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US Work Visas for Canadian Startups

There is no shortage of US work visa categories, and it can feel overwhelming to try to understand all the options.

Each visa category has its own set of terms and nuances so we’ve summed up the best options for most team members of a Canadian startup in a single table. Thanks to NAFTA, Canadians can get some work visas right at the border, but it’s always a good idea to plan as far out as possible to avoid stressful last-minute issues. This post is intended to give you an at-a-glance view into what we’ve seen as the most relevant visas for Canadian founders and early team members.


Other things you should know:

  • There is not a set timeline for the visa process. If you elect for premium processing, which is available for many work visa categories, you will get a guaranteed decision in a set timeframe, but there is not a set timeline for approvals. Every case is different so you should expect there to be some ambiguity around timelines.
  • You should not put off a conversation about your visa situation. It is never too early to explore your options.
  • RFEs (Request for Evidence) are not a reason to panic. RFEs are fairly common and the rate is increasing. Don’t let that discourage you though. An RFE is an opportunity to strengthen your approval chances.
  • Most work visas are not suitable for DIY. You’ll want to partner with a company or firm who gets your business, especially startups.

We’re a big fan of the O-1A visa for venture-backed startups. If you’ve been through an accelerator, even better. Our team has a proven formula to get O-1As for founders who meet this criteria. There are eight different criteria, which you can read about here, but you only need to meet three of them. Venture-backed founders typically do! Even so, depending on your situation, a different category may be worth considering. We’re here to help you figure out a solid game plan.

Explore your options

About the author:

Allison Davy

Vice President Marketing, Legalpad

Allison helps startup founders from around the world navigate the complex U.S. immigration system so they can pursue their goals and purpose.