This is a guest post from our friends at Legalpad!
Anyone can start a U.S. company—nope, you don't need a visa or green card to launch your startup!
However, if you want to live and work in the U.S. to grow your startup, you'll probably want to look into a work visa. Work visas (also called nonimmigrant visas) allow you to work temporarily for a U.S. company.
Advantages of the O-1 Work Visa
Qualifying for the O-1A Visa
There are two ways to qualify for a business O-1A visa:
The vast majority of founders qualify for the O-1 through the second route. Let's go into each of the eight Extraordinary Ability criteria and how you can meet them as a startup founder.
Nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in your field
Has your company received venture capital funding? Even though VC funding is offered to your company and not you as an individual, many founders meet this criterion with VC funding!
Membership in associations that require outstanding achievements, as judged by international experts
Alternatively, membership in an elite association related to your field can also satisfy this criterion. For example, many founders use their membership in On Deck, Forbes Business Council, or IEEE for their O-1 application.
Published material about you in professional publications, major trade publications, or other major media
You can meet this criterion with features in top press outlets. For example, many startup founders use articles in TechCrunch and Forbes to satisfy this criterion. The best articles for the O-1 are articles about you. However, you can use articles about your startup that mention you by name.
Judging the work of peers in your field, either individually or on a panel
You can easily meet this criterion if you've judged a hackathon or pitch competition. Judging can also be satisfied by reviewing accelerator applications, venture capital investment choices, or academic papers.
Original contributions of major significance to your field
By creating a startup, you are creating something new. In the same way you pitch to investors, you'll want to pitch your business to USCIS with this criterion. In doing so, you must highlight both the uniqueness of your startup and how it is majorly significant. For example, have you received VC funding, gone through accelerators, secured partnerships, and attracted clients? These types of accomplishments can prove that your startup is majorly significant.
You can also meet this criterion with previous startups, patents, or other novel inventions. The key is demonstrating that you have created something that is both novel and significant.
Authorship of scholarly articles in professional publications, major trade publications, or other major media
Typically, this criterion is met with peer-reviewed journal articles. However, some startup founders meet it with articles published on business media sites like Forbes or TechCrunch.
Employed in a critical or essential capacity at a company with a distinguished reputation
This criterion has two aspects: (1) you were/are a critical employee (2) at a company with a distinguished reputation.
Being a founder makes you a critical employee. To show that your startup is distinguished, you'll need to highlight any press articles about the startup, VC funding, grants, awards, partnerships, and other impressive accomplishments.
You could also satisfy this criterion with roles you held previously. VP of Sales at a successful startup? Perfect fit. Director of a critical team at a large corporation? That could also work!
You have commanded a high salary or other significantly high remuneration
To satisfy the high remuneration criterion, you'll need to show USCIS that you have been among the top 10% of earners in a given role and location.
This could include the salary and bonuses you earned at your last employer, the compensation you earned ten years ago in your home country, or the salary and equity you will be paid at your new startup.
Get Your O-1 Visa
It is never too early to start thinking about your future in the U.S. If you want to explore the O-1 and other visas, it might be worth chatting with our friends at Legalpad. Having helped over five hundred startup founders secure work visas and green cards, Legalpad is an incredible resource for everything related to startup immigration.
Excerpt: Most venture-backed founders qualify for the O-1 visa. With flexible criteria and unlimited extensions, the O-1 is a visa worth considering!