Dear Sophie: How can I return to the United States as a founder?


Here is another version “Dear Sophie,” an advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at tech companies.

“Your questions are critical to spreading the knowledge that allows people around the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” said Silicon Valley immigration attorney Sophie Alcorn. Whether you’re in People Ops, a founder, or looking for a job in Silicon Valley, I’d love to answer your questions in the next column.

TechCrunch+ members receive weekly access to the “Dear Sophie” columns; Use ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription at 50% off.

Dear Sophie,

I lived and worked in the US on L-1B for a year, and converted to H-1B for 2.5 years before returning to India (where I am a citizen) and starting a startup.

Now I want to go back to America to raise money for my startup. What options do I have to return to the US as a founder?

– Fast founder

dear quick move,

Congratulations on starting your own business and taking the leap to the States to grow your startup and secure investors! I recommend working with an immigration attorney to determine the best options based on your long-term goals, as well as your corporate attorney to discuss the best structure to make your startup’s US entity attractive to investors. Most US investors prefer to invest in a Delaware C corporation with a US parent company.

Depending on which nonimmigrant visa you pursue, you may be able to avoid an in-person consular interview later this year since you passed the interview process for the L-1B Inward Transfer Specialist Visa. The US State Department has extended its visa interview waiver program until the end of this year. Consular officers have the authority to waive the visa interview for certain work visas, such as O-1A and H-1B, if the beneficiary has previously been granted a visa and has never been denied. Unfortunately, the interview cannot be waived for the L-1 visa.

As a founder, you have a few visa options for returning to the US, so let’s dive in!

Immigration attorney Sophie Alcorn with the TechCrunch logo in the background.

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

B-1 visa

If you want to set up your startup’s US entity, find office space, or meet with prospective investors, you can do business with a B-1 visitor visa. The B-1 allows you to enter the US and stay for up to six months. However, you cannot do any work while on B-1. Your immigration attorney can tell you what activities are allowed.

When you arrive in the U.S., be prepared that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer at the airport may ask you what business activities you intend to conduct during your stay.

You can change your status to a B-1 visa without leaving the US while you are in the US


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