In our last post about how founders can file through their own companies, we briefly touched on why this is possible and that the only catch is that there are no catches.
Today we will look at why this option is the most suitable to tech founders wanting to expand to the US or are already in the country.
Why is O-1 Visa alluring for Tech Founders?
Founding an O-1 company is not an easy task, it is demanding and the struggle is real, we all understand it, but if you are established in your home country and would like to explore your business opportunities in the US market, and expand into the US or start a completely new business than it is worth looking into the O-1 Visa options. But, hold your horses now, because if you are thinking that’s easy I can stay home in my pyjamas and start my own one-man brand…? Well, it’s a little more complicated than that.
Your company should be established, registered in your country, there must be some kind of press about it and we should at least be able to find it on Google. Now if you have met the above criteria and you have your own startup that is in operation like other tech founders you may already meet a few O-1 Visa criteria like:
Employment in Critical/Essential Capacity
Most founders play an essential role in the establishment of their companies. It was your vision, you developed its strategy, raised funding for it, so you are an essential part of the business. Your critical role not only in the company you founded but also in the companies you worked for before you founded your own is counted, but you will have to prove that the company is a distinguished company, meaning there should be some sort of press about it, in professional journals trade publications, newspapers. We should be able to prove how essential your role is.
Have you been featured as the founder of your company in media publications and trade journals? If you have, it may just work, I mean if you have been featured on TechCrunch or Forbes, wow, now that’s awesome, and on your brother’s blog, as long as your brother is Mark Zuckerberg it may work, but if not, we may just have to discuss it a little further.
To meet this criterion the publications should be about the founder (you), and not just about the start-up or company you founded as any article about your company can only be used to prove your employment in an essential role for a distinguished company.
To meet this criterion you will have to be a member of an organization that requires outstanding achievements as recognized experts in the same field. This means that you need to be part of an organization working in your sector that is difficult to get into, like joining a selected for a highly selective business accelerator program.
As a founder if you own significant equity in your company or if you were a specialist or consultant who before starting your own company received a higher salary than most people in that sector then you could qualify for this criterion. Most tech founders tend to meet this criterion because they are usually specialists in their line of work and most likely would have earned above the average salary that most people earned at some point in their career.
Yeah, you heard me, Award…. Okay, I understand your company may not have won an award but if it has been backed by venture capital, the funds you received were above 100K and you can prove that the funding was received because of your sole efforts than it would qualify as an award. We can only argue this if the amount of money is significant and actually over $100,000 and mostly if it’s equity-free. Apart from this if your company has won nationally or internationally acclaimed awards it could also count.
The Benefit of O-1 Visa Over Other Visa Types for Tech Entrepreneurs
Now here’s the thing unlike Canada the US does not have a visa specifically for startups, it had been proposed several times over the past decade but sadly the plight for the need of a separate visa type to encourage foreign startups to come to the US has been pushed under the carpet.
- The E-2 Visa does not apply to everyone, it only applies to nationals from countries which the US has signed treaties of commerce and navigation. So, Chinese and Indian nationals do not qualify for this visa type. While the O-1 Visa does not have such restrictions and is applicable to all.
- If you have a partner who is from a country that has not signed the trade and navigation treaty with the US, then you should own at least 50 percent of the equity. “Imagine this scenario, where there are 3 co-founders, 1 from the UK and 2 from Belgium, in this situation the founders can apply for the E-2 and would work both ways, but what would happen once they start looking for funds in the US? One of the co-founders in this circumstance would lose their visa status because they would no longer own at least 50 percent of the company’s equity,” says Joanna, who also pointed out that this was one of the major reasons why most founders sooner or later move to the O-1Visa, unless they have a possibility to file for the EB-1A or EB-2 NIW and get their green cards before the change in equity is made.
- An E-2 spouse has the freedom to work and will receive a work permit, but the O-1 spouse who is on the O-3 Visa will not be eligible to work.
Now, one other benefit you do have with the O-1 Visa is that you if your startup fails, you can still be on the O-1 Visa status and look for an employer who will sponsor you, after all, you are a tech expert and there are hundreds of tech companies looking for someone like you. It may not be as easy as it sounds but it is doable and there are tonnes of people out there who have already done it.
The Privileges Founders Can Enjoy by Applying for the O-1 Visa Through PassRight
At PassRight, we believe that tech founders are not just leaders in their line of work but are also versatile talents who have not only mastered the sciences but also the art of selling, and honestly, invention and entrepreneurship is not everyone’s cup of tea.
If you have questions, contact us