Are startup founders eligible for the O-1 visa?


Startups and entrepreneurial businesses are booming in the United States. If you are a foreign-born founder or considering starting your own business, you may be wondering what your immigration options are. Since you don’t have a traditional employer-employee relationship with a U.S. company, you will need to explore different alternatives for obtaining a work visa.

Let’s say you’re a startup founder who wants to live and work in the United States. Whether your startup is venture capital funded or you are a startup, one possible work visa to consider is the O-1A.

THE O-1A Visa is a nonimmigrant visa category specifically designed for individuals with extraordinary abilities in science, education, business, or sports. This visa is intended for individuals who have demonstrated a high level of achievement in their field and are coming to the United States to pursue work in their area of ‚Äč‚Äčexpertise.

There is a common misconception that a startup must generate revenue or make significant investments before the founder can qualify for an O-1A. The O-1A has specific requirements that founders must meet before applying, but funding is not a deciding factor in eligibility. Let’s take a closer look at the O-1A requirements:

Do you need an employer to sponsor you for an O-1A visa? While most work visas are tied to a specific employer or job offer, the O-1A visa is different.

The O-1A visa requires an employer or agent acting on your behalf to file a petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). When you apply with an agent as your sponsor, they must meet specific requirements. Namely, the agent must be your employer, a representative of the employer and the beneficiary, or a person specifically authorized by the foreign employer. Additionally, the agent must guarantee the foreign worker’s salary, terms and conditions of their employment, and a defined employment route.

So, while the person seeking the O-1A visa does not need to have a specific job offer in hand when applying, they do need an employer or agent who meets the requirements of the government and is able to provide evidence of extraordinary abilities and achievements in their field. field.

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Meet three of the eight criteria

In order to qualify for an O-1A visa, you will need to demonstrate extraordinary abilities in your field through a combination of criteria. Although there are no specific criteria set by law, the regulations provide a list of eight possible pieces of evidence that can be used to support your claim.

Applicants must provide evidence at least three of these eight categories demonstrate extraordinary abilities in their field. Here is a breakdown of the eight categories or types of evidence that candidates can use to meet the criteria:

  1. Receiving awards or prizes: Evidence of having received significant awards or prizes for excellence in the field.
  2. Membership in professional associations: Membership in professional associations or organizations that require exceptional achievement from their members.
  3. Published material: Evidence of published materials about the applicant’s work in major professional or trade publications or other major media outlets.
  4. Judging the work of others: Service as a judge of the work of others, either individually or as part of a jury.
  5. Original contributions: Evidence of original scientific, academic or commercial contributions of major importance.
  6. Paternity: Authorship of scientific articles or publications in professional journals or other major media.
  7. High salary or remuneration: Evidence of a high salary or other substantial compensation for services relative to others in the field. For startup founders, this could be the equity you have in your business. Note: Stock options do not count.
  8. Working in a critical role for organizations or establishments: Evidence of participation in a critical or leading role for organizations or institutions with a distinguished reputation.

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