Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.
“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”
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After trying to find an H-1B job to immigrate to the United States for several years, I took a senior software engineer position with a company in Canada.
My dream is to immigrate to Silicon Valley to start my own venture. Any advice?
— Eager Entrepreneur
Thanks for sharing your experience. In honor of National Immigrants Day, I paid homage in my podcast to the immigrants who come to the United States to pursue their dreams and help shape so many of the things I appreciate about our country. Research consistently shows that immigrants — particularly immigrant entrepreneurs like you, through your fortitude, grit and determination — create ventures that lead to innovation, job creation and economic growth in the United States.
According to a 2020 report by the New American Economy, 44% of Fortune 500 companies, which includes both public and private entities, were founded by immigrants or their children. Together, those companies generated $6.2 trillion in revenue in the fiscal year 2020, which is greater than the GDP of many countries, including Japan, Germany and the U.K.
Although U.S. immigration policy does not make it easy for people to come to the United States to live the life of their dreams, it’s still possible. As you may know, most U.S. work visas and statuses require an employer, which could be your own startup.
As always, I recommend that you consult an immigration attorney who can help you structure a personalized immigration strategy based on your specific goals surrounding your vision and ideal timeline. Below are some options to consider with your immigration counsel.
L-1 visa for intracompany transferees
The L-1 visa is for individuals who are transferring to the U.S. from a company abroad. If you continue to work for your current employer in Canada for at least one year and your employer is willing to sponsor you, your employer could transfer you to its office or operation in the United States, or you can set up an office for your employer either on an L-1A visa for intracompany managers and executives or an L-1B visa for intracompany specialized knowledge workers.