Startups · Visas

How to get a U.S. Visa and work on your own startup?

Angel Otero Consultant en Freelance IT Consultant & Service Provider

December 8th, 2016

I've been living in the Bay Area on a J-1 research visa for half a year, fell in love with the startup community and now I need to extend my stay. As a "researcher" I was able to work on my own projects and engage in the nearby startup scene without problems.

Now that I need to find a legit job allowing me to stay in the U.S., I'm afraid that I will not be able to work on my own projects as much anymore. In Europe I used to work as a freelance consultant. Is it possible to get a Visa doing freelance work? Or part-time work?

Another question is what kind of Visa I can get? Apparently regular H1-B working Visas are handed out only in April, so I'm out of luck. Is it easier to get internship Visas?

The next-best thing to working on my own projects would be to work for an early stage startup (the earlier, the better). Is it even possible/economical/easy for a small startup to acquire a working Visa for me?

I should talk to a lawyer but I figured that FD is more likely to provide me with the "dirty" tricks of immigration ;)

Thanks so much everyone!

Stefano Spada CEO at

December 8th, 2016

Hi Angel,
I'm launching a service that can help you.
We're trying to address the problem of getting real-time information from skilled professionals (such as immigration lawyers).
We have a beta community, called usvisa (, for people in need to get immigration-related answers. You can post your request there or you can chat directly with skilled immigration lawyers.
Since it's beta, for now it's free!

Annick Fuchs Startup lawyer in the Silicon Valley and Europe, ex Director Legal PayPal

December 8th, 2016

Just to add to H1B proposals here on the thread: with these visas you have a 25% (!!) chance only to get a visa. And you are competing with companies like Facebook etc. So while always good to try all avenues, you should be aware of the statistics in an H1B application.

Joanan Hernandez CEO & Founder at Mollejuo

December 8th, 2016

There are no "dirty" tricks. :-P Talk to a lawyer.

Good luck! You're going to need it!


Abdullah Almefdaa CEO @ Gulf Cloud Corp.

December 8th, 2016

Cásate con tu novia americana Yours Abdullah D. Almefdaa

Annick Fuchs Startup lawyer in the Silicon Valley and Europe, ex Director Legal PayPal

December 8th, 2016

I went through that process myself. I founded my own startup as entrepreneur in the legal business. I advise startups with my startup on legal matters.
Your best bet as an entrepreneur is usually an E2 visa. Investor visa. There are requirements to get there. Happy to tell you more. You can contact me via FD. 


December 8th, 2016

Hi Mr. Otero,
The Global EIR program started in Massachusetts andslowly being implemented in many other states might be a good option for you. In this program, a university will sponsor you if you are a co-founder or an early employee of a startup that has received certain funding. This can be done any time of the year as the jobs in universities are exempt from the H1B lottery. The startup can sponsor H1B later. This is a costly decision as you will have to work for university one day or more per week for no pay as an entrepreneur-in-residence and also pay the university for office space and sponsorship which will cost you more than $15000 per year.
You can find the details of the program and the participating universities here:

There are other visa categories which many people have written about in Quora and other websites. You can check this link.

An experienced lawyer can help you deciding which visa is the best  for you.

Hope this helps.

Shahab Riazi Sr. Manager, Enterprise Services, SAP

December 8th, 2016

How about trying "Unshackled"
They are an incubator that also invest in your startup idea and help you file for H1. I know the founder of the incubator. If you are an entrepreneur with an idea and don't have legal residence in the US, you can reach out to them. I would be happy to forward you to Nitin, the founder of Unshackled, here in the valley.

Alex Lloro

December 14th, 2016

Hi Angel,

It's really complicated. H1B visas require sponsorship from a company that wants to hire you, they are not valid for freelance work.

Your only option is a E-2, but you need to create a company and there are a few requirements:

1.- A 'substantial' amount of money. For some businesses $50k can work, but they can refuse your application investing $100k.

2.- An office lease

3.- Must have US citizens employeed

4.- ...

More info: