Can Startups Get an H-1B Visa?

Since the pandemic, the world has moved to an increasingly online business presence. This makes it possible for burgeoning entrepreneurs to feel safe stepping out of the corporate box and starting a business of their own. These individuals and their associated companies, known as “startups,” may want to hire foreign workers outside of the United States, but they need a visa to do so. The most popular work visa is the H-1B, but is this a potential avenue for startups? Read on to find out.

Silicon Valley and Beyond

During the earlier days of the World Wide Web, those with a vision of its potential jumped on board quickly. Some of these early businesses, like Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Google, became highly successful billion-dollar companies, paving the way for those behind them to try to follow in their footsteps.

It’s not surprising that places like Silicon Valley, where rags can turn into riches in the IT sector, attract so many startups. This is fine if you have a talented workforce of people who already live in the US, but it’s not quite as simple if you’re planning to hire a foreign national. Before you can move them to America, you’ll need permission in the form of a visa.

Startups and H-1B Visas: Yes or No?

While there are a few visas ideal for a beginning business owner looking to hire foreign help, it makes sense for a startup to aim for an H-1B. This type of visa has many benefits, including the right of the worker to bring their family with them and start applying for a green card for permanent residency if they choose to do so.

But the tricky part of the startup H-1B journey comes with the integral job offer requirement. H-1B beneficiaries require an employer to sponsor them for their visa, yet that employer must prove that their business is healthy enough to meet all the eligibility requirements. So, how does a business owner get around this?

First, the company must meet the criteria to be a designated specialty occupation, requiring a minimum of a four-year bachelor’s degree. Then, the employee or applicant must have the degree or equivalent experience to hold the job. Finally, the startup must prove to the Department of Labor that it can meet the prevailing wage requirement set forth in the Labor Condition Application, a required part of the H-1B process.

Let’s Talk Money

What’s more, you may need to show evidence of any expected income based on your business plan. Per the terms of the H-1B visa, beneficiaries must be self-sufficient, as they’re not permitted to apply for government benefits. 

Startups, by nature, often struggle in the first few years in business, which can make it challenging to overcome the burden of financial proof to obtain an H-1B visa. Working with an experienced legal team, like Visa2US, can make this easier.

Proving Your Position

Another H-1B eligibility requirement is proving that the job position is legitimate. You’ll need to show proof that there is an employer-employee relationship that includes actual work awaiting the beneficiary that only someone with their skills and experience can complete.

This proof of a position is scrutinized through the Department of Labor first, ensuring that there are no qualified American nationals who fit the job description. Since you’re a startup, this is a nuanced step that requires careful and precise wording to achieve success, again demonstrating the need to work with a skilled immigration attorney who has experience with H-1B startups.

Should you wish to bring a team of workers to complete current and future projects on an H-1B visa, you’ll need to prove that you can pay their prevailing wage and justify the need for each individual.

Transferring to a Startup

Many foreign nationals choose a simple path to entering the US and starting their business: they work for someone else who sponsors their visa. Once you find an H-1B holder already working in the country seeking new work, you can offer to sponsor a job transfer. This is easier than obtaining the initial H-1B, which requires waiting for registration windows, selection in a lottery, and cumbersome paperwork. Hiring someone who already has an H-1B visa eliminates the lottery selection aspect.

What’s Next?

Whether you’re a startup in the US seeking foreign labor or a foreign national hoping to begin a business in America, Visa2US is ready to assist you. Contact us today to see what your options are and how we can optimize your chance of obtaining an H-1B visa.

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H-1B Visa

H-1B Visa

H-1B visa is used by businesses and organizations in the United States to employ foreign nationals with the preferred qualifications, knowledge, and expertise in a role.

I-485 Adjustment of Status

I-485 Adjustment of Status

Submit a form I-485 application to apply for lawful permanent resident status.

National Interest Waiver (NIW)

National Interest Waiver (NIW)

An applicant must either hold an advanced degree or have an exceptional ability in their field that would substantially benefit the U.S. to be qualified.