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How did non US citizen founders funded by YC get allowed to work in the US?
123 points by faikr on Aug 27, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 109 comments
Hi, first time posting here.

I've been thinking about applying to YC but the thing is that I am not a US citizen. I know I can travel to the US to do busines (attending meetings and such) done so fo my current employer. But how about starting a company and writing code?

I've read somewhere that YC has funded startups with non US citizen founders so it should be possible somehow. If there are any YC funded startups founded by non US citizens reading this (or anyone else that knows anything about this), how did you do it?

Note that I do not have a green card or visa or anything like that.


I have been on 6 different visas, over 15 years, I have quite a bit of experience in the matter.

1. 90% of the answers in this thread are bad advice. Some of it really bad. A lot of it just misleading, bogus or exaggerated (on HN, it's bad form to criticize others, but when it comes to life-altering advice such as here, I can't let it stand).

2. It's too complicated to explain in a paragraph. It depends on too many factors.

3. The best lawyer site I have ever seen is http://usvisanews.com. Read this weekly for 6 months, then you'll start having an idea of how it works

A few facts:

a. anybody can incorporate a US corporation. You don't even have to set foot in the US, by the way, to do so.

b. the main issue is living in the US while having some kind of activity for a company. It's usually defined as work, and that's when you must be very careful and have the right status.

Yup, agreed with Alain that there's so much legally correct, but also legally wrong statements on this thread. This immigration question depends on like a million factors. To name a few,

* which country you are a citizen of makes a HUGE difference - every country has a different relationship with the US. Some citizens walk in and out freely and do almost anything they want, while others can't even get their foot in the door

* what stage/maturity of your startup is in. If you're already proving that you have profits, can hire US citizens, have raised $, you're going to look a lot better than having nothing but an idea (again, just a broad generalization)

* Immigration fraud is a HUGE no-no. If you get caught, they might not ever let you in again. Ever. Depending on severity

* A million other tactics. I'm not a lawyer. But I know this is a question that needs an answer that is more than just cookie-cutter advice (if you're serious about your intentions). Talk to a lawyer. Many lawyers.

Yes, it sucks and all this is very anti- to the idea that America is the land of opportunity :( Good luck and wish you guys all the best. Do share what worked and what didn't with your fellow immigrant entrepreneurs

"which country you are a citizen of makes a HUGE difference"

While it makes a big difference in getting into the US (legally) and acquiring whatever visa you need, it makes no difference whatsoever with regards to requirements to work legally within US. You have to have legal authorization to work in the US (i.e. either being a citizen, permanent resident or a temporary resident) regardless of your citizenship.

I just want to second what alain is saying here. I'm a foreign national working in US on a visa and I've spent a ton of time and money on immigration law.

There is some outright CRAP advice in this thread that I know for a fact is BS. Even if you are doing something that is unlikely to get caught at the time, if you ever apply for a green card they will investigate the entire history of your activity in the US and this is when problems can occur. (problems will result in almost certain deportation and being barred from entering US again)

I have also heard of a VC/investor passing information to the DHS about a startup founder who pitched him who was working illegally - think about that for a moment. (I've got nothing against him, the investor was totally in his right to do so - plus no one is going to fund a company that has founders working outside the law anyway).

PLEASE get legal advice, and from someone who you know has already helped startup founders. Many lawyers don't understand the landscape we are in.

...a VC/investor passing information to the DHS about a startup founder who pitched him who was working illegally... ...was totally in his right to do so...


From the limited details provided, that sounds highly unethical, unless the founder was endangering others by his presence.

A frank discussion with potential investors has to include legal risks, including transgressions-so-far that could, if uncorrectable, cause problems. If the investor takes it upon themselves to report people pitching to immigration (or tax or copyright or employment) authorities, then necessary conversations can't happen.

It'd be like pitching an investor and then having them say: "I like what you're doing, and in fact have some investments in a related space. But it sounds like you might not be paying everyone proper overtime, and some of your contractors should probably be reclassified as employees. I've informed my friends at the IRS and EDD. Have a nice day!"

It'd be like pitching an investor and then having them say: "I like what you're doing ... But it sounds like you might not be paying everyone proper overtime, and some of your contractors should probably be reclassified as employees."

For a start, it's nothing like that and I think you're being a bit extreme with your counter example. Your example includes 'probably', ie subjective information on the part of the VC. I my original example it's likely that the founder out-right admitted his out-of-status.

I don't know the back-story and I only heard it as secondary info (ie not from either party involved) but knowing the SEC and other regulations VCs are under they may well be legally bound to report this and other information.

A closer to home example: I know my CPA is legally bound to inform the IRS and DHS of any issues with my immigration status, insider trading on my investments and any tax irregularities.

To that end, keep in mind it is also hard to pay tax on income if you are working illegally and not get found out. And if you don't pay tax...

Except in limited circumstances, there is no legal duty for citizens to report crimes or otherwise be enlisted as law enforcement agents. Several dozen US cities are 'sanctuary cities' with official policies against verifying immigration status or assisting with the enforcement of immigration laws.

CPAs may be required to report money-laundering or outright tax-evasion, but I've never heard of them being required to report 'issues with immigration status' or something as minor as 'irregularities'. I'd need an authoritative citation to believe you on that.

I sincerely hope that he doesn't follow any advice in this thread except for getting a lawyer because if he willy nilly applies for stupid things he is not likely to succeed in getting (Just apply for a GC? Come on what dream world are some HN'ers living in?) it will severely complicate any future correct application.

> I have been on 6 different visas, over 15 years, I have quite a bit of experience in the matter. > It's too complicated to explain in a paragraph. It depends on too many factors.

A similar number of visa types over similar number of years and I would go a step further and say that there is no formal solution to your problem. The US immigration system can't handle YC type rhythm and structures.

You'll have to assume you have two operations to run - your startup and your status. You'll have to get knowledgeable and creative in both. Also, as you will work under the assumption that your start-up may fail, you should also work under the assumption that your status will fail and you will have to go back to your home country. Succeeding in both operations is possible, but very hard. Me think the immigration operation is harder....

Good luck.

I would like to focus on the first 89 days (if I make it to YC 2011 winter). I don't mind running a "status" operation during those initial three months.

I can also live with the possibility that I will have to run my company from The Netherlands for a while (months, years, forever) after that.

What I can't live with is the chance of accidentally messing with immigration law during those three months.

The big question then is: does Y combinator fall under the restrictions of the Visa Waiver Program?

I've heard people claim the whole Y-Combinator program can be seen as "seeking investment", but there's also a coding aspect to it.

My plan would be to work as a single founder, doing part of the work myself and hiring others outside the USA through Elance.

I should mention that the Visa Waiver Program seems to me the only possible option for those first three months, because there is only 1 month between being accepted into the program and moving to Silicon Valley. Other visa options seem to have total processing times in the order of months or worse and no guarantees.

So if it can't be legally done under that program, it can't be legally done period, as far as I understand.

Also, let's imagine this scenario: 1 - I get accepted into the program 2 - I book a ticket and fly to the USA 3 - I explain the immigration officer in detail what my plan is (I know, they might not even let me) 4 - The immigration officer is "convinced" and lets me into the country* 5 - a while (or even a decade) later it turns out to be illegal.

Does that make me liable even though the immigration official made a mistake in approving my visit? Can I even record the conversation for legal purposes? My guess is that immigrant/visitor rights are fairly minimal...

* = in my deal with Y-Combinator I would have to account for the possibility of being denied access; either by reversing the investment or by making do with virtual presence.

I suspect that while the non-US teams are at YC, some of them are technically 'tourists' (i.e just on holiday). They don't need a visa to enter the country so it's a case of hear-no-evil, see-no-evil.

If they decide to stay in the US after YC, then they have to deal with the nightmare of immigration and get themselves proper work permits.

For those who need a tourist visa to even enter the US, I have no idea.

"Seeking investment" is a valid reason to enter the US from visa waiver countries. My (German) co-founder used that when entering for YC and had no problems. It's also a perfectly reasonable simplification of what happens at YC.

It's perfectly legal to enter the U.S. for business reasons, including meetings, conferences or even to raise funding. You're not allowed to become employed by a U.S. corporation, but you can certainly consult for them and do on-site work. I'm a Brit, and I've done all of the above several times under the VWP without border control even batting an eyelid.

I am an Indian on H1B Visa, possibly the worst country to be from relative to the US Immigration System.

An immigration lawyer told me that I can register a company but I cannot work for it. But later when I find U.S investors who will own equity in my company I can ask them to sponsor the transfer of my H1B Visa to my own company.

This doesn't make me thrilled, but hey - it is something. Sitting on my hands is killing me, so I am moonlighting in the hopes that the lawyer is right, and that I can find investment using only my moonlighting efforts.

If anyone knows better please let me know.

talk to a different lawyer. Try these dudes:

Leon Hazany 310-500-5052 leon@hazanylaw.com

Robert Goodman 914-935-0015 rig@rigoodmanlaw.com http://www.rigoodmanlaw.com/

Leon is based in LA and was very helpful when i spoke w him about my co-founder. Robert is based in NYC and was particularly knowledgeable about tech and immigration.

also, fyi, ALWAYS TALK TO MULTIPLE LAWYERS, especially when one does not give you a satisfactory response. Immigration is complex and many are bleeding heart save-the-poor types who do not understand the biz/startup side of the equation at all.

Every lawyer will give you 30-60min of their time on the phone for free. Multiply that by the number of lawyers in the world and you can get A LOT of legal advice for free.

Good luck!

Thank you MediaSquirrel. I sure will talk to other lawyers. But based on your talks you find the above scenario not feasible?

I've also talked to some immigration lawyers, and that seems to be the only route that can get you 6 years in the u.s. The other route maybe graduate from a u.s university and use your 29-month opt period (you do have to extended it) to work for you own u.s registered company. Since opt authorization is done by the school you graduate from, it should be much easier to do than issuing an h1b for yourself.

Just my 2 cents,

I have a slightly different question: considering I have no interest in emigrating to the States, what if my hypothetical startup gets funded by YC or any other american early stage venture firm?

Would I be able to incorporate in US and pay taxes accordingly? Can I keep working from my home country? What are the real, tangible advantages of running your team in US, other then the favorable startup environment you can get in places such as the Valley/SF? Are investors much less inclined to funding foreign teams, does it makes it more troublesome?

Sorry for the loads of questions, but sometimes I fail at understanding why so many people think is a must to go to the states to get a startup off the ground.

And thanks to anyone who will take the time to answer.

This probably becomes off-topic to this OP, but the whole point of YC is the resources and network you get accepted into. And you need to be here for that.

Also, if the idea is to obtain funding during/after the YC program you will find that VCs will rarely invest in distant companies.

If you don't want to be here for that, even for the duration of the program, (and really, with the aim of moving here) then YC is probably not for you - but perhaps there is a similar program locally to you?

(NB: I'm not connected with, nor work for, YC)

Adioso (YC W09), originally Australian, "re-incorporated" in the US.


This doesn't allow us to work in the US. We still don't have working visas, and we spend most of our time back in Australia, coming and going from the US on Visa Waiver for meetings etc.

Hey Tom, too long between nights out on Russian Hill :) I can't remember if we talked about it, but you should look at the E3 visa - no cost for the company, and relatively straightforward process at the US Consulate in Sydney. The main gotchas are that you need to show either education or equivalent experience in a specialised field related to the position you list for, get a Condition of Labour Application completed, and be paid the going market rate for the position. It's a special visa for Australians under the US-AUS free trade agreement, and the number of people who apply each year is way under the quote. I was told the Melbourne Consulate isn't so straightforward, so do through Sydney. In the interview they were ok with us basically taking an australian company and expanding it to the US so long as you are upfront about what you're doing. If you can find a US board member and have US shareholders then that seems to count in the interview.

I was planning to work for a company in the USA via Faculty (Java & Database stuff), for 4 months - during the summer, and as I was reading, the applicant gets a J-1 visa (or it was J-2, I can't recall now), but I got another offer so I didn't go.

My point is, J-1 & J-2 are visas for students, teachers, business trainees, certain specialists, and more... If YC wants you, maybe you're eligible for this kind of visa.

I've also been interested in how they get around this.

Technically on a business tourist visa (forgotten what it is called, but if you are from the right country you just tick a box on your way in) I think you are allowed to attend meetings and tradeshows. From an IT perspective I am pretty sure you are able to do analysis if the aim is then go back to your home country and do development. But I cannot see how a startup can go there and actively start a business (although I guess you could argue it is similar to sitting around a pool on holiday checking a blackberry - big argument, but there is a case there - it isn't like you are an employee of anyone there).

Entering the US is always a bit painful, but I think when you come from a country that they don't have a major overstayer problem with then you are probably OK.

I'd be interested in how people from countries that don't qualify for visa waiver get on.

its called b1/b2 and even if you are from country that qualify for waiver you should get it. it gives you 6m+6m instead of 3month and more.

I hope you will get some good answers. Just a short note: Please do not include HTML-tags in your posts. Thanks!

Sorry for that. Don't know where those html-tags came from.

You should still be able to edit your submission and remove them. For paragraph breaks, just insert a blank line.

I lived in the US for 7 years, did both degrees there and worked in between.

Thoroughly familiar with the immigration system.

The short answer is, without making a 'large' investment (i.e. $500K min) + showing that you can provide at least 10 jobs in 2 years - you have a steep climb to be able to stay in the US.

That being said, anyone can register a company - from any country. You can have the company in the US, register a bank account, get a tax ID, pay taxes, etc....but unless you are doing a certain amount of business and creating at least 10 jobs, you can't actually live here.

People will say you can register a company on a student visa (F1), that's BS. Don't do it. You might not get caught immediately, but it violates the intent of the student visa - which is a 'non-immigrant student visa'. i.e. you have no intention of staying in the US. You are just there to work.

The same applies to H1-B, and other work visas. All of those visas are non-immigrant visas, which means you don't intend to migrate to the US permanently.

Some people have successfully started a company on F1, but if you ever get audited by the US Immigration service, there is a very high probability that you will get deported.

All of that being said, don't worry about it. You can travel to the US on a visitors visa, or a business visa, for a few months (for e.g. to participate in YC), and then go home - while still having your company operating in the US. Once you are big enough, if you sell to a large company, like Facebook or Google or something, they can do an internal transfer (I believe it is a J-visa).

Also, there are paths to a green card (family, marriage, or investment) that given your situation the best would probably be investment once your company grows enough for you to open an office in the US.

All of that being said, make sure to see an immigration attorney and get good advice. But more importantly, read the various requirements for yourself - from the links others have posted here.

Some attorneys might tell you they can get you a green card through an F1 or H1-B....make sure you know your stuff, and be suspicious.

I have many friends that have told me that they have spoken to attorneys that assure them they can start a company on an F1 visa. I have spent hundreds of dollars and visited at least 4 different attorneys (including a past immigration judge) and they all tell me the same thing. By doing that, you violate the intent of the law.

About starting a business on F1: you can do it if you're on OPT and got your EAD card. Being self-employed is noted as one way to keep your status as an F1 with OPT (as 90 days unemployment means you're out of status), besides getting a job or volunteering. I'm doing that now myself, after talking to my international student advisors and a couple lawyers.

Thing is, the business MUST be in a field related to what you studied on your F1 visa, which is severely limiting.

As for the green card, DO NOT apply for it during your F1, as that's a non-immigrant single-intent visa. Your purpose is to study and leave. However, the H1-B has a well-established route to a green card (after you work for 6 years or something), as it is a dual-intent visa. I'm not sure about particulars, but I know many go through this route successfully. No reason to be suspicious about this if a lawyer mentions it.

That's definitely wrong.

I can guarantee you, if the USCIS finds that you have registered a company on your F1, they will likely cancel your visa.



F-1 students may not work off-campus during the first academic year, but may accept on-campus employment subject to certain conditions and restrictions. There are various programs available for F-1 students to seek off-campus employment, after the first academic year. F-1 students may engage in three types of off-campus employment, after they have studying for one academic year.

These three types of employment are:

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) Optional Practical Training (OPT) (pre-completion or post-completion) Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Optional Practical Training Extension (OPT)

Optional Practical Training is for you to get a job in your field. That's it. Not start a company.

Edit: Ok...I take that back. You can't do it, if you want to stay in the good graces of USCIS and stay in the US. If you don't mind being deported...then you most definitely can. Nothing is stopping you - once you have an SSN.

Wrong. Read the OPT Policy Guidance, section 7.2.1:

All OPT employment, including post-completion OPT, must be in a job that is related to the student’s degree program. For students who are not on a 17-month extension, this employment may include: (...) Self-employed business owner. A student on OPT may start a business and be self-employed. The student must be able to prove that he or she has the proper business licenses and is actively engaged in a business related to the student’s degree program.

What about the EB-5 visa? (The Entrepreneur's Visa)

The specifics of the visa are: 1. Each year 10,000 entrepreneurs allowed into the US. 2. The entrepreneur has to attract investment of 1 million. 3. In which after he attains this, he is granted with a 2 year period of 'probation'. 4. In these 2 years, he has to create at least 10 full time American jobs and make a revenue or attract an additional 1 million dollars. 5. If this is achieved, he will be granted a green card. If not, he has to go back.

So my questions are:

A. I know it seems impossible, but how many foreign entrepreneurs actually can achieve this? Are there numbers of how many get this type of visa each year?

B. When is the EB-6 visa coming out? (Same visa but only with 1/2 requirements)

For more info go to: http://startupvisa.com/

If you enter the US on a B2 business visitor visa, after being in the country for 60 days you can petition in writing for an Adjustment of Status to change your visa to another type. You can remain in the US under the terms of the B2 until you get a reply to your petition, even if it is after the 90 day expiration of the B2.

Note that the above is true for canadians. Ymmv for other nationalities.

I don't think this is correct. NEVER stay in the US longer than the duration of your visa on your i94 under ANY circumstances. Even if it's day 89 and the airport is closed for bad weather you must drive to the border (or whatever) to leave otherwise next time you come back into the country it will be picked up and you can get deported + bared from entering US.

PLEASE get legal advice if this is your situation.

(source: I'm a foreign national working in US on a visa, having spent a lot of time + money with my visa lawyer on this issue. I also have a startup investor friend who went over his visa duration and is barred from entering the US again.)

If you overstay your visa, then you're absolutely right, you're in for a world of trouble.

However, ONCE you have entered the US on a B2, you can file an I-539 to permit you to extend your stay and apply to change your status to another class of visa.

As it happens, this is precisely the process I've gone through to go from B2 -> TN-1.

That said: Ben's right that you should seek legal counsel from an immigration attorney on all things related to the visa process.

So I have a TN (as it happens). If you are looking to get a TN as a Canadian citizen (rather than Mexican, different rules apply for them) you can actually apply for a TN at any airport (not just via Canada). This is a little known fact.

The advice given to me was just to take a trip somewhere and come back into the country to get the TN rather than apply for an AoS with the DHS (which can take ages to process - they are not really incentivized to process it with a short turnover).

I got my most recent TN at SFO in secondary checking, it was trivial (assuming you qualify + your paperwork is in order, etc).

Surprised nobody has mentioned the O-1 visa for "aliens of extraordinary ability":


AFAIK, a couple of non-US citizens have gotten them to work in the US on YC (the Auctomatic guys). I know DHH was on one to work for 37S.

non residents can open company in most if not all states. once entity is created - anyone can fund it. you just can't be hired by this company and be US resident in the same time. But you can be on US territory to sign contracts, or you can work for company while being out of US land.

but after going through work visa i can say it's doable, but really complex if you are not from "good" country, like canada, australia, etc. =)

This site has some info http://startupvisa.com/about/

"We hope to have one or both of these bills formally presented to Congress sometime later this year."

So in another 15 years, there will be subsidies for startups that grow corn?

apply for a hsmp visa in UK or canadian permanent residence.

Most of the advice in this thread - except for the first two - alain and tololRon - is very very dangerous - it'll get you barred from US forever if you try some of the stunts recommended.

Does YC consider funding an idea for a startup with non-US resident founders?

It says so on their faq page which is why I have applied :)

So thus we have a good reason to have more women founders - immigrant hacker-startup guys are usually male. Thus, they can just marry their US-citizen startup cofounders.

Or we all push for marriage equality so that LGBT folks can marry too, with full federal recognition including immigration status for the other partner.

I am not YC founder, so i dont know how YC do that. But technically everyone can come to US, register a company and work for it. Its YOUR company, so no prob here.

Although you might need to come back to your country every 6 months or so.

Edit: Surprised to see so many comments and and downvotes from "experts" for that. Get business/tourist (b1/b2). You are not working you are considering investing in US- one of the simples rules to remember when crossing border- and there are many others.

Everyone can register a company? But you still need a special VISA to work. That's remarkable.

This is tricky. Depends how you define work ;)

No, it depends on how USCIS and DoL define work.

Do they accept Mastercard?

I think you'd see a lot more upvotes if you gave an explicit description of how "everyone can come to US, register a company and work for it", instead of making this empty (and to the best knowledge of most people that had to deal with the US immigration, incorrect) statement.

There is a visa (It's one of the E visas) for people bringing capital into the states but you it's not a trivial amount and you need to prove that you will employ a certain number of Americans.

Info on the E1 (trader) and E2 (investor) on the US Embassy in Mexico http://www.usembassy-mexico.gov/eng/evisas_E.html

Highlights for the investor visa: - The investor must be coming to the United States solely to develop and direct the enterprise - The investment must be substantial. It must be sufficient to ensure the successful operation of the enterprise - must have the capacity to generate significantly more income than just enough to provide a living to the investor and his or her family, or it must have a significant economic impact in the United States

I'm not sure if a YC funded founder would be elegible, but seems hard

I've been running my own business in the US on an E-2 visa for the last 12 years. The minimum recommended initial investment is of the order of $100,000 - and a majority the E-2 company must be owned by citizens of the non-US 'treaty country'.

Rough guide to application : 0.5-1.0 inch thick.

You have to bring $100,000 of your own personal money into the company (so investment from 3rd party doesn't count).

You also have to maintain control of your company, ie you can never give away more than 50% of the equity in the company - and that will be prohibitive when seeking investment.

The company is thus limited in it's ability to fundraise above a certain point and an exit is impossible without the founder leaving the country.

Forget about E*. Get simple b1/b2 - everyone qualify or L1-bit more complex but possible

Australians should take special interest in the E3 visa:


I can imagine that incorporating a company in the US and then having that company sponsor you would be a valid use of the E3. Once the company has an LCA to prove a US resident can't do your job (requires some hoop jumping and waiting around), it's super easy to get the E3. For a really young/small company you'd probably need to go to some effort to prove that the company isn't simply a vehicle to get the visa for a foreigner.

I had an E3 and left of my own volition without applying for an extension. I tend to get a couple of minutes of extra questioning when going in to/transiting the US now, based on their assumption that I obviously want to return to live/work there, having experienced their awesomeness in the past. I know another person in exactly the same situation.

(edit: changed LMO -> LCA. I was confusing Canadian and US terminology)

From what I understand, you can't self-sponsor your visa as a single founder.

eg. You would still need a US co-founder. E1 or E2 may be a better visa to use if you don't have a co-founder.

Really? It's sound like this would make it possible to work every job, by sub-contracting to your `company'.

1) not all companies need subcontracting. some need direct hire on various reasons (like taxing)

2) schema should have another overseas layer

No, he's partially right but the `company` needs to be big and needs to employ US citizens I think.

Tourist visas are 3 months, and are for tourism, not for working for your company.

I do think that it's possible to register a company, but don't know how that works out for non-US people.

no b1/b2 is for 6 m and can be extended for another 6. visa waiver is for 3m (its EU can come without any visa)

this is incorrect information. There are lots of countries in EU that still require visa.

EU is trying to make US treat it as a single entity ( http://www.novinite.com/view_news.php?id=114061 ) but for the last 4 years they've pretty much failed to do so.

Sheez, what's with the "pile on" downvoting. If he's wrong, vote him down to 0 or -1 and leave it at that.

Thx, but i dont really care about my carma. I simply cant be wrong here because i experienced this myself and know like 10 friends doing such things with zero probs. Heck even YC says that visa isnt a big deal for their companies.

Guess most of downvotes coming from lazy hackers who like to count visa issues as excuse for their own laziness.

> zero problems

Because they haven't been caught, or because what they're doing is legitimate?

this is really interesting. do you mind to elaborate more?

i am Teng Siong Ong from GraffitiGeo(YC S2009). in fact, visa is the worst problem that many YC international founders face now.

this will really help if you could share your experience with all of us.

I too know a ton of friends who are doing it with zero probs.

I also know for a fact they are working illegally.

i know that this will get a ton of downvotes, but problem with getting entrepreneur visa in US is pretty much overvalued!

Get this:

Most skilled ppl can get this or other solution pretty easy and legal after doing some research in the field. So dont worry about getting a visa, better worry about building a great product!!

Okay, first things first. Apply for a greencard. I know it's a long process, it's expensive, and it's very invasive but do this first. People assume they don't qualify and don't even bother asking. But the US still has the highest immigration of all countries, only the UK is a distant 2nd. So obviously, people are getting in everyday.

Now, contact the US embassy in your country. Get all your paperwork together, set an appointment, pay the fees, and wait. Depending on the country you are coming from can be the difference between success and failure. Each country has quotas and some are filled immediately (Mexico, for example) and some go unmet (Switzerland, because no one ever leaves switzerland)

So do all the paperwork, fill in the envelope and mail it, and wait. That's all you really can do.

This is lousy advice. It's not as if just anyone can "apply for a green card". You need to have a sponsor who is either a relative and US citizen, or you are already employed by a US company on a work visa and they are willing to sponsor your green card application. (I am in the second category.)

Even if you have an employer willing to sponsor your green card application, the preliminary paperwork can take over a year before you're officially in the green card pipeline. How long you have to wait depends on your country of origin. Canadians can expect to wait at least two years, Indians and Chinese five years or more. But the kicker is that if you lose your job or change companies while you're in the pipeline, the whole process restarts! (Unless you're in the final stage, but that's comparatively short compared to the whole process.) That is, if you can find a new job. If you can't, you have to leave the US.

The US is unique among western countries in not have a way for skilled immigrants to get into the country unless they first have a sponsor. The US work visa program effectively creates a class of indentured laborers as their continued residency in the US is entirely dependent on their employers.

For Canadians, there's also TN-1 visa, which is a simplified way to get a work permit for a year. It has limitations compared to H1-B in terms of occupations, but it is much simpler to get. You need to have a letter from the company stating that they intend to employ you.

Now, how that relates to startups and whether your own corporation can sponsor you - I honestly do not know.

Sure, TN is easy to get (I've had it) but there are two major restrictions:

1. You cannot apply for a green card on TN visa 2. It has to be renewed annually, and you have to demonstrate continued strong ties to Canada (bank accounts, family, etc.), so US immigration would no doubt get suspicious if you kept renewing

> You cannot apply for a green card on TN visa

Actually, you can:


> It has to be renewed annually

There's a 3 year TN now:


If you're Canadian, I suggest subscribing to the Grasmick.com newsletter and poking around the site. Lots of good info there.

If you're Canadian, I suggest subscribing to the Grasmick.com newsletter

Not sure if the newsletter is up to date but I noticed that the most recent items on Grasmick.com's News section dates back to 2001!

The world of immigration into the US has really changed quite a bit since 2001, post-9/11 especially. For a start the INS doesn't even exist anymore and was replaced with the DHS.

So if the rest of his information is from this era and pre-DHS then it's pretty much worthless.

The newsletter is indeed up to date. For example, it's where I learned about the new 3 year TN back when it was approved in Oct 08.

For some silly reason he's basically abandoned the website and what used to be incredibly helpful forums.

Thanks for the info. Things have obviously changed since I had my TN in 2006.

However, looking at the green card application process on the TN it doesn't look like it's any easier than it is on an H1B.

Two years for Canadians? Citation?

The lawyers that I've talked to have told me the backlog is about six to seven years long and have not mentioned any special treatment for Canadians.

I've heard that you can get through faster if you have advanced degrees, but nothing about nationality.

Source is the lawyer handling my paperwork. http://www.trackitt.com/ also has info by nationality.

I may want to talk to your lawyer. My employer's lawyer and my own lawyer have different information. Nevertheless, if we can trust the stats on that website you are right.

Can you send me his or her info? You can get my contact details from my HN profile page.

The EB-1 does not require a sponsors, as far as I understand.

So you mean that I can just apply for a generic green card. As far as I know you have to be eligible for some certain types of green cards. I have tryed with the lottery but no luck there.

I have browsed through the various ways to get a green card and as far as I can tell the only way I can get it is either through getting a job at some company in the US or winning the lottery.

Basically there are 3 routes. Marriage, Job, Investment.

Sadly, a startup is at least two of these and still doesn't qualify :/

I guess when you're talking "highest immigration" you're talking in absolute terms. Both Canada and Australia have significantly higher _rates_ of immigration.

I'm starting the green card process, and fwiw, the lawyer tells me it takes a minimum of 16 months, with 2 years being typical.

Yes, I mean highest in absolute numbers. I don't even know what a rate you speak of since you need an X and Y to have a rate. Is that there are more people applying now than last year or do you mean more immigrants as a percentage of the population?

More immigrants as a percentage of the population.

You are comparing one country with 300 million people with one with 25 million. Of course the numbers are going to reflect better on Australia.

For a lot of countries, the green card backlog is > 7 years. YMMV

Yes, I'm in the US on a work visa, and I'm talking about the EB-2 category, which has less of a backlog, apparently. The EB-3 is less preferred, and is in that 7+ years range.

Just to clarify, the period of time it takes for a green card application to process is a factor of:

a: which kind of green card you're getting (employment, family or lottery based are the main ones)

b: where you are applying from (some states will process stuff exponentially faster than others, some processing centers are slow right now due to office re-orgs, and finally anything overseas is going to take you x*4, where x is the time locally)

c: the quality of your lawyer.

This is patently wrong advice. Do not do this, as it will invalidate all visa-waiver travel for EVER.

You should only apply for a visa when you are reasonably sure you will get it (i.e. have an offer of employment, funds or family to sponsor you).

Actually depending on where you are from you can also apply for the Greencard Lottery. Free way to get a Greencard. http://www.dvlottery.state.gov/

Applying to the Greencard lottery puts you on some kind of blacklist for US visas. Happened to a friend from Romania years ago. No idea if this is official policy or not, but he always got his visas refused afterwards, even after careful preparation. Hope things have changes.

Doesn't surprise me - they refuse you for a visa if they have any suspicion that you're trying to immigrate. One time I was entering London and the customs guy was in a bad mood and decided to grill me. I made the mistake of saying I had a girlfriend in London that I was seeing as part of the trip - after that I got extensive questioning. Guy was halfway in a bad mood, but halfway having a girlfriend might be reason to immigrate in his eyes.

Nowdays regardless of what I'm doing, I won't say anything that'd remotely indicate that I might ever want to live in any country I'm visiting, lest I get in more questioning and hassle. And I'm an American, mind you, not exactly the country that people get the most skeptical screening process from.

If I was from a Baltic country or developing country, I'd try to casually work into conversation that I had serious commitments back home - good job, mortgage, graduate studies, serious relationship, things like that. (Actually, now that I think about it, that's what finally got me through that London questioning - when I mentioned I had to be back in Boston for my studies starting in late August, it was around July at the time IIRC, roughly five years ago)

With tourist visas you need to demonstrate non-immigrant intent. If the immigration officer was aware that your friend was actively applying for a greencard (ie, they're intending to move to the US), they'd have to go to extra lengths to show that they fully intended to leave whilst on that tourist visa (ie, they're planning on visiting the US).


I know loads of people who have applied for the Greencard Lottery (a couple won Greencards) and none of them have ever had a problem getting into the US. I'd suggest the immigration service had other issues with your friend.

On the Visa Waiver there is (used?) to be a box to tick if you had been denied a visa. I would imagine being denied a visa and not winning a Greencard are two quite different things.

The greencard system is a mess in this regards. I'm surprised your friend actually tried to travel to the US since one of the first things they tell you once you've started the application is not to travel to the US until you have your greencard.

It's some sort of twisted logic where ICE thinks that you'll try to jump the line if you travel to the US on a non-immigrant visa.

This has simply not been true for me. I participated in DV lottery for quite a few years, and later on had multiple visits to US Embassy and never have had any kind of problems with getting my visas approved whatsoever.

I think your friend might be having some other issues, not the DV lottery.

Is there more evidence to it than one case? My parents applied for the lottery and had no problems getting tourist visas afterwards even though we have a lot of relatives living there. And Google does not seem to know about this problem either.

US still favors family based immigration system . So "highest" doest count in this context when compared to points ( skill) based system in other countries like UK.

Depends on how you look at it. With "family" based immigration, someone has basically vouched for your character. In the US, family means you are financially responsible for this person being let in this country. If they can't fend for themself, you shelter, clothe, and feed them. They are really serious about it and it requires you meet income, savings, and property thresholds.

The UK sort of has both, family and skills can get you in. Recently, they have started to de-emphasize the family visas.

With points, you are at the mercy of the market of the host country. The UK has, recently, restricted the high-tech industry in some areas, but hairdressers are still in demand under the points system. So someone with a BSc may actually be less qualified than someone that went to beautician's school under this scheme.

I always wondered how that works. For example, my great-grandmother from my father's side was born in Brooklyn. And then they have decided to return to Europe. I must be one of the few that has heritage reversed.

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