The Immigration Journey Of An Entrepreneur


Applying for a Visa

Making use of for an Immigration visa.

Certainly one of my favourite purchasers not too long ago efficiently offered the corporate she had constructed from scratch. She impressed me from the second I met her virtually 10 years in the past. Most individuals affiliate startups with tech corporations. However her enterprise was not within the tech subject; relatively, it was within the now-beleaguered provide chain trade that’s bedeviling the world financial system.

The immigration journeys of individuals like Anna (the identify I’ll use for this text) aren’t those individuals get to see or perceive. You gained’t see their tales taking part in out on the night information; seldom are they the inspiration for immigration protests and rallies. The U.S. presently has no clear path for entrepreneurs who need to come to the U.S. to develop a enterprise right here; relatively, there’s a mishmash of nonimmigrant visas that enable them a restricted presence within the nation — in the event that they’re fortunate.

A startup visa just like the one not too long ago launched by Home Speaker Nancy Pelosi, The America Competes Act of 2022, would handle this immigration vacuum and plenty of of its signs I handle right here. It might additionally get rid of a lot of the uncertainty that arises from each the immigration perspective in addition to the practicalities of working a enterprise.

I need to shed some mild on the life cycle of this journey, with its many twists and turns, utilizing Anna because the manifestation of so a lot of my entrepreneur purchasers who’ve created startups right here and are making a distinction on this nation.

Once I first met Anna, she was CEO of a overseas firm with many U.S. purchasers — fairly widespread in immediately’s world market. With such corporations there typically comes a degree the place it’s crucial for the proprietor to be nearer to purchasers, to fulfill them on brief discover when vital. Anna was at that stage when she reached out to us a decade in the past; we sorted via the alphabet soup of visa choices out there to individuals in her place. There have been two: the E2, or investor visa, renewable each 5 years, and the L1A, which permits an intracompany switch to the US. We opted for the latter, which was extra simple.

I keep in mind after we first sat down to speak to her about her job duties as a part of the appliance course of. Like most profitable professionals, she didn’t suppose to record all of the issues she does in her place as CEO. They had been so second nature to her she believed they should be apparent to everybody else. However for the needs of this specific visa, used for the switch of executive- and management-level staff, whether or not somebody is performing the duties of an govt is an important fail/go take a look at. I spent a number of time asking questions akin to: “Do you make selections in regards to the finances?” Her response: “Effectively, in fact, I do, I’m the CEO.” Regularly, we had been in a position to exhibit on paper what she did in actual life and her L1A was finally granted.

However for brand new corporations within the U.S., an L1A is given for under a 12 months. That meant that fairly shortly, we needed to file an software to resume it. She was in a position so as to add two extra years to her U.S. keep.

Within the meantime, her enterprise was rising and he or she wanted extra assist from individuals on the mom firm who knew the operations inside and outside. We had been in a position to efficiently acquire one other L1A for key personnel.

Anna’s increasing enterprise quickly started attracting the eye of larger corporations in her trade. One of many issues most founders will let you know is that their exit methods are sometimes precarious as a result of they lack everlasting immigrant standing in the US. Even when a brand new and larger firm buys them out, most founders must keep on for a minimum of a 12 months or two to make sure a seamless transition. And with the restricted varieties of visas out there to founders, there isn’t all the time a great choice for acquiring everlasting residency, (a inexperienced card) in the US.

We had been fortunate, nevertheless, as a result of the L1A does have a path to a inexperienced card, known as an EB1C. So, we started the method of making use of for that.

As immigration attorneys, we all the time should keep in mind that our purchasers are individuals with private lives, not items on an immigration chessboard. And private points arose for Anna that challenged and examined the method all alongside the best way.

Finally, the time got here to fulfill with an immigration officer for the ultimate interview. There are lots of questions she and different founders at this stage are requested to evaluate their worthiness of authorized everlasting residency in the US: Is she certainly an govt of her firm? Has she dedicated any crimes up to now? Lastly, the officer authorised the appliance, and all of us left the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Companies places of work beaming. However our celebration was short-lived. As I bought to the car parking zone and began my automobile, the immigration officer phoned me. He advised me he wouldn’t have the ability to grant my consumer a inexperienced card as a result of there have been presently none out there. The federal government had halted all inexperienced card issuances for that day.

I used to be shocked.

As immigration attorneys, we be taught in regards to the availability of inexperienced playing cards via what’s often called the visa bulletin, issued by the federal government across the center of every month to forecast visa availability within the month forward. However I can’t recall a time when the bulletin was applied instantly.

We had been in a holding sample as a result of there have been no inexperienced playing cards out there. Anna needed to wait virtually a 12 months earlier than she might really be issued one. Within the interim, she might proceed to perform absolutely below her L1A standing which needed to be renewed for an additional two years. For different founders, the watch for a inexperienced card to change into out there might be wherever from two to over 20 years, relying on their nation of origin and class of inexperienced card software.

All through all this, discussions in regards to the sale of the corporate had been in full movement. The L1A supervisor, who had been transferred in to assist run U.S. operations, was nearing the tip of their tenure, and we would have liked to discover a technique to maintain them right here. The immigration legal guidelines for successor entities in an L1A to EB1C state of affairs isn’t as simple as it’s in different visa to inexperienced card classes. As well as, there are myriad implications with buy-in from future house owners, not the least of which is whether or not they’re even prepared within the first place to navigate this visa course of for an worker. On this case, fortuitously, the brand new house owners have assumed all obligations giving us a path ahead.

Because the immigration lawyer in these instances that contain different attorneys, monetary consultants and different professionals, my final duty is guaranteeing everybody’s immigration standing stays intact all through the life cycle of the corporate. Guaranteeing everybody concerned is conscious of all of the visas in play and that all of them perceive what would wish to occur in a transition, merger or acquisition is an important a part of the method. I primarily tackle the position of a juggler: executives on the goal firm should be reminded about immigration deadlines and different points; these buying or merging with the corporate want to concentrate on the immigration obligations concerned. For Anna’s firm, the immigration technique was absolutely applied and have become a part of the understanding of the sale.

It ought to be famous {that a} startup visa would contemplate this profitable sale as a part of the optimistic proof for immigration functions.

Life is continually throwing us curve balls. However Anna handles her enterprise and the non-public challenges that include it with savvy competence and sleek management. She has created lots of of jobs in the US — each immediately and not directly — and has contributed to the financial system in so some ways.  She is the instance of the American Dream that our founding fathers aspired to, to make America a spot for all.


Tahmina Watson is the founding legal professional of Watson Immigration Legislation in Seattle, the place she practices US immigration regulation specializing in enterprise immigration. She has been running a blog about immigration regulation since 2008 and has written quite a few articles in lots of publications. She is the writer of Authorized Heroes within the Trump Period: Be Impressed. Increase Your Influence. Change the World and The Startup Visa: Key to Job Progress and Financial Prosperity in America.  She can be the founding father of The Washington Immigrant Protection Community (WIDEN), which funds and facilitates authorized illustration within the immigration courtroom, and co-founder of Airport Attorneys, which offered vital providers throughout the early journey bans. Tahmina is frequently quoted within the media and is the host of the podcast Tahmina Talks Immigration. She is a Puget Sound Enterprise Journal 2020 Ladies of Affect honoree.  Enterprise Insider not too long ago named her as one of many prime immigration attorneys within the U.S. that assist tech startups. You possibly can attain her by e-mail at tahmina@watsonimmigrationlaw.com, join along with her on LinkedIn or comply with her on Twitter at @tahminawatson.



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