Policy · Foreign Cofounder

Looking to bring over a Foreign Co-Founder. What is the best way?

Alison Lewis CEO/Creative Director

March 21st, 2013

We have a co-founder who has been working with us from Australia and as we raise funds we want to bring him over. We are looking for advice on ways to do this. We've researched into multiple VISAS, each one seemly more difficult than the next. What is the best way to bring him over? 


March 21st, 2013

The ideal is the O1 Visa for extraordinary abilities, it is obviously not easy to get. 


If the company is already set up and you can pay a competitive salary you can try with the H1B. Everything depends on the amount of funding you have. 

David Crooke Serial entrepreneur and CTO

March 21st, 2013

O1 or EB1 is very hard to do. Some are very easy, e.g. TN-1. Depends on individual circumstances.

I had myself hired by a rent-a-desi H1-B sweatshop and hired myself from them as a 1099 contractor. 100% legal.

Alison Lewis CEO/Creative Director

March 24th, 2013

I have kids, so that isn't really an option. We have just started looking for Angel investors and will flying back and forth all the time hold up during fundraising? I really want my team here in one place. They also want to be here. 

Ian Downes

March 21st, 2013

Have you considered the E-3 visa?


March 21st, 2013

I was about to add that I once heard of an Australian visa the E3, thanks Ian. 

Peter Sankauskas Founder & CEO at CloudNative

March 21st, 2013

Hi Alison,

I was on multiple E3 visas for 4 years, so I understand the pain. The good news is that an E3 visa is 10% the cost of an H1B, and can be done fairly easily and quickly assuming the guy you are bringing over meets the requirements, and you have a company established.

For an E3, you basically need:
 - a person with a degree
 - a job that requires that degree
 - a company that has the job open, and is willing to employ that person under fair conditions (pay, safe environment, etc)

By the end of it, the total cost (spread across 2 countries) should be about $2500 (at least it was in 2008).

As David said, if you don't yet have a company, he can easily be here on a Visa Wavier for up to 3 months while things are set up.

I am happy to put you in contact with Amy, an Immigration Lawyer who helped me, my wife and a few other Aussies get over here. Just send me a message.

Best of luck,
Peter Sankauskas

Rob G

March 22nd, 2013

Alison, when you say 'here in the city', which city are you referring to? i'd listen to Peter the Aussie since he's been through it. in my other company we sponsor visas from India frequently (one from Mexico and one from New Zealand) simply because it's so hard to find talent here (seattle).  the best way is for your co-founder to marry an american - only half joking.  i'm not familiar with the E3 that Peter refers to, but it likely requires the same pay requirements as the H1 - your firm MUST pay "prevailing wage".  This is a real problem for foreign workers wanting to work in startups.  Startup employees and especially co-founders want equity and for that we work at less than market wage. VC's don't like to see you pay market rates AND equity on top.  On an H1 you cannot pay less than 'prevailing wage'. if "the city" you refer to is bay area then that prevailing wage will be high.  an option is to do a "part time" visa.  i know there is part time status for the H1 - i've done it once with my current startup, not sure about the E3. Total cost up front about $3,600.  if he is part time you can can pay a part time wage and save some money. What he does in his spare time is up to him.  He will need to prove that at his part time wages he can "make a living" - easier with a spouse.  You will need an experienced immigration attorney.  If you are a new company and haven't sponsored visas before it will take longer.  there have been a lot of body shops in recent years (mostly run by former visa holders)  who have been playing games with the immigration laws so homeland security is really stepping up it's scrutiny.  do everything strictly by the book.  congress is working on legislation to try to address the issue of foreign workers in startups and the whole 'prevailing wage' issue, but it's a ways out. Homeland security (formerly INS) wants to be sure companies aren't bringing over foreign workers and paying 'slave wages'.  Now, companies with offices overseas (say in India) can send an Indian worker to the US to work on a company project on an L1 visa for, i believe, up to 90 days.  They can then pay them their regular Indian wage. You could look at that angle - setting up a subsidiary in Australia and have time come over for short stints. 

good luck.  

Brian McConnell

March 24th, 2013

Question. Is it really necessary for him to be here full time? You could pay his consulting company in AU and he could travel here three months at a time as an Australian businessperson here for his own reasons. There's no problem with him getting equity in the company via a side deal. As long as he doesn't overstay his visit limit should be fine. Then look into a long term solution if when it is needed. Us immigration sucks to deal with. Avoid if you can. Talk to a lawyer of course. Brian Mcc

Tony So Co-founder of Magnitude.io

March 21st, 2013

Consider EB5 if your cofounder want to have a green card too.

This program is designed to fast trak a foreign investor into the US for work and for permanent residency. The program is to help the US economy.

Here is the kicker: 

Cash investment to a US company from him/her.
This company needs to hire a minimum of 10 local (US citizen) for 2 years

More details here: 

Good Luck!

Vishal PMP Experienced, Proven, Agile Product Development Leader - seamlessly bringing People, Product and Process together.

March 21st, 2013

Just a thought but if he is able to bring upto $1M to invest in your US business, he can apply for an EB-5 category green card. It requires your company hiring upto 10 US citizens - not sure if all this will be possible but it is an option. Ciao! Vishal