Dear Sophie: Is there an easier route to L-1As and STEM O-1As?

'I live in India and run a startup here, but most of my clients are based in the US'

​​Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related 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.”

TechCrunch+ members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.

Dear Sophie,

I live in India and run a startup here, but most of my clients are based in the United States. I also have a Delaware C Corp we established before the pandemic. We have three full-time contractors doing business development and sales in the U.S., and I still have a valid B-1/B-2 visitor visa.

As my company continues to grow, I’m considering coming to the U.S. with my family and purchasing a home. What are my best options?

—Intrepid in India

Dear Intrepid,

Now is the perfect time for international startup founders like you to start moving to the United States! Most areas in the U.S. are ending pandemic-related restrictions, and the U.S. government is becoming more open to immigration for startup founders, particularly those in STEM fields. Some consulates are even waiving visa interviews through the end of this year. Furthermore, applying now will enable you to avoid likely USCIS fee increases. I covered these exciting updates and changes in a recent podcast episode.

As always, I recommend you consult with an experienced immigration attorney, who can advise you based on your and your family’s specific circumstances and goals. Do you have a co-founder? Will your spouse need to work for you to purchase a house in the U.S.? These are important conversations to have with your immigration attorney.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently reported that their case backlog as of the end of 2021 surpassed 8 million, so it’s important to consider a pathway that permits Premium Processing for a fast adjudication of your underlying petition.

Because you have a B-1/B-2 visitor visa — assuming you have never been denied a U.S. visa — consular officers have the discretion to waive your in-person interview for an L-1A or O-1A visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate, which can help you save a lot of time given the immigration case backlogs.

A composite image of immigration law attorney Sophie Alcorn in front of a background with a TechCrunch logo.

Image Credits: Joanna Buniak / Sophie Alcorn (opens in a new window)

L-1A visa

The L-1A visa for an intracompany transferee executive or manager is a great option for international entrepreneurs. What’s more, the L-1A offers a path to an EB-1C green card, and your spouse will be eligible to apply for a work permit as an L-1A dependent.