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Work Visa Options for Small Businesses and Start-Up Companies

Written By The Shapiro Law Group on October 08, 2014

Small businesses and start-up companies make up a large portion of corporate America, with unique hiring and HR needs. In some cases, as a small business or a start-up company looks to expand, it will consider hiring foreign national employees. The employment immigration process can be confusing and overwhelming, but an employment immigration attorney can help you understand your options for bringing foreign employees into the country and guide you through the immigration process.

The following are some of the most common immigration tools used by small businesses and start-up companies when they hire foreign national employees:

  • Visa Waiver Program. Citizens of participating countries can travel to the United States without a visa for stays of 90 days or less, if they are entering the country for business purposes, such as a conference, consulting, or short-term contracts. Employment is not permitted under the visa waiver program, however.
  • B Visa. If a foreign national expects to stay in the United States for more than 90 days, he or she can apply for a B visa. The applicant can come to the U.S. for business purposes, but cannot work in the U.S.
  • H-1B visa. The H-1B visa is available for foreign nationals employed in specialty occupations – such as scientists, engineers, or computer programmers – which make it a good option for start-up companies, particularly those in the technology industries. The H-1B visa lasts for three years, but it is subject to strict quota caps so it will not be available for everyone.
  • TN visa. Residents of Canada and Mexico who will enter the U.S. for a professional job, which is generally defined as a job that requires at least a baccalaureate degree or appropriate credentials, are eligible for the TN visa.
  • E-2 visa. Foreign nationals investing significant funds in a start-up company can obtain an E-2 visa if they are from one of the countries with which the U.S. has a treaty. The amount of the investment varies depending on the business. The visa is renewable and the visa holder’s spouse is also eligible for a work visa.  There is no permanent residency path with the E-2 visa, however.
  • O visa. Start-ups and small businesses looking to hire employees with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, athletics, or motion picture and television industry can seek an O visa for the foreign national, but they must be prepared to prove the applicant’s extraordinary ability.
  • L-1 visa. The L-1 visa is available for intra-company transfers. Generally, an applicant must have worked abroad as an executive, manager or specialized employee for at least one continuous year within the previous three year period in order to qualify for the L-1 intra-company transfer visa so this will not work for start-up companies, but if a small business has international offices, it may be an option.

Contact an Employment Immigration Lawyer

If you are an employer – whether a start-up company, a small business, or a large corporation – looking to hire a foreign national employee, it is highly recommended that you consult with an immigration lawyer. The work visa lawyers at Shapiro Law Group focus on helping employers, including small businesses and start-ups, manage their work visa and other employment immigration needs so that they can efficiently run their business.

Contact us online or call our office at (847) 564-0712 to schedule a consultation with one of our employment immigration lawyers.