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Visa Pathways for Entrepreneurs

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has recently signaled a newly receptive policy-approach to attract foreign entrepreneurs and to streamline the visa administration process. These administrative changes within the existing legal framework are designed to stimulate the nation’s economy and promote investment by attracting foreign entrepreneurial talent of exceptional ability. To this end, USCIS has created a portal for entrepreneurs called “Entrepreneur Pathways,” where they can discover more information about nonimmigrant and immigrant visa categories.

Unlike the more passive EB-5 visa approach designed only to attract foreign investment capital, the USCIS has signaled a new policy approach demonstrating they are equally interested in attracting human capital, talent, and ingenuity to help create wealth and expand the U.S. economy. This more flexible interpretation of existing visa categories has opened up new opportunities to attract foreign-born entrepreneurs and fulfill their entrepreneurial vision, while ensuring robust growth for the American economy.

At Shihab and Associates, we believe U.S. immigration policy should look to the future, and adapt to the needs of the global economy to ensure longstanding competitive dominance in attracting the brightest minds and best talent from all over the globe. Contact one of our experienced attorneys today to assist you in your visa application process.

What Visa Options are Available for Startup Entrepreneurs?

Attracting and welcoming foreign entrepreneurs of exceptional ability is essential for the Unites States to remain a global economic leader. Recent government initiatives have opened up a number of innovative alternate visa pathways for startup entrepreneurs, and choosing the right visa category for a business owner can be a complex and important decision. The attorneys at The Law Firm of Shihab & Associates, Co., LPA have decades of combined experience in successfully navigating through such complex areas. Contact us today for a personal consultation.

For startup entrepreneurs, there are at least six non-immigrant visa pathways available:

B-1 Business Visitor Visa

This type of business visitor visa provides flexibility for business travelers, and can be more than just for visiting the U.S. to participate in business meetings or for contract negotiations. This visa can often be used by entrepreneurs based outside the U.S. to set up new or expand existing businesses within the U.S.

There is also a specific type of B-1 visa called the “B-1 in lieu of H-1B” that is especially convenient for this purpose. This type of visa is for short-term professional workers, so that employers can remain competitive in a globalized world economy. It can be used by short-term professional workers who are providing local services for a limited time, so long as they are paid from abroad and not from a U.S. source.

The B-1 visa allows for an initial period of stay in the U.S. of up to 6 months, with extensions possible.

F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT) Visa

Student visa holders often contribute great ideas and innovative new concepts for startup business models. An entrepreneur can start a new business after graduation while in F-1/OPT visa status, so long as the business is directly related to the visa holder’s area of study.

An F-1/OPT visa holder may also qualify for an additional 17-month STEM extension after graduation, and may be able to apply later for H-1B status, with the startup company as the sponsoring employer. Furthermore, if the student seeks another post-secondary degree at an advanced degree level, the student will qualify for an additional 12 months.

What Challenges Will I Face in the Visa Process as a Startup Entrepreneur?

It is essential that an effective advocate understands the unique nature of a small business startup, in order to better articulate to the USCIS the unique benefits the entrepreneur will provide to the U.S. economy. Startups face unique challenges, and the USCIS will often closely scrutinize visa applications connected to small businesses and startups. The attorneys at The Law Firm of Shihab & Associates, Co., LPA have decades of combined experience in successfully navigating through such complex areas. Contact us by email or phone at 1-877-479-4USA (4872) for a consultation to discuss your visa application and how we can represent your interests effectively.

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