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I am Peter Roberts, an immigration lawyer who does work for YC and startups. AMA
313 points by proberts on Dec 11, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 310 comments
I am excited and honored to provide (hopefully) helpful advice and information to the community. It can be tough to respond to very fact-specific questions, because relevant information often isn't included, so the best questions are general ones or those with all the pertinent facts. And of course nothing I say should be construed as legal advice. I will be available for the next 2 hours. Thanks!

Edit (1:10 PM PST) This has been an amazing experience for me. Thank you all for participating and for asking such pointed and interesting questions. I look forward to doing this again soon, possibly focusing on one or more specific topics. I need to sign off now, unfortunately, but best wishes to everyone for a happy and healthy new year.

As a fellow (non-immigration) attorney, I'd just like to stress how remarkable and generous is Peter's willingness to do this via HN, even with the very obvious disclaimer. It speaks volumes about his confidence in his expertise and communication, as well as a genuine desire to spread good information around to those who need it.

Neither the dated, often fuzzy rules about practicing law nor lawyers' developed risk consciousness encourages this kind of "innovative" altruism. Instead, they create anxiety that keeps many community-minded attorneys from doing anything like this.

Bravo, Peter. Inspiring.

Would you mind explaining a bit more about why the status quo discourages this type of behavior and what most lawyers perceive as the risks?

I'm not really familiar with how it works and I'd imagine there's others on HN who aren't as well.

I think it's 'malpractice' risk. Like, if a lawyer give bad legal advice on a forum, and someone reads it and follows it and then loses a ton of money because of it, and then the reader sues the lawyer for malpractice.

The plaintiff would never win the case. But lawyers like to avoid being the target of malpractice claims, even if they're super-weak / spurious / whatever.

I think that is the situation.

As a lawyer, I personally don't mind writing about the law or answering general questions on the internet. I wouldn't answer someone's specific questions about their personal legal situation though (without an engagement letter).

right - the status quo would be for Peter to respond to every comment that about the commenter with, "Talk to a lawyer."

I'm currently on an H-1B in California working at a startup. In my spare time, I work on side projects that might provide value to somebody somewhere, but have an operating cost that I would have to cover if I wanted to offer the project as a free service. I'd like to be able to charge for this (or at least provide the option of a "Premium" plan) to supplant the money that I will lose in hosting the platform. I am NOT trying to make this a high revenue generator, and I am NOT trying to supplant my personal income. I'm more than happy to have an LLC or corporation (with a bank account), and all revenue stays within that ecosystem to cover costs. Is this possible?

1. Can I set up a company with zero employees? Since I am on an H-1B, I am not allowed to work for this new company that I would create to house the service.

2. Is there any legal implications for me of doing this? Most of what I have read claim that any additional work is illegal, but I am not trying to get paid. I am just trying to make the service self sufficient so it's not a cost to me. I will not take a paycheck or salary, and will not remove revenue from the account of the Corp/LLC.

3. What other avenues would you recommend for doing something like this? I've heard from many other engineers in the field that they have similar ideas. They want to create things to benefit others, but are not willing to do so if it is a literal cost to them.

i'm deleting this comment because it was a bunch of practical (as in non-legal advice) info about running an LLC that could potentially get someone in trouble if taken as advice.

To anyone reading the comment above, I would be extremely careful with this.

While owning an LLC doesn't violate the H1B visa work conditions, working on an LLC does, even if there isn't any reported employment or income to the IRS.

Your current H1B employer probably won't care, but if USCIS ever caught wind of it (even years later) you will likely lose your H visa. USCIS recently closed the loophole where F-1 students would work unpaid internships without using OPT, and are completely unforgiving about visa workarounds.

yeah, yikes. the road to hell is paved with...

In California, an employer specifically does not own your side work assuming you don't use any of their physical assets, protected know-how or paid-for time.

In other words, if it's genuinely side work.

There's a specific statute to that effect, and they're required to inform you of same.

(I'm not a lawyer either, but I've worked in CA for a long time.)

You're talking about California Labor Code 2870:


The gist: Has to be your own time, own resources, and not related to your company's current or anticipated business.

It's that last clause that's the kicker. For some companies, it's easy to prove -- e.g. wood working is probably unrelated to Twitter's businesses. For other companies that literally work on everything (eg. Google/Alphabet)... it's a pain in the ass. Also: Many companies make reporting the IP or side work a stipulation of your employment contract -- ostensibly, so they can claim that it is related to their business in some way. It's right there in Code 2871. :)


Yes, this.

I consulted with a business attorney in Silicon Valley on this particular issue when I was considering getting a startup going on my own after hours. She basically said that there is enough "gray zone" in what I wanted to do vs. what I was doing for my employer (although I felt they were really distinct areas of computer science) that if my former employer wanted to go after me they could easily bury me in legal BS.

Whoever can spend the most on lawyers wins...

> In California, an employer specifically does not own your side work assuming you don't use any of their physical assets, protected know-how or paid-for time.

Of course, with the exception of explicitly-taken leave, its at least intuitively unclear how one defines any time as not "paid for time" of a salaried employee. (There may be case law that clarifies this, however.)

In practice, you're generally fine if you're not in the office. This may be a harder distinction for remote employees, though.

But in general, "salaried" has not been construed to mean "the company owns every minute outside the office."

I believe that this also means that any signed agreements between employer and employee (some companies used to try this a lot) are null and void. Disclaimer: I'm only a fake doctor, not a lawyer (fake or otherwise).

This is interesting, do you know where I can get more information on this? Thanks in advance

What are the options for an h1b who wants to start up?

we can't lose our jobs to maintain the h1b status. will yc care that we are not working on the idea fulltime by the time of applying to yc? (will certainly quit the job if accepted to yc.)

what are the common attitudes of companies, like google, microsoft, apple, facebook, toward employee moonlighting?


You can transfer your H1b to them and work on your thing.

How are the requirements for salary are taken care of? H1b employee must be paid market rate salary (not in stocks but actual cash)

There's investment. From the website: "Unshackled takes 5% common stock + invests up to $160,000 as a convertible note to help catalyze progress."

Yeah. Their investment comes in the form of a salary.

I don't know the details for H1b's specifically but I can tell you that they haven't had trouble meeting visa requirements for people in the program.

With $160k you can get a E2 visa

E2's have to be financed by citizens of your country of origin. http://startupimmigrationattorney.com/e2-visa-for-startups-p...

Thanks for the info.

With regard to maintaining legal status:

If you get a part-time job H1B petition approved, you can use it to maintain your status.

With an H1B visa you just need one job (at all times) to maintain legal status. Part-time H1B petitions allows the employer to specify a range of hours, like 10-20.

If you find an employer willing to hire you for 10-20 hours, and file the H1B petition (which costs including attorney fees, around $3k to $4k), then that should free up enough time to do something on the side.

With regard to working on a startup:

In order to legally work for your YC or non-YC startup, you will need another (concurrent) H1B petition approved. This is actually rather hard. Key points:

1) You must own less than 50% of your startup. Someone (usually the board) must be able to fire you. If there is no one that can fire, your startup H1B petition will most likely be rejected.

2) You'll need investment that is sufficiently high that you can give yourself the "prevailing wage" for the region your startup's office will be in.

Use this tool to find out what the prevailing wage for your region is: http://www.flcdatacenter.com/OesWizardStart.aspx

For example, in order to be legally employed on an H1B in the "San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA" MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area), you must be getting paid at least $98,342 per year or $47.28 per hour. You'll need to get investment that's high enough to cover that. YC wouldn't cut it. My estimate is that you'd need stable yearly investment (or revenue) in the range of $500k to a million.

>For example, in order to be legally employed on an H1B in the "San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA" MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area), you must be getting paid at least $98,342 per year or $47.28 per hour.

Wow, i had no idea the prevailing wage was that high. Does this mean literally everyone on an H1B in the bay area is making at least $100k/year?! I should have negotiated harder...

Regardless of what H1B visa holders are making, if you are a developer and are making less than $120k in the Bay Area, your employer is seriously ripping you off. If you're a good developer, and can prove that by your work, and communicate that across in an interview, you can quite easily make $150,000 or more in the Bay Area.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics collects data on how much people make in each area of the country, for various O⁕NET job titles/classifications. You can find out how much your peers make using this tool: http://data.bls.gov/oes/

I've uploaded a screenshot of how much software developers in the Bay Area earn: http://imgur.com/R8E1qdZ --it reveals that 90% of developers earn over ~$91k, 75% earn over ~$111k, 50% earn over ~$137k, and 25% over ~$166k, in the San Jose area.

The minimum wage for an H1B employee is based on O⁕NET job classification. If the person is classified under "Software Developers, Applications", they must be paid at least $98,342 in the San Jose area. My title at my company is "Software Engineer" and they classified me under "Software Developers, Applications" while applying for a visa for me.

Unfortunately, the O*NET job title classification system also has other redundant ones like "Computer Programmers" and "Web Developers". The prevailing wages for those are far lower. For example, in the San Jose area, the minimum wage for H1B "Computer Programmers" is ~$51k, and for "Web Developers" it's ~$66k. I can see how unethical companies would exploit that. To be honest, I'm puzzled where the Department of Labor got these prevailing wage numbers from. It almost seems like an error.

No- you find a job title that has a lower prevailing wage- for example programmer analyst vs application developer or something else. Companies like Infosys and TCS pay $70K/year

this. I'm in the process of co-founding a startup. My co-founder is on an H-1B and it's probably the thing that comes up the most in "how are we going to make this work?". What are the capital/other requirements necessary to transfer/file for their H-1B by the startup?

I would also like to see a discussion on this topic.

Folks with H1B, who wants to start

1. What is required, if the current company allows Moonlighting ?

2. If the second job is not allowed ?

Not a question but wanted to point out the L1 visa that is often overlooked by foreign startup founders. It allows for founders/workers of foreign companies to be transferred to a US subsidiary that is majority owned by the foreign entity. I found it a fairly simple and straightforward process that got me from nothing to L1 to Green Card in about 13 months (although with help of immigration lawyer of course). The main requirements are having worked for at least 12 months for the foreign entity before transferring and the person must be in a managerial/executive position. Also the foreign entity must own the majority of the US subsidiary.

Fair statement but USCIS can be really tough on new/small company L-1s so these need to be done right and supported by extensive documentation of the U.S. and foreign companies' operations.

Does this mean you could:

1. Open a UK small business with yourself as the director and sole employee.

2. Set up a pass-through corp in the US for remote work.

3. Wait a while to establish the pass-through, then send yourself a job offer from the pass-through to the UK.

4. Get a visa as an employee of the pass-through - which you also own and control?

Or will the UCSIS laugh at that?

You don't need to do it that way. I followed this pattern.

1. Set up the UK company. It has to have been running for a certain time, and you have to be an employee of it for at least a year. The business has to be actually trading and real, have an office and financial results.

2. Apply for an L-1A, saying you will transfer yourself to the U.S. to start a new business. You then have a year to set up the new company and get it operational. You will need to invest at least $100,000 in the business. It took me less than a month to get the visa.

3. Renew the L1 for up to seven years. Before then, if your company grows you can change to a green card. If, like me, your company fails, you'll have to head back home :-(

4. It may be easier just to go for an E2 visa, where you invest $150,000 in a business. There's no path to a green card though.


It also doesn't have prevailing wage requirements, so a lot of companies use this as a way to get a worker for even less than an H-1B. I've seen oil&gas engineers with Master's degrees and 15+ years of experience making $37,000 on an L-1 visa. It is the most commonly and widely abused visa.

> got me from nothing to L1 to Green Card in about 13 months

European citizen + EB2?

Yes, Although born in Russia, I have the privilege of Dutch citizenship. Not quite remember what the category was but for the green card it was multinational executive or something along those lines. Truth to be said, 13 months to GC was insanely fast and even my immigration lawyer was surprised. However dealing with US immigration I didn't feel the fact I was from a European country mattered anything. Going in I thought I was special, but (good thing) US doesn't discriminate on this as much, if at all, as I expected.

It's not that "being European" matters with the GC, the part that matters is "not from India or China", the waiting times for those two is crazy long :)

Say for the sake of argument we're a seed-stage startup and we've identified an engineer with a very specific set of skills -- skills necessary for the growth of our company -- who would need an H1B to work here legally. All-in, about how much will it cost us to get that H1B visa processed through the system in a timely fashion?

Legal fees aside, the filing fees are $1575 for a company with less than 25 FT employees and $2325 for a company with 25 or more FT employees. These are the fees for regular processing which can take months at present, so premium processing is required for quick decision and this costs an additional $1125.

Thank you! I know that mileage varies, but could you give a ballpark for what legal fees might be for a "plain vanilla" case? At the other end of the spectrum, what are the highest fees you've ever seen from one individual?

One good thing to remember is that USCIS refunds the entire $2,325 or $1,575 application fee, if you do not win the H-1B lottery. So applying for someone is fairly low risk, cost-wise.

Attorney fees vary, but some will only charge part of their fee initially, and the rest is only payable if your engineer wins the H1B visa lottery and their visa petition is approved.

I just googled, and one[1] attorney ("Zhang and Associates, P.C.") splits their effective $2400 fee in two: they charge $1200 for the application, and only charge another $1200 if the the person wins the lottery and their application is approved. Another[2] charges $895 for the application, and no more.

With the Zhang & Associates, the total cost of just trying to get your engineer an H1B visa is $1200. If they win the lottery (odds: 1 out 3) and get approved, the total cost rises to $4,725. With premium processing, it's $5,950.

Even though tempting, it might be better to avoid lower cost attorneys (e.g. that charge below $1000). A good highly knowledgeable (thus, more expensive) attorney is strongly preferable. Even the slightest error can jeopardize an application. In addition, USCIS issues various rules and notices from time to time, and it's good to have an attorney who's on top of all of that.

[1] http://www.hooyou.com/h-1b/attorneyfee.html

[2] http://www.usavisanow.com/h-1b-visa/h-1b-visa-attorney-servi...

This is very helpful, thank you!

An east coast attorney "Jerry C. Chang Law Office, P.C." charges $2,000 as their fee, plus another $800 if USCIS asks for additional information while processing the H1B petition.


How quick is the premium processing?

They guarantee they'll issue a decision in 14 days, or refund the $1,225 premium processing fee.

Be aware also that it does not not increase your probability to be a winner in the H1B lottery. You just know faster.

Also be aware that everyone finds out if they won the lottery at about the same time, regardless of premium processing. So if you trust your lawyer to do the job correctly, and you're not trying anything sketchy, if you win the lottery you should get a "yes" decision eventually, and there's really no reason to pay the premium fee except for reducing anxiety waiting for the "yes".

The 2015 H1-B quota is already exhausted, so you can only apply first week of April 2016. Assuming your engineer wins the lottery* they'll be able to work starting October 2016.

* There are 65,000 visas. In 2015 there were 233,000 applications so probability of winning = ~28%. It will probably be worse in 2016.


If you apply early, the probably nears 100% (if applicant fulfills all requirements). It fills up over a matter of months. An immigration lawyer will be able to tell you the chances at any given time.

Edit: Wait, is the lottery thing new? When I got my H-1B in 2013, my immigration lawyer gave me the above advice, i.e. that the process is first-come-first-serve.

Outdated advice.

What's incorrect or out of date about it?

Economy is doing better than in 2013. So many more applicants. So lottery needed. In 2 days in April there are way more applicants than slots. If you apply 1 month later you're way behind, you're not even in the lottery.

USCIS will accept H1B petitions from April 1 to April 5 in 2016.

Those who have advanced degrees from US institutions will be considered to be eligible for the first lottery that will pick 20,000 petitions.

Those with advanced degrees but not picked in the first lottery will be added back to the applicant pool. A second lottery will pick 65,000 petitions.



> starting October 2016

Or whenever USCIS gets to your application. They still haven't finished processing mine (on a TN until then).

Can founders of a startup who have majority ownership & with appropriate board having the power to fire them sponsor green card through their startup? Founders are currently on H1b with approved I-140. Thank you

Excellent question. The answer is yes but substantial ownership is problematic in the PERM green card context, where it is not an issue - and in fact is often helpful - in the national interest waiver (NIW) and extraordinary ability (EB1A) green card contexts. Substantial ownership in the PERM context almost always will trigger an audit and substantial delays.

I was in the exact position. H1B founder needed to move to a GC. My 6 year H1B renew runway was ending. Peter did all the legal/immigration work for me. Applied for the GC via extraordinary ability (EB1A) context. I must say this was the smoothest immigration experience ever. And I have gone through 2 x E3s & 3 x H1Bs using other lawyers. I wish I knew about Peter earlier. Highly recommend everyone here to work with Peter!!

Do you have a Phd? How did you satisfy the requirements of EB1A otherwise?

No Phd. Just Masters & Bachelor. I blogged about my journey as an Aussie founder in US on a H1B getting a Green Card here: http://www.theroadtosiliconvalley.com/visa/green-card-cofoun... Feel free to reach out if you have more questions.

I am curious about the approach YC takes for foreign founders who are accepted into YC. How do they come to the US for the initial incubation period? What happens after demo day?

+1 Additionally: i understand EU citizens can be in the US visa free for 3 months. What that exactly means? 3 months per year or 3 months per one visit? If the latter then how often? Lets assume one gets accepted and decides to utilize that visa free offer - what should be said at the border if one is asked.

IANL, but here is what I know:

1. One can't work on the visa under visa-waiver program.

2. One should not work under the VW, if you get caught, you'll forever forfeit the benefits of VW.

3. 90 days is you maximum permissible stay length per visit to US (leaving US to visit nearby places doesn't count). Note that your ACTUAL permitted stay length is what the CBP notes in your passport at port of entry. You must leave by that date.

Work is defined as getting a salary though. If you're accepted into YC, they are not 1099'ing you or putting you on a payroll. It's like a stipend (effectively), and legally just an investment in your firm.

A 1099 isn't needed for immigrations to be convinced that you are working. If you are receiving any kind of remuneration while doing some kind of work, that counts as working (in violation of the visa waiver program).

My understanding of USCIS's definition of "work" is "doing something for which one would generally expect to be remunerated". You can't do a job and take no salary. You can't work on your own pre-revenue startup.

IANAL but it seems it's 3 months per visit, which accounts for time spent in Mexico, Canada and nearby islands (so that doesn't count as starting another visit). http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/visit/visa-waiver-p...


USCIS recently approved my EB1 visa I-140 petition. Since I'm abroad my process will go thru the NVC and then consular processing. What kind of questions should I be prepared for at the consular interview? And about how much time should I have to wait for my green card?


If you qualify for EB1 you almost surely would qualify for O1. If you want to start working ASAP, you could probably get an O1 visa in a few weeks, enter the US and work on that, and then file to adjust status to green card based on your approved EB1 I-140.

Congratulations, that's a tough one to get!

I live in the United Kingdom but I've always wanted to move to America. I don't know much about the process as I find it very hard to go through the volume of information online. Do I need to apply for a visa, then find a company in the U.S. to hire me? Is there a good website for finding green card jobs?

I'd be grateful for a pointer on doing this or even just an FAQ as a starting point.

As a general matter, nonimmigrant visa eligibility requires a job offer so you can't apply for a work visa until you have a job offer. The exception is in the green card context where self-petitions without job offers are allowed, but the standard for a self-petition green card is high.

Have you looked into US companies that have UK branches? You get hired by the UK branch, and then ask for a transfer to the US.

London's banking/insurance/etc industry might be a good place to start looking at that. Getting transfers to New York City is common as heck.

I never thought of doing that! Good idea, thanks

Keep in mind that you need to have worked for that given company for a certain amount of time for the L-1 visa (I believe at least a year).

In the US, generally, the company applies for your visa. So you need to get a job offer first from a company that loves you so much that they'll apply for a visa for you, and wait the typical 6 months it takes for the visa to get processed.

The best US work visa right now is the H1B. It lets you change jobs to any company (in your field), provided that company is willing to do a small amount of work to "transfer" the H1B visa.

There's another visa called the L1 visa for intra-company trasnfer, but it sucks. It locks you down to the company. You can't change jobs, and you get kicked out if you ever get let go from that company.

You've asked your question at a good time. Every year, companies apply for the H1B visa on April 1. There is a limit of 85,000 visas per year, and if the gov receives more than 85,000 H1B applications on April 1, they perform a computer randomized lottery and randomly select 85,000.

If you want to move to the US, this is the time. As a UK citizen, you can visit the US without a visa, and stay for up to 3 months. Ideally, fly in on Jan 1, and stay for the full 3 months. You could sublet an apartment for 3 months on craigslist. Then apply, apply, apply. While traveling on ESTA, do not say you're going to apply for jobs. It is a legal grey area, and the interpretation of the law varies on whether looking for H1B employment is considered "immigrant intent" (as the H1B is a temporary 6-year non-immigrant visa). What this means is that there is the possibility that you could get denied entry at the U.S. airport you arrived in under Immigration and Nationality Act Section 214(b) for having "immigrant intent", get sent back, and receive a 5-year ban.

If you are a good software developer, you should have no problem finding a company willing to apply for you. Once a company says they'll apply for you, you just need to go back to the UK and wait for the results of the lottery.

You'll know if you won the lottery by June/July. Last year, they got 233,000 application, and they chose 85,000 out of that randomly. You could say your odds of winning are 1 in 3. There might be even more applications this year.

If you don't win the lottery, there's two options:

1) Re-attempt this whole process, and try the lottery every year. You'd have to move to the US for at least a month or two, ideally in January, February or March.

2) You could get a job at a US company in the UK, and ask for a transfer to the US. If it works out, you'll be in the US on a L-1 visa. This visa doesn't allow you to change jobs, and requires you to leave the country if you ever leave the company. But if your job is with a large stable company, that shouldn't be too much to worry about. Now there's two routes you can go down from here:

2a) Ask your company (i.e. the sponsor of your L-1 transfer visa) to apply for an employment-based green card. The green card process can last anywhere from 1 year to 6 or 7 years (or more), depending on what category you were put in, and what country you were born in. You are, again, locked to your company during this period.

2b) You can looks for jobs in January-February-March period while you're in the US on the L-1 visa. The company will have to apply for an H1B visa for you. If you win the lottery, they switch you over from your old L1 to your new H1B. Once you're approved for the H1B, you can switch to other jobs fairly freely. (There's still paperwork to change jobs on the H1B, but 70% of tech companies in the US are willing to do it.)

Thank you so much!

While getting a new H1B has become statistically impossible given the statutory limits that Congress refuses to revise, there are other visas like the O1 and J-1 that are still possible.

We have a couple of guys at my company in San Francisco, who came here on a J-1 or an O-1 as opposed to the more traditional route (post-graduate degree student and then an H1).

I won a NASA contest as a programmer and I'm interested on working in the USA (also as a programmer). Am I elegible for an O-Visa? My degree is on Industrial Engineering which I'll finish in January in Spain, my home country. I also have about 1 year of work experience in two startups as an internship.

PS, thank you so much for the help so far.

It's hard to say without seeing your CV but USCIS places a lot of weight on such awards.

How can people on H1B Visa be founders. What is the best way for them to say spend 6 months figuring out what the product is without actually having an actual company?

What are the typical visas for a Canadian who gets accepted into YC, and afterward/during raises seed funding and sets up shop in the USA?

There are several options depending on the ownership of the company and the amount and source of the funding but typically the post-YC options are the TN, the E-1 or E-2, and the O-1. The H-1B, because of the cap among other things, is the least utilized.

Thanks for doing this AMA. I'm a Canadian who just got his TN visa (Systems Analyst) but in practice, my salary/responsibilities will be pretty similar to that of a Software Engineer. As far as the law is concerned, where is the line drawn between those two occupations?

If you switch jobs you'll have to apply to a new TN visa at the border.

Fellow Canadian that's been in the USA for the past 4 years.

How does one with a H1B, TN, H1B1, or E3 visa move from their current US employer and start their own company legally while living in the USA?

Set up an LLC & extend yourself a job offer. Make sure you have the capital to pay yourself according to your visa's restrictions, follow the appropriate procedure for visa transfer, & don't outright own the LLC.

Alternatively, petition to change visa to H-1B & get your employer to start the greencard application.

By not owning the LLC, does that mean owning %95 or %4? I often seen %5 requirements in ownership of companies making something invalid.

Don't own it outright, i.e. < 50% ownership.

May I ask why can't a person on F1/H1B own a LLC 100%?

Owning the company that is extending you the job offer you need for the visa is grounds for cancelling your visa—it's not guaranteed but if DHS find out in the future (like if you petition/apply for greencard) they'll bounce you.

Basically, do it if you're comfortable (maybe) being asked to leave the country on short notice.

Hi Peter, thanks for taking the time for this AMA. I have a ton of questions, but here's a summary:

1. Can I incorporate a company and look for funding under a B1/B2 Visa? 2. Once incorporated and funded, what type of Visa could I get for myself to work for my own company? 3. Would my two-year home-country presence requirement "212(e)" affect getting those visas? 4. If I'm unable to get any other Visa, could I be living in the US with a B1/B2 Visa working for the company I founded but without receiving a salary? How long could I stay? How about a TN or TD Visa?

Hi Peter. There have been several times where YC companies wanted to hire me (designer) but couldn't because they can't sponsor work visas at the moment.

How hard is it for a YC company to be able to sponsor visas? Have you had experience with this? And, as an applicant, is there something I could do to ease the process? Thank you.

Unfortunately, it's hard to respond because the facts really matter - the facts about the company and you - but yes, we have handled work visas for YC companies and other startups. As a general rule - from a company requirements standpoint - it's easier to get an O-1 than an H-1B for employment with a startup.

How high, exactly, is the bar for an O-1?

What are your experiences with going from a successfully issued O-1 visa to an EB-1A?

Any lessons learned / things one should watch out for? (specifically around required evidence or RFEs that you got issued)

Thanks for your time! :)

This isn't really an immigration question so much as an avoiding-having-to-immigrate question:

What are the challenges in having co-founders in other countries and being able to grant them meaningful chunks of equity. Say example someone with 10% in Hungary and another with 10% in the Netherlands.

Sorry. Outside my area of expertise.

Thanks for you time. I'm a chilean entrepreneur developing a startup here in SF. I'm one of the founders and we have already incorporated as an LLC.

1-What's the easiest path for me to get a visa that will allow me to work and receive a salary here in the US? 2-Can I do that through the company we just established?

I'm fully dedicated and focused on our company and growing as fast as we can and I need to come to a solution to my visa so I can continue working here with no problems.

Much appreciate your help Peter.

You probably have several options but these will depend on the ownership of the company, the amount and source of funding if any, and your background. The options that come to mind are the H-1B1, the E-1 and E-2, and the O-1.

Thanks Peter. I own 30% of the company and we have bootstrapped the company. We haven't used more than $3,000 on it. My background: I'm an trilingual Industrial Engineer graduated from Chile with more than 11 years of experience. Does this information helps to have a more clear focus on what's the best solution for my case?

Thank you very much Peter.

My cofounders are from Finland and Pakistan respectively. We want them to be able to move them and their families temporarily to the us for a year or two. Is h1b the best option?

How would you rate a senior engineer's odds at qualifying for an O-1 visa? Can they get by on career/work history alone or does it require a level of public notoriety?

I may be able to share some insight here. At 23 years old, I have gone through the O-1 process twice in the past 3.5 years, I have a couple of references in news publications like TechCrunch but that's about it in terms of public notoriety. Your prior achievements, recommendation letters and peer review are important. TLDR: Don't be intimidated by the absurd name of the visa. My e-mail is in my profile if you want some specifics

3-time O-1 recipient here. Denied for EB-1 once + on appeal.

The O-1, I feel, is pretty dependent on our personal situation, and which side of the bed the reviewer woke up on when they look at your application. But, it can be done. Good luck!

Why 3-time? How long is O-1 valid before it expires?

3 years term per approval. But you have to apply again every time you change jobs. I started with one company, then was founder of a startup, re-applied there, and moved it to another company.

Re-applying is easier once you've been approved once.

What's the reapplication process like? Do you need to have done something exceptional from the time of the previous one's expiry to warrant an extension?

I've never done an extension, just a transfer. It was pretty routine; you just file the application again just like the first time. Not much of a difference; other than the previous approval making your chances of getting approved once more significantly higher.

The first time, I had to get a new visa stamp (which required going back to my home country to get it from the U.S. embassy); the second time I kept the same visa stamp and a little piece of paper in my passport showing the transfer. It's mostly useful as a reference of the case number when I get asked about my employer (which is different than the one shown on the visa stamp) when I travel back to the US from a trip abroad.

I see. How does EB-1 relate to this?

EB-1 is basically a green card version of the O-1 (i.e. an immigrant visa, not tied to your ongoing employment). Once you have an EB-1 you can freely change jobs, start companies, do consulting part time, etc. The requirements are essentially the same as the O-1, but evaluated much more strictly.


That's incorrect. You only need 3 for the EB-1. See:


> * Criteria for Demonstrating Extraordinary Ability You must meet 3 out of the 10 listed criteria below to prove extraordinary ability in your field:

Apologies my mistake!

This is tough to answer because it's not so much tied to your title or even level within a company but your accomplishments.

Do you mean it depends on one's accomplishments within a company? What would be good examples of eligible corporate accomplishments from an O-1 or EB1 application perspective? And would getting accepted into YC be an eligible accomplishment for these?

From what i understand, to get on O visa, you are better off being one of the top 3 specialists worldwide in an obscure combination of OS language platform running on an old mainframe, instead of being in the top 1% of all Javascript/PHP developers.

A good immigration lawyer would help you figure your strategy here.

If someone is on a visa tied to a specific job at a specific company, what is the legality of working on personal side projects (that may turn a profit)?

This is an incredibly complicated and important question and will very much depend on the facts - that is, the stage and nature of the project - because of course it's fine to think creative ideas and even execute them but the line can be crossed when this evolves into a business or a commercial enterprise. That line can be fuzzy, however.

Questions regarding international companies being able to sponsor H1B visas in America.

1/ How long does the process take for a company to be eligible to sponsor H1b visas. 2/ How much does it cost ? 3/ Does the company need any minimum funding ? 4/ Does the company need to hire a certain number of American citizens/Green card holders before it can hire H1B visa holders ?

1. There is no waiting period. 2. See response to earlier question. 3. Not really - USCIS will look at a variety of factors to be comfortable that the company can pay the offered wage including funding. 4. No.

We hear a lot about the limited # of H1B visas available, about how it functions as a lottery, etc... What are common issues with the H1B application process that don't receive as much public attention?

Many petitions get rejected - without recourse - because they're not submitted/prepared properly and it's much easier to deal with the lottery and resolve issues with premium processing.

Does this mean that premium processing circumvents the lottery whatsoever?

No. Premium processing only affects the speed of processing - the lottery odds remain unchanged.

As US citizens, how can we help our international friends trying to get H1-B support? It is really hard to watch friends get denied, and I really wish policy makers would admit more very talented people from highly competitive countries.

One of my good friends from China is gay and if he goes back home, he could actually be in danger.

I feel helpless and I want to do more.

H1B was for skilled workers. Note that I used "was". Some of the ways to help H1B system.

1. Stop TCS,Infosys,Wipro & Cognizant bringing in unskilled workers for low salary. They bombard the system every year and eligible skilled workers should depend on their luck rather than their skills to get H1B.

Solution : Increase the minimum level wages requirements 2x times.

2. There are lot of Indian bodyshops in US,which will apply visa & initiate greencard,so that they can hold a lock on the workers for a very long time.

Solution: Make the H1B visa transfer flexible. Job portability should be made easy.So that body shops or employers cannot abuse H1B workers.

3. Conduct a very high level technical interview for the candidates which the consultant companies present. Many consulting companies bring unskilled workers with fake resume. So triple checking the background & skills will put a stop to H1B abuse and skilled candidates will get visas.

> One of my good friends from China is gay and if he goes back home, he could actually be in danger.

Where's he from? There's no taboo against being gay in China in general. What is the source of this danger?

It is entirely upto Congress to pass a sensible legislation, which they've been refusing to for a better part of last 8 years.

Hi Peter – as H1B / E3 visa holders are only allowed to work for the company sponsoring them, are these holders able to provide contract work (separate to their regular work) to clients either in or out of the US provided the work is conducted and billed via a registered business entity in their home (or another non-US) country?

The short answer is no - although there can be exceptions when the only beneficiary of this work is outside the US.

Just to clarify: in this case it may be okay if you're doing work for a client outside of the US and they are billed by a business entity that is also outside the US? So the deal-breaker is doing work for US companies?

Might not be that easy esp if your o/s entity still has you as a shareholder/owner. And if that country has a taxation treaty with USA like Australia does. Then you need to reveal all your foreign activity.

Thanks for the reply, I (and others, I'm sure) appreciate you taking the time to answer these questions!

When working for your own company (a Delaware C-Corp) on OPT there is some language in the policy about having to be an employee, but that you can also work for yourself. Is being a founder enough to stay in status without technically paying yourself minimum wage and being on the payroll? And does this apply to the extension too?

1) Is winning an ACM-ICPC national/regional contest enough to be considered a top programmer and be able to apply for an O-1?

2) If my B1/B2 visa allows me to stay in the US for 6 consecutive months; can I do programming, sales, fundraising, etc. for my Delaware C Corp in the US?

Hi Peter!

I am a citizen of Australia and I am going to switch on ZeroDB [http://www.zerodb.io/] fulltime pretty much now. For that, I have to leave my employer with whom I have an E3 visa (and I have a wife on E3D). Also I need to travel right after that.

Would there be any problem for us to enter back under Visa Waiver? Should we just fill an ESTA form online and have back out-of-US tickets on hand when we enter back? Any possible caveats here?

Another thing - my employer could technically terminate my employment very close to our date of re-entry (due to some corporate stuff). Would it cause problems in getting ESTA (when you are still technically on E3 visa but in a couple of days you're not)?

Thank you!

If you enter under ESTA, you won't be able to work for the company and you will need to leave and reenter again in E-3 status to work for the company. And yes, if you recently have been in E-3 status and then seek to reenter under ESTA, you could have problems because CBP could conclude that you are coming to stay and/or work.

Ok, actually the situation is following. We have some pilots with banks emerging in London where we need to work closely with them. I actually will go there and my wife will go to the US under visa waiver.

Seems like employment is going to be terminated at December 16, re-entry time - January 3.

Would there be any problems with this?

Can I drive for lyft part time on an H1B?

H-1B employment can be part-time but it needs to be professional in nature - that is, specialized and requiring a bachelor's degree in a specific field of study.

I'm guessing the question was that the OP was already employed on an H1B visa with a company, and wants to drive for Lyft.

I currently hold a green card, but am temporarily abroad (2 times 6 months). How long can I stay abroad and retain the green card, if I periodically come back to the U.S.? And how frequently should I get back to the U.S. ?

From when I was detained (those "random checks"), I overheard an official say that they need to be in the country for atleast once in 6 months, and the taxes need to be filed (this was for an old couple, not sure about their fate).

Thanks I've heard similar things.

Here is a link right from the source. Generally you should be in the US more than abroad (ie in US >6 months in a year.) If you plan to be out more than an year, you should get a re-entry permit.


Hi Peter, thanks for doing this session! My question relates to techniques and probabilities of getting H1B visa for potential hires. We are a 5 year old profitable start-up with more than $1 million in revenue...how hard would it be for us to sponsor a potential new engineering hire for the visa process? I understand that it can cost $4k in the application and X in legal fees ($5k?) which we would be ok with.

My questions are (a) what are the actual chances of success given the lottery system process for sponsoring an employee for the H1B visa, and (b) are we limited in the # of applications?

Obviously not the OP, but the lottery is meant to be completely random, where the only thing that helps is being in the advanced degree bucket where you essentially get a chance in two lotteries.

Last year the success rate for those without advanced degrees was something like 33%.

I think you get one application per person, so you will hopefully get 1/3 of the visas you request, essentially 3Xing your costs.

The cost wouldn't be 3X, as USCIS refunds the application fees entirely if you're not picked in the lottery. However the lawyer's fees are still a cost. Source: http://www.murthy.com/2015/06/25/uscis-returning-h1b-cap-pet...

I was married to a US citizen for some years and recently got divorced over infidelity/financial issues (have proof). I have since filed an appeal as "Abandoned Spouse" which has yet to be acknowledged by USCIS so I am yet to have a new case number at all. My current work permit has run out and I have received notice to appear for Removal proceedings in Sept 2017. Is there a way to get my work permit renewed in the interim? I am yet to receive acknowledgement of receipt from USCIS about my abandoned spouse appeal

Hi Peter,

I have a question about E2 VISA's and what to do when you raise enough funding that you loose majority ownership?

The situation is company with 2 founders on E2 VISAs with majority ownership of a company, who'll most likely not be able to keep majority ownership after a series A.

Is there a good way to prepare for this and a good alternative strategy to not end up with a series A funded company where the founders can't stay in the country?

And do the E2's stop being valid once the founders loose majority ownership, or is it just impossible to renew them?

Is there a good source of information for Presidential candidates' proposed changes to immigration laws? If you were a betting man, what (if any) changes would you bet on post-election?

I would love an answer to this question! In this current election, it's unclear what candidates' positions are towards tech sector immigration.

In your experience, how necessary is it for Canadians and Mexicans applying for a TN Visa, to be accepted for Software Engineer or Computer Systems Analyst jobs without a degree in computer science or engineering? For example, I have a B.Comm degree.

I've heard it's a bit hit and miss and if you don't have a good lawyer working on your side getting through might be tough. I'm not sure if it's a different story for H1B Visas though.

Mexicans must apply for TN visas and Canadians have the option of filing TN petitions with USCIS. As a general rule both the Consulates in Mexico and USCIS are very reasonable when it comes to TN applications, so the short is yes, it definitely can work but yes (not to sound too self-serving), I would recommend using a lawyer under these circumstances.

I'm not a lawyer, but as a Canadian that does not have a degree in Comp Sci and has been looking for work in the United States since 2006, I'd like to share my experience.

In a nutshell, I've been told time and again that having a degree will help, although how much one that isn't related to your discipline may not be worth much more then the paper it's printed on. To give my experience, I've been told by multiple companies within the last year that it's basically no Comp Sci (or equivalent two year college course), no chance. Your degree in an unrelated field might help a bit, but I wouldn't put much weight in it when it comes to immigration VISA time.

So have you ever managed to get a TN or H1B Visa opportunity in the US?

Everything I hear sounds so anecdotal it's hard to get a grip on what matters. Hopefully the more applied years helps too (I have 6). Still, it sounds like getting in may be a matter of strong-arming through law/lawyers.

IANAL, but I can say that I obtained a TN Visa, and renewed it twice, for a Software Engineer job without a degree in Computer Science. I do have a BS and a MS in Civil and Aerospace Eng. respectively.

The TN status has an allowance for "engineers" without other qualifications, so your engineering degree actually is related to that class.

I am currently on F1 (Alien from India, getting my PhD in early 2016, Computer Science) and am planning to apply for either the EB-1 or NIW. I have one publication (and multiple submitted), and my work has mostly gone in supporting Department of Defense. Do you recommend EB-1 or NIW route, or perhaps something else? I do have strong letter writers both in the DoD and Academia/Industry.

As a general rule, if there is a clear national interest being served, an NIW green card is a much easier route, although EB-2 so the process is very slow for Indian nationals. Without seeing your CV it's hard to say but the EB1A is the only avenue for getting a green card now.

There was a post here a while ago about s.o. coming to the US on a tourist visa asking to do volunteer work in return for a place to stay. I'm just curious if you've ever dealt with similar cases, where people came into the country with the wrong visa, found a place to live/work, but then had to get their papers sorted out to be able to stay? Were they actually able to stay or did they have to go back and apply from outside the country (US) again?

And more of a personal anecdote than a question, but during my own immigration process I've noticed that there appear to be mostly people who are either extremely over-prepared (have all the documents filled out in advance with additional papers/proofs/documents for every single step), or they are not prepared at all. My fondest memory was a man walking into the embassy asking to immigrate right now. No papers, documents, nothing. Just walked in, went to the clerk's window and asked to immigrate today. Even the clerk was a bit dumbfounded by the demand.

Could the administration decide to lower the bar for some visas, like O-1, without the need for congress to approve it?

For instance, could the administration decide that anyone with a PhD, or even a master's degree, is eligible for a O-1 visa? If that's the case, why is the focus some much on statutory reform and not on the administration which could get results much more quickly?

No, the requirements are statutory. That being said, the weight that factors such as education are given is in the end subjective and discretionary, and the agency could take the position that certain factors, such as a PhD, should be given substantial weight.

Can you recommend some immigration resources for self-service? I am a Canadian who is seeking better work opportunities State side, with a Bachelors in Computer Science and 3 years of experience. I wonder if flying down with the intent of networking and finding companies to meet is a good and realistic way of meeting employers and lining up interviews.

I would say start looking from Canada. I did that late 2013 and by January 2014 I was in California working at a startup with TN status.

Thanks for doing this! I have a question regarding time off between jobs while on an H1B.

I've been working at a startup for 2 years that sponsored my H1B. I've just accepted an offer at a big tech company, and they are transferring the H1B in the coming weeks. In the meantime, is it OK if I take 2-4 weeks off in between the two jobs without pay?

Hi Peter, thanks SO much for doing this

- Is it ok to form a side company while on H1B?

- Is it ok for me to develop free or paid apps through my own side company (just me doing everything, without hiring anyone else)? If not, what do I need to do to not violate my status?

- What are the minimum criteria for an O visa and is that a viable solution if the side company is going really well?

All work must be authorized, so work for a side company must be work authorized, although it's possible to hold both full-time and part-time H-1Bs or O-1 or TNs with multiple companies. The criteria for O-1 classification are listed on USCIS's web site - too much to note here - but as a general rule, if a company is doing well, then it's relatively easy to get an O-1.

Hi Peter, thanks for your time.

I have job offer to work in US, reliant on immigration.

I haven't completed my bachelor's degree, and my final exams are after the April 1st 2016 deadline. I do not have more than a year of professional experience. UK citizen.

Am I right that an H1B won't be applicable? Would any other visa types fit (Other than work abroad, then L1)?

What's the current status of the OPT extension? I'm a co-founder of a startup that I started during my 12 months of OPT and its about time to apply for the extension, however I recently realized there'd been some changes to it.

Should I apply now for the extension or do I have to wait until further policies are put in place?

I am moving from a big company to startup and I have initiated my h1b visa transfer. I want to take a break between the two jobs. Is it OK to go outside US after leaving the current company and come back to start working for the startup ? Will carrying the approved h1b petition for the startup be enough to re-enter US ?

Hi Peter,

Thanks for taking two full hours to do this - I've learned a lot.

I am a US/Canadian dual citizen, my cofounder is Canadian. We're currently running our business as a Canadian corporation, but would like to set up shop in San Francisco full time over the next year or two, preferably incorporating in Delaware.

My cofounder has a BSc and has done some impressive things in her career, but the O-1 looks difficult from the outside. We're in a position to raise ~1M of funding from US investors over the next 6m - would that make her eligible for an E-2? The L-1 looks like a reasonable fallback if we can get nothing else setup over the next year, but we've been told not reincorporating as a Delaware corp will make fundraising more difficult.

Is there an obvious standout option here? Are there any that I'm missing?


I'm not a lawyer, but have gone through the E2 visa process. A few things:

- The money brought into the US must(?) be your own personal money that you invest into the company, ie no debt or investments from other people into the corporation.

- Your co-founder will have to own 51% or more of the company

- The money invested should be roughly half spent before applying for the visa.

Without knowing more, it appears that the O-1 and the TN might be very good options.

Does the TN visa limit the holder from participating as an owner of the company where the holder is employed?

Hi Peter, thanks for doing this. I've been applying to YC for the past 4 years and never gotten an interview, I'm starting to suspect it's because of my background (hence they never reply to you with the reason of rejection). I'm born in Canada, meaning I'm Canadian, but I never managed to finish my college CompSci Degree so I'm not eligible for a TN-1 visa. However I do have around 6 years of professional web dev experience, founded a couple of startups, raised money and exited. I am 23 now. Any tips?

This might also help, but I did not finish my degree because I was kicked out of college: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5090007

Of course. You might still qualify for a TN without a degree under non-engineering occupations. I'd need to know more about your education and work experience, however.

FWIW, I'm also a Canadian who didn't complete his bachelor and managed to get a TN visa (Systems Analyst).

Is it possible to transition from an E-3 to a green card directly?

I had a person at the US consulate remark on the fact that I was applying for a third E-3 visa with the comment "you can't keep doing this indefinitely", I didn't challenge him, but this by understanding was quite the opposite, that there was no limit on E-3 visas issues; can you provide any insight into this?

If I obtain a green card by marriage, but then split up before the 2 year deadline, does that have negative repercussions on your ability to get employment-related visas? I've already been dating my girlfriend for 2 years and we've been living together for most of that, so it's something that comes up as a reason to get married, but I'm not sure if it's a good idea.

I received counsel that I needed to transfer from an E-3 to a H-1B before I could apply for a green card. That is what I did, and I now have a green card.

I also found that E-3s are sufficiently rare, I got conflicting comments from border agents, consular officials etc. Most had never heard of it, or applied understanding they had from other similar visas. (Admittedly, I first obtained mine the first year that category was created.)

Yeah, I recieved similar counsel, but I didn't get through the H-1B lottery last year, so I'm wondering if there are other ways.

I believe the answer is No. The E-3 Visa states you have an intention to return back to Australia. So you need to move to a Visa like H1B which opens the door to a GC.

What are the top 3 things required to make a strong case to get EB1 for startup founders on H4 EAD?

That's a tough question because USCIS really looks at the totality of the evidence but (not surprisingly) awards, press, and original contributions/patents are important (although not necessarily required).

How does a startup know if what they are doing is breaking the law or not? Usually ideas are cool until they realized that there might be legal issues that aren't intuitive enough or straight forward to those who does not have a law background.

I'm graduating senior(F1 visa) in this December. I'm waiting for my OPT card. Can I work in between that? Once I get my OPT can I apply for H1B on year 2016 or will I have to complete H1B? What other legal things I need to be aware of?

You can't start working until you have your OPT work card in hand. There are circumstances where someone who hasn't yet graduated can be sponsored in the H-1B lottery, but this essentially requires the student to have completed all requirements for the degree by the time of filing (in April).


H1B, L1, O1, etc. are all non-immigrant visa. You must be able to show non-immigration intent. (Except for O-1 which allows dual-intent.)

Edit: I may be wrong about this. IANAL.

Can O1 holders apply for a GC or do they need to move to an EB1 before applying for a GC?

The EB-1 is a the immigration petition that gets you the green card. Getting approved for the EB-1 is how you get that green card. The green card is a two-step process: first, you apply for an I-140; this is the EB-1. Second, if approved, you can apply for an "adjustment of status," which is the green card. That one is mostly a bureaucratic process, but you're pretty much guaranteed to get it.

Thanks for clarifying :)

P.S. I'd love to get in touch with you regarding Freshpay.

Email me! :)

Canadian starting a startup in the US:

I haven't launched my startup yet, and I reside in Canada. I've never been employed in the US.

I'd like my startup's HQ to be based in the US. What's the best way for a Canadian to set up base and launch in the US?

I think it'd be awesome if somebody with actual clue, and without the primary intent of getting new clients, would start collecting information about the US visa situation at some permanent location.

Looking for information about US Visas on your own right now is made very hard by all the immigration lawyer's homepages. Those mostly seem to contain copied and low quality content. Often with conflicting or outdated information.

Given the obvious desire, by US companies, of hiring non-residents, it seems that there'd be a rather big collective interest in providing quality information.

Hi Peter,

I have a very specific question I think will apply to many people here. Me and a buddy who is from another country are building a product. We will soon be done with the product and we are thinking about registering the company here in the USA just because it is very easy to get funding here. The company will be a registered in both of our names, (even though he is a foreign national, I am flat-out assuming this is possible). Eventually, if the company does well we would want to stand up an office here. At that point, what are his options to get to USA ?

This will depend on a number of factors including the nationality of the company and your friend, and the amount and source of any investment, but the options that we typically look at (aside from country-specific options) are the E-1, E-2, L-1, and O-1.

Great topic.. just out of curiosity.. Has YC directly sponsored any H1B visas (if not for founders but people who actually work for YC)? I tried the usual h1b websites and couldn't find anything...

Can I sell my own software as a H1B worker? E.g. my own apps in App Store?

Another excellent question. Any compensation for services rendered - for productive work - must be specifically work authorized, so as a general rule selling a product created by you - whether it's an application or a widget - requires work authorization.

How about a H1b holder participates in a hackathon with cash prizes and wins. Can he claim the money ?

With the new laws re: H4 EAD, can I use my spouse's EAD to sell apps instead?

What if it's an app that I purchased from websites like flippa.com? If the app has continuing revenue, will it be treated as an investment rather than productive work?

Let's say you're working toward getting an O-1A, and you fulfill the three categories out of eight, how broad can you make the scope of work that you can do? (since the category includes sciences, education, business, or athletics)

For example, if you are not set on one career, and have pursued 3-4, and you get the O1 for one career (where you can show extraordinary proof), can you still do work in other areas? In other words, how broad can you define the O1 so that you could do almost any type of work as you could do with a greencard.

How do you feel about companies and law firms gaming job postings to disqualify qualified workers in the US so they can hire a candidate on a visa for much less? Employers are posting jobs that don’t really exist, seeking candidates they don’t want, and paying for bogus non-ads to show there’s an IT labor shortage in America. Here is the law firm Cohen & Grigsby advising other employers in running classified ads with the goal of NOT finding any qualified applicants, and the steps they go through to disqualify even the most qualified Americans in order to secure green cards for H-1b workers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCbFEgFajGU Do you consider this abuse or fraudulent? Also, how much of your firm's work is done by paralegals using templates and boiler plate support letters?

I'm sure Peter would have interesting things to say about these issues (though he has left the thread at this point), but I doubt that it would be a good use of his time to delve into political controversies when so many founders and employees have specific questions in this thread.

Also, a matter of community etiquette: we don't invite people here to be cross-examined, which is what your questions sound like.

Is it possible to start a company on a B1/B2 Visa? This would an extension of my startup in India. Is any investment required? We're bootstrapped and yet to launch our product.

Would you recommend a Canadian wishing to work (remote, from Canada) for a US employer to get a TN visa. The work may require short (2-3 days) onsite visits several times a year.

Hi Peter! Thanks for doing this AMA.

I had a question about H1Bs. My F1 OPT expired Feb 2015 and I had a grace period of 180 days to apply for STEM extension. But in the meanwhile (April 2015), I heard that my H1B got picked in the lottery. So I googled it and read someplace that I wouldn't have to worry about the OPT STEM extension anymore, so I didn't go forward with my STEM extension application.

Is this something I have to be worried about going into my visa interview in my home country?

What are the odds of getting an O1 visa in a very small niche. I'm legitimately one of the top experts in the field of LSAT preparation. I've published several books, run a popular website, moderate a major forum, and have written guest articles for most major sites about the LSAT.

However, it's a small field, and not one that attracts much press coverage. How does this balance out?

I run my own business. All online, mostly US customers, soon will be a Canadian corporation.

I'm not proberts, or an attorney, but, as an O-1 recipient: The requirement is being at the "top of one's field" and proved through publications etc. I'd say you have a better shot as a big fish in a small pond (expert of small niche) than you would as a small fish in a big pond.

Is getting a visa to work at a U.S at startup something unique to the YC program? I am/was under the impression that the company had to be accredited to be able to employ foreign nationals.

Is there any advise you can give for a current undergrad (for me personally citizen of NZ and UK if that matters) to improve the odds of being able to accept a job or PHD study in the US (on the visa side of things), both at application time and now til then (~2 years away).

The 17-month OPT extension has recently been terminated by a court. What are the chances that a new rule will be implemented regarding the OPT extension?

My understanding is that it is very likely that the OPT STEM extension will be reinstated.

How does H1B and remote work? Say, can I work in Nashville remotely from home for a company in San Francisco and have a valid case for getting H1B?


L1 related. What should I do if I want to go work for a different company but am currently on an L1-A visa (been here in the USA for 3 years).

You would need to switch to another status such as an O-1 or an H-1B (if you're not from a country with other visa options).

Hi Peter. I'm currently preparing for O1 visa. I'm on B1/B2 visa now and planning to extend 2 months so I can stay total 8months while I prepare for O1 visa. My question is if I ever get denied for extending B1/B2, can I have any disadvantages when I apply for O1 visa? I met a person who told me this but I'm not sure whether this is true.

If you're here working on a B1/B2 visa, you're already breaking the law.

Critics have charged that H visa guest worker programs are subsidies to the already rich holders of enough capital to influence inside the beltway politics. They say that the program is designed to keep wages down and facilitates outsourcing. Are the current laws also a subsidy to the legal industry who get to charge for an overly complicated process?

I think that that's a fair criticism of every benefit that the government offers that requires legal assistance to obtain, whether an immigration benefit or not.

What is the usual or best process followed by Canadian citizens who get into YC and then relocate from Canada to Silicon Valley?

If I were to take a year off school right now, can I still get a J1 for an internship this summer?

Also just wanted to say thanks for doing this.

It's possible, yes, but have this conversation with a J-1 sponsor since the J-1 sponsors make this determination.

Hi Peter, thanks for doing this.

How would you recommend an H1B holder go about transitioning to founding/working for their own startup?

There are lots of visa options dependent on a variety of factors such as country of citizenship, amount and source of funding, ownership structure. But often there is a solution.

I'm curious about gambling while on a work visa. It seems obvious that spending your vacation in Vegas is acceptable, but what if I think I'm good enough to become a professional poker player and decide to pursue that part-time while working full-time. At what point (if at all) does it become an immigration issue?

What is the best way to transition from a J1 visa (visiting researcher) to a visa allowing to work one's startup?

The new startup I joined is filing a new H1B instead of transferring (because it took so long to transfer due to company's registration progress). Previously, I was filed H1B two times (2011 and 2014). Is third time possible ? Especially now, since visa regulations are getting strict for security reasons.

What process would you recommend for a startup looking to relocate software developers immediately from the UK to the US?

The H1B process officially kicks off in April, so am interested to hear about types of contractual agreements that might allow employment from now for the next twelve months whilst processing is underway.

What's best way to move to US and not work for anyone and not invest much money? O-2? I work in infosecurity

Hi Peter,

I'm a Canadian and I had an H-1B several years ago. I used about 2.5 years of it and left US in summer 2011 before using up the full 3 years.

Am I eligible to come back on H-1B without lottery by claiming the remainder time? I read something about this online saying that I can come back on H-1B before 6 years past the date I left US?


I was in similar situation. I think your new petition will not count against the quota if you were holding H1 within last 6 years.

That's right. You have the option of not being counted against the cap.

Peter a basic question about the L1 visa. If you are the owner and manager of an established foreign business can you apply for an L1 to establish the USA branch? Does the USA branch need to be established for some length of time? Does being the owner of the foreign business cause problems?

Hi Peter,

My wife and I are Canadians working in California on TN visas. I'm at a small startup that doesn't sponsor H1-B but I might start my own business in the future. Should I look switching to a larger company in order to get H1-B so I have the freedom start my company?

Thanks for doing this AMA.

Hi Peter,

I want to know how can a founder and a co-founder who are on F-1 and F-2 Visa respectively start a company. What are the requirements for the company to sponsor their own Visas at a later date if and when required? Do investors have a bias against investing in such companies.

Regards, Kris

kur158@psu.edu +1(814)321-7651

Can you complete an H-1B transfer (moving from one job to another) while outside the US (traveling for 2 weeks), so that upon your return you can join the next employer? Or do you have to physically be in the US while the request by the new employer is filed and accepted?

Are there options for a foreign national to move from an E-2 visa (treaty investor) to permanent resident status? I've heard that it wasn't possible previously but now may be, making the E-2 a possible "startup visa" for many.

And thank you for doing this!

I'm currently under OPT visa until next August. How would getting a resident visa work after incorporating the company in my home country work? (the company has already been incorporated in United States under the other co-founder). Thank you!

Can you share some advice on how to build a prototype / proof of concept while working as an employee? I have read this is not an issue in places like California as long as you do not use company resources. But what about states like New York?

In these days, how long does it take for a H1b holding engineer from a "rest of the world" country to get green card via EB2(or EB3 if faster) from the day the current company starts the progress?

Also at what stage he/she can change the job?

H1b visa is completely independent from your GC application. Your employer has to apply for your green card.

According to latest visa bulletin (Jan 2016) EB2-ROW is current and EB3-Row is 01 OCT15. It takes approx a 12-18 months to get your labor/i-140 to be approved.

Hi Peter, thank you so much for doing this!

I'm a student on F-1 visa. Am I allowed to form an LLC and sell products / offer services, while revenue from said products or services will be kept in the company bank account, without me pulling a salary?

Thank you!

I'm told that it's easier for musicians/artists to get O-1 visas than for software engineers. Are software engineers disadvantaged from getting the O-1, simply because the visa wasn't designed for software talent?

I am from Peru and I have a software engineer degree, I'm currently taking a Dev Bootcamp in San Francisco and will look a job here after that. I am currently with my Tourist visa. What are my real chances to get a H1B visa?

As a competent and above average software engineer from Morocco, not holding a university degree, what are my options for a work visa in the US, assuming I get a job in a company willing to put every possible effort into this?

I'm not a lawyer, but as someone that is in a similar boat degree wise, my experience has been that the chances are next to none, and have been told more then once in the last few years that any sort of related degree will help get over the hump that is immigration over just having experience.

Source: Fellow non-university professional, looking for work in the US off and on since 2006, with no luck.

Hi, right now I'm processing my perm, in particular, the PERM application was sent to the DOL last September. I would like to know if there is any problem if I change jobs now. Will this cause delays in the process?

Thank you


Is it possible to do YC, if the founders are initially registered as 'tourists'?

Initial admission as a B-2/WT tourist allows the individual also to engage in B-1/WB business visitor activities, such as participating in a program like YC, but the facts here do matter, such as what was represented by the person when he or she initially was admitted.

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