Here’s another edition of “Ask 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.”
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I’m a startup founder in Berlin. I just returned from a visit to Silicon Valley where I met with a new customer. On the trip, I realized I need to be based in the U.S. to grow our base with U.S. customers.
What are the best visa options for me and my family? Will any of them allow my husband to work and continue his career?
— Seeking Scale
Hey there, Seeking!
Kudos to you on your business successes so far — and for your courage to take the next big leap to relocate to the U.S.! I’m honored that you reached out as you and your family begin your journey. I’ve got you!
You may be able to avoid having to go through an in-person consular interview for L-1 or O-1 visas if you apply now because until the end of this year, the Department of State has given consular officers the discretion to waive the visa interview requirement for certain work visas if the beneficiary was previously issued a visa and has never been refused one.
Consult an immigration attorney who can guide you to the best immigration options for your and your family based on your circumstances, timing and goals. There are a variety of options that might apply to you, based on various factors such as having a co-founder in a specific role or your citizenship in certain countries, but for now let’s dive into two of the visa options for you and your family so you can compare the general pathways!
L-1A is a top option
If you have worked for your startup for at least 12 continuous months in the past three years and can document your employment through payroll slips or tax documents, your startup can file for an L-1A visa for intracompany transferee executives or managers for you to come to set up an office in Silicon Valley.
To get an L-1A visa to open a new office in the United States, your company will need to sponsor you for the visa and show that you’ve secured a physical office location. Your company may also submit business plans, growth models, and organization charts. If you’re setting up a new office in the U.S. and are approved for an L-1A, that type of visa will can be initially valid up to one year. To extend the L-1A beyond that, you need to show that your U.S. business met your growth models and that the business is viable.