Ask Sophie: How do we transfer H-1Bs and green cards to our startup?

Here is another edit from “Ask Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at tech companies.

“Your questions are essential to spreading the knowledge that empowers people around the world to rise beyond borders and pursue their dreams,” says Silicon Valley immigration attorney Sophie Alcorn. “Whether you’re in people operations, a founder, or looking for a job in Silicon Valley, I’d love to answer your questions in my next column.”

TechCrunch+ members get access to weekly “Ask Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one or two year subscription at 50% off.

Dear Sophia,

I was recently fired. I co-founded a cleantech startup with two of my former colleagues, who were also made redundant. My two co-founders are on H-1Bs and had green cards in the works with our old company. I am an American citizen.

What should we do to transfer their H-1Bs and green cards to our startup? In your experience, do investors care how much money a startup spends on visas and green cards for its founders?

— First Time Founder

Dear first time,

Congratulations to you and your co-founders for dreaming big and taking the leap to create your own startup! I appreciate your dedication to the environment, your tenacity and your spirit of innovation.

Let me answer your second question first. In my experience, the majority of US investors who invest in my international founding clients tend to ask if the startups have an innovative idea with some initial traction, a strong founding team, and are structured like a Delaware C-corporation . Many investors I’ve worked with have been very supportive of immigration efforts that keep founding teams and key talent together in the United States to build and grow their startups, even if it means paying higher salaries than other investors. customary for founders in the startup market to ensure compliance with various immigration requirements.

A composite image of immigration lawyer Sophie Alcorn in front of a background with a TechCrunch logo.

Picture credits: Joanna Buniak / Sophie Alcorn (Opens in a new window)

That said, you can broaden your funding sources by considering grants, especially as you focus on clean technologies. The great advantage of grants is that they constitute non-dilutive capital. And they don’t require repayment like a loan. You have a contract with deliverables that you define as startup founders.

Additionally, grants and other funding can help your co-founders qualify for an EB-1A Extraordinary Ability Green Card, which I’ll discuss in more detail in a moment. These funds can also be used to pay your co-founders’ legal and filing fees for their H-1Bs as well as their H-1B salaries.

Now let me dive into your original question, starting with H-1B transfers.

H-1B Transfers

As you and your co-founders know, they have a 60-day grace period from their last day of employment in their former H-1B role until they must leave the United States. or apply for another status. Transferring H-1Bs from your co-founders to your startup is certainly possible, but you’ll want to get started right away. It is important to take the necessary steps to qualify your startup for H-1B sponsorship before transferring. And it’s important to take these steps quickly since the 60-day grace period for your co-founders is already running out.

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