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 am an entrepreneur with a company based in India.
Down the road, I want to move to the U.S. to seek venture capital funding to expand my company while my co-founders remain in India.
How can I come to the U.S. to set up my company and have my operation in India linked to it?
— Expanding Entrepreneur
You’re in great company! Many international founders with growing businesses around the world are looking to come to the U.S., particularly to Silicon Valley, San Francisco and New York, for market access, venture capital, talent acquisition, opportunity or stability. Being in the U.S. has returned to importance since in-person meetings and building in-person trust networks are once again the priority.
Danny Crichton, the head of editorial at Lux Capital, a VC firm that focuses on emerging science and deep tech, told me that the cities that became popular destinations for science and AI tech founders in recent years, such as Los Angeles, Miami, Austin, Pittsburg, Toronto, Berlin, and Stockholm, “are struggling” or have “faded from view.” He says most of the deep tech talent today is concentrated in four cities: San Francisco, New York, London and Paris.
Now, let me dive into your question, taking the last part first. ;)
Setting up for success
I recommend working with an immigration attorney and a corporate attorney. An immigration attorney can determine the best visa and green card options based on your specific situation and long-term goals. A corporate attorney can discuss the best structure for your U.S. entity to make it attractive to investors. Most U.S. investors will often require you to ensure that your U.S. company is a Delaware C corporation and is the parent company, while your Indian company is the subsidiary.
The relationship between your operation in the U.S. and your operation in India will qualify for the two visa options and their related green cards I discuss below. For all visa and green card options, it’s important to establish that your company is conducting business legally in the U.S., is viable with growth potential, and can pay you.
Getting here — and staying here
If you were born in India (and for people born in China), it’s important to consider your long-term green card strategy early since there are very long backlogs for green cards for individuals born in India and China.
If you’ve been working for your company in India for at least one year, you may want to consider an L-1A visa for intracompany transferee executives or managers. The L-1A allows you to come to the U.S. to open an office for your company. The L-1A also offers a direct path to a green card with the EB-1C green card for multinational transferee executives or managers.