Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column from a practicing attorney that answers immigration questions about working at technology companies.
“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”
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I’m currently here in the U.S. on an E-2 visa.
My employer, a company based in Slovakia, moved me to the U.S. to help establish our U.S. operations. What are my options if I want to look for other job opportunities here in the U.S. with a different company? Is there a feasible process to upgrade my E-2 visa to another type, like an L? Thank you!
—Restless in Redwood City
Thanks for your questions. Nonimmigrant (temporary) visas that allow you to work in the U.S. require an employer to sponsor you for the visa, and those visas remain tied to the employer sponsor and the position for which you were hired. We recently launched the Extraordinary Ability Bootcamp (promo code DEARSOPHIE for 20% off enrollment) — this is a class that can help you strengthen your credentials if you end up pursuing an O-1A visa, which I’ll discuss more about below.
There are a few visa options available if you find a U.S. company willing to sponsor you such as J-1, O-1A and H-1B, and various green card pathways. You had asked about an L Visa, but this would only be an option if you had worked for the new company abroad for at least one year during the past three years. Both the L-1A visa and the L-1B visa enable multinational companies to transfer a manager, executive or specialized knowledge employee from an office abroad to a U.S. office — or to open an office in the U.S. — from an office abroad. The L-1A visa for intracompany executive or manager transferees is similar to the E-2 visa in that both allow the visa holder to come to the U.S. to set up a new office for the sponsoring company.