can demonstrate some of the following achievements: prizes, awards, competition victories, etc; press coverage for current or prior ventures or products; a history of employment in key capacities at well-respected or award-winning companies; authorship of published articles or interviews; speaking at industry events; acting as a judge, expert or mentor at startup events; being selected for accelerators; or receiving venture funding.
For technology companies who seek to hire accomplished employees from abroad, the O-1 visa may be an excellent alternative to an H-1B as it can be obtained year round and helps avoid the uncertainty of the H-1B lottery.
O-1 requirements are rigorous and yet they should not be overestimated. If you think that some of the criteria cited above apply to you, or if you have other achievements that make you exceptional in your field, you may want to consider the O-1 visa.
Building a successful O-1 case for a startup founder or a tech professional requires the skill and experience possessed by a very limited number of immigration law practitioners. I’ve been focusing on technology startups since my firm’s inception and offer unique expertise and a remarkable success rate in O-1 visa applications for tech startup founders and other tech professionals.
If you are a technology company founder or executive, I will be happy to speak to you about your specific visa needs and help you evaluate whether you or your potential employee qualifies for the O-1A visa. Contact me to schedule a time to speak.