Did you know that early-stage startups can sponsor H-1B visas? The H-1B work visa is most commonly associated with large tech companies like Microsoft, Apple, and Meta. However, any U.S. company can hire talent on an H-1B visa.
How Startups Can Hire H-1B Workers
Do you have an incredible candidate you'd like to hire on an H-1B visa? There are five things you'll need to verify before getting started:
- There is a valid job offer for the candidate: This may seem obvious, but it's essential!
- There is an employer-employee relationship: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will want to see a qualifying employer-employee relationship between the candidate and the sponsoring company. The employer-employee relationship is evident if the candidate owns less than 50% of the company. If the candidate owns more than 50% of the company, you can show an employer-employee relationship by establishing a Board of Directors.
- The proposed position qualifies as a specialty occupation: You can only hire candidates in certain "specialty occupations" on the H-1B visa. Before you move forward with an H-1B, ensure that the position you are hiring for is an approved H-1B specialty occupation.
- The candidate meets the specialty occupation qualifications: Each specialty occupation comes with specific requirements. Often, the candidate must have a Bachelor's degree in a field related to their occupation. However, a candidate with 12+ years of experience may qualify without a degree.
- The proposed salary meets or exceeds the minimum prevailing wage: This is where the H-1B stops being a good fit for some early-stage startups that have limited funds. Each occupation has a prevailing wage, which the company must offer the candidate. The prevailing wage is specific to the candidate's role, experience level, and the location where they will work.
Does the H-1B sound like a good fit for your startup and the candidate you have in mind?
No? Check out other work visas for startups.
Yes? Let's discuss the documents you'll need to file the visa application.
H-1B Documents Checklist for Startups
Labor Condition Application
Before submitting an H-1B visa petition to the U.S. government, you'll need to get an approved Labor Condition Application (LCA) from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The DOL typically approves LCAs within seven business days.
Immigration Forms for the H-1B Visa
The H-1B immigration forms can be confusing if you don't have a legal background. Luckily, some immigration attorneys will help you fill out your H-1B immigration forms. As you compare H-1B law firms, make sure you ask about their level of involvement in preparing the H-1B. A full-service visa package can make all the difference!
- Form G-28, Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representative: As the name suggests, this form is only applicable if you work with an immigration attorney.
- Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker: Every H-1B petition must include this form. Keep in mind that the linked form contains pages specific to other work visas. As of October 2022, only pages 1-8 and 13-21 are relevant to the H-1B.
- Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service (Optional): Premium processing enables you to receive a response from USCIS within 15 calendar days. It costs extra (currently $2500), but it can be well worth it because of the time it saves!
H-1B Visa Sponsoring Company Document Checklist
To demonstrate that your startup is a legitimate U.S. company with the ability to hire foreign workers, you'll need to gather company documents, including:
- Incorporation documents
- Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN/EIN) receipt
- Tax returns, bank statements, or any official proof that the startup can pay the new hire's salary
- Office lease (if applicable)
- Job offer letter
- Job description
H-1B Visa Candidate Document Checklist
You'll also need to collect documentation from your H-1B candidate, including:
- Scans of their current passport
- Scans of all previous and current U.S. visa documents
- Evidence of their education and/or experience (diplomas, transcripts, letters from previous employers, their resume, etc.)
- If applicable, dependent documents (marriage certificates for spouses, birth certificates for children, passports, etc.)
Printing and Shipping the H-1B Petition
Each H-1B visa petition must be printed and shipped to USCIS. Finalized H-1B petitions are typically organized like this:
- Attorney cover letter (if applicable)
- Immigration forms
- Approved LCA
- Support letter
- Supporting documents about the sponsoring company
- Supporting documents about the candidate
Full-service immigration for startups
Don't want to go through the entire H-1B preparation process alone? Good news—when you work with Legalpad, our world-class immigration team handles everything. LCAs, immigration forms, document collection, preparation, and even printing and shipping to USCIS are all on us. Best of all, we love to work with startups! Get in touch with our team to learn more.