Archive for the 'Investment Visa' Category

We Need Better Immigration Policies for Startups and Entrepreneurs

 We Need Better Immigration Policies for Startups and Entrepreneurs

- Tahmina Watson

“USCIS intends to revoke your H-1B visa because we have discovered you are a co-founder.” Yes. That is indeed what my client learned one morning.  USCIS learned during the renewal process of my client’s previously approved H-1B case that he was an original co-founder.  While my client never intended to hide it, the information was not specifically mentioned in the initial filing.  After a series of requests for further evidence, the final request was regarding the relationship between my client and his company.

My client, a co-founder of his company – who has garnered much praise in the tech industry, employs seven full-time American workers, and has helped create several indirect jobs by virtue of those who use and sell his product – was facing imminent departure from the U.S. His business, business partner, employees, and clients all were also put into limbo as a result.

Why? Don’t we want companies to start here? Well, currently, U.S. immigration law does not have a specific visa category for Startup founders, and the available visa options are far from ideal.  A very strict policy was laid down in a memo on January 8, 2010 by Donald Neufeld, Associate Director of Service Center Operations of USCIS. That memo made some drastic changes in the way H-1B cases would be adjudicated and put immense restrictions on the employer-employee relationship, causing adverse effects to petitions by founders.

To successfully apply for an H-1B as a co-founder, one must categorically prove that the company controls the founder’s employment.  To prove such control, the USCIS expects an onerous amount of corporate documentation, including articles of incorporation, board meeting minutes, shareholder agreements, stock ledgers, etc.

It was my privilege to help my client win this case.  As a team, we brainstormed the type of documentation he would be able to provide.  We decided to send many internal, otherwise confidential, documentation to demonstrate he was always given direction in his work and he was not the one making decisions.  We submitted emails, client contracts, employee information, payroll evidence, references and much more.  It was a challenging request to say the least.

Startups by their nature operate lean and mean.  Startup founders/entrepreneurs are known to work around the clock to ensure their products are successful.  In the efforts to have a successful company, they have employees to supervise and clients to keep happy.  Instead of using all his energy to build the business, my client was anxious and worried about providing enough of the right kind of information to respond to a challenging and burdensome request.  I am sure that during this intense period, my client suffered loss both emotionally and financially.

Lessening the efficiency of a person while they’re trying to get a business off the ground makes no sense. One should not have to defend oneself for being a founder of a company; it should be a matter of pride.  Luckily we were able to successfully demonstrate that his employment was controlled by the company.  Many founders are not so lucky and end up cut off from the start up they helped create by our irrational immigration laws.

We cannot have rhetoric from our government that calls for entrepreneurs and the need to keep high-skilled workers in the U.S., while that same government acts against implementing that ideology.

In the absence of a Startup Visa, I suggest that two changes are made to existing policy with immediate effect.  Firstly, eliminate the use of the Neufeld Memo, at least for founders and co-founders of startups utilizing H-1B visas.  Founders need to operate their businesses.  Often they will have many roles in addition to their primary H-1B job description.  For example, as a business owner, I am not only a lawyer, but a human resources manager, marketing manager, bookkeeper, supervisor and countless others.  To have my company control my job would impede my success.

Secondly, allow the use of cash substitutes such as stock valuation, convertible notes, and other such regularly used methods instead of cash wages.  Startups generally cannot afford high wages, particularly in the early stages.  They need the opportunity to get their companies to the stage where funding can be obtained from investors.  While the policy argument against cash substitutes may be fear of the entrepreneur becoming a public charge, USCIS should impose policy to prevent that and revoke someone’s visa if he or she resorts to public assistance.  Entrepreneurs are resourceful people who do not want handouts from the system.  Give them the chance to start their companies, contribute to the economy, and create jobs for American workers.  After all, America is a nation of immigrants.

**Copyright 2014 by Watson Immigration Law. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

EB5 Processing Times

The USCIS published current processing times for EB5 applications.  Currently, this is how long it is taking for the following petitions:

13.2 months to process I-526 petitions

7.9 months for I-829 petitions

5.4 months for I-924- applications for regional center status.

Successful event by and @RenewOurEconomy!

On April 22, 2014, and Bloomberg’s Partnership for a New American Economy held an event at Techstar Seattle premises to discuss immigration reform.  The event had a panel of 4 distinguished guests- Jack Chen, Senior Immigration Policy lawyer at Microsoft, Michael Schutzler, President and CEO of Washington Technology Industry Association, Avi  Cavale- CEO of Shippable.  I was very honored to part of this panel also.  The event was moderated by Andy Sack, Techstar Seattle.

The stimulating discussion on immigration reform included the current status of immigration reform and why we should all be actively engaged in the call for immigration reform.  The discussion included reasons why America is losing talent, what other countries are doing to find and retain talent, the current H1b cap situation, the cap-exempt H1b work around in Massachutetes, the Startup visa and much much more.

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We all emphasized the need for the American people to speak up and have their voices heard.  My regular readers may recall my article 12th Man for Immigration Reform- we discussed again why that is important.   To make it simple for you, has many simple tools to help contact your representative at a click of a button- here is a link to take action. 

Immigration reform is important- for the American people and for the economy.  Be the 12th Man for immigration reform and contact your House of Congress Representative asap!

Tahmina to Speak at event by and Bloomberg’s Renew Our Economy

Event Organized by The Partnership for a New American Economy and

I am so honored to be invited to speak on immigration reform issues at an exciting event organized by Bloomberg’s Partnership for a New American Economoy and Thank you for the honor! To anyone interested in immigration reform- this is a must-attend event! #iCodeImmigration: Join us for a stimulating discussion from different perspectives from experts in our local community. With immigration reform stalled, now is the time to get your voice heard! This is your opportunity to be the 12th Many for Immigration Reform! We look forward to seeing you there!

Event Details copied below: 

Venue:  Techstar: 511 Boren Avenue North, Seattle, WA 98109.     Time: 6pm – 8pm PST

Join a group of leading entrepreneurs, investors, technologists and policy experts for a discussion on why immigration reform is critical to the tech and start-up community in Seattle and across the country. Speakers will include:

  • Avi Cavale, CEO, Shippable
  • Jack Chen, Senior Attorney for Labor, Employment & Immigration Policy, Microsoft
  • Michael Schutzler, President & CEO, Washington Technology Industry Association
  • Tahmina Watson, Immigration Lawyer, Watson Immigration Law

RSVP now and we will follow up with additional information about the program.  Refreshments will be provided.

More information about the organizations:

The Partnership for a New American Economy brings together more than 500 Republican, Democratic, and Independent mayors and business leaders who support immigration reform as a way of creating jobs for Americans today. is an organization started by key leaders in the tech community to promote policies to keep the United States and its citizens competitive in a global economy—including comprehensive immigration reform and education reform.


H1b for Entrepreneurs- New Developments Hopefully

The Puget Sound Business Journal reports on possible new developments for entrepreneurs using the H1b visa.  Read the full article here.  Thank you to the PSBJ and Emily Parkhurst for reporting on this important matter.

PSBJ 4.11.14

PSBJ 4.11.14




H4 work authorization soon? The White House is working on it!

On April 7th, the White House made several announcements including that current regulations will be reviewed to create new rules for work permits for spouses of certain H1b workers and to make visas for entrepreneurs more efficient using existing visas.  See below for text of the White House press release from the website. While this is promising news, and certainly within the authority of the President’s powers, we will be watching this space closely. For all my H4 and Startup clients and readers- sign up to our blog if you haven’t yet.  This news will be important for you. Stay tuned!


The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

FACT SHEET: Strengthening Entrepreneurship At Home and Abroad

“Let’s do more to help the entrepreneurs and small business owners who create most new jobs in America.”

– President Barack Obama, State of the Union, January 28, 2014

Entrepreneurs play a critical role in expanding the economy and creating jobs.  President Obama is committed to increasing the prevalence and success of entrepreneurs across the country, including through the White HouseStartup America initiative, an “all-hands-on-deck” effort to expand access to capital, accelerate innovation, and promote private sector efforts to strengthen the Nation’s startup communities.  The United States also runs and funds hundreds of programs to support entrepreneurs globally and maintains a broad coalition of governments, business people, civil society, investors, and academics to educate and support entrepreneurs around the world.

Building on these efforts, today the Administration is announcing a series of new steps to accelerate the success of entrepreneurs in the United States and across the globe:

Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship: Today, President Obama hosted the inaugural meeting of the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship (PAGE), a group of successful American businesspeople who have committed to sharing their time, energy, ideas, and  experience to help develop the next generation of entrepreneurs at home and abroad. The group is chaired by Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, and the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) are also partners in this effort.

Attracting the World’s Best and Brightest: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will soon publish several proposed rules that will make the United States more attractive to talented foreign entrepreneurs and other high-skill immigrants who will contribute substantially to the U.S. economy, create jobs, and enhance American innovative competitiveness.  These proposed regulations include rules authorizing employment for spouses of certain high-skill workers on H-1B visas, as well as enhancing opportunities for outstanding professors and researchers. These measures build on continuing DHS efforts to streamline, eliminate inefficiency, and increase the transparency of the existing immigration system, such as by the launch ofEntrepreneur Pathways, an online resource center that gives immigrant entrepreneurs an intuitive way to navigate opportunities to start and grow a business in the United States.

Accelerating Biomedical Entrepreneurs from Lab to Market:  The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) are launching a new collaboration to empower entrepreneurial scientists and address the critical gap between fundamental research and the development of a commercial entity.  Academic researchers and entrepreneurs who receive Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) funding from NIH will be eligible to pilot a new version of the NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program that is specially tailored for biomedical technologies.  This intensive, mentor-driven experience is changing the way that NSF-funded researchers think about the commercialization process.  NIH will also help scale up I-Corps by augmenting existing NIH-funded programs, such as the NIH Centers for Accelerated Innovation (NCAI), that focus on promising technologies developed by academic researchers.  Faculty and students who participate in these new I-Corps programs will receive mentorship opportunities, entrepreneurial training, and modest funding to enable them to move their ideas from the lab to the market.

Energizing Entrepreneurs to Help End Extreme Poverty: Fostering entrepreneurs and strengthening entrepreneurial ecosystems are vital elements of USAID’s newly launched U.S. Global Development Lab (The Lab).  The Lab will empower a global network of individuals to help create, solve and scale innovative solutions to global challenges by applying rigorous scientific, business, research, and technological expertise. In the next five years, scientists and technology experts at The Lab will create a new global marketplace of innovations and take them to scale to reach over 200 million people worldwide. The Lab is pioneering open-source development models like Development Innovation Ventures and Grand Challenges that nurture new solvers and players in emerging markets and spurring innovation. The Lab is expanding a Global Development Alliance furthering LGBT equality through entrepreneurship and small and medium enterprise growth in Latin America.  A new USAID Research and Innovation Fellowships Program will send more than 60 young U.S. leaders in science and technology to universities, NGOs, and companies in 12 developing countries this year.

Bolstering Exchanges and Training for Entrepreneurs in the Western Hemisphere: This fall, the State Department will host TechCamps for women in El Salvador, Colombia, and Argentina. These camps will bring together hundreds of women across the region over the course of the year and provide them training to address key challenges in business formation, from financing to marketing. Additionally, the State Department will be launching two new exchange programs for entrepreneurs in the Western hemisphere. The Small Business Network of the Americas (SBNA) Fellowship Program will connect incubators across the hemisphere to share best practices in entrepreneurial development and unlock market access for small businesses across the region. The Professional Fellows Program will bring Salvadorian, Guatemalan, and American officials together for a six-week internship and training program focuses on professional development, problem-solving, and networking.

E2 visa now available to citizens of Israel

Image courtesty of internet

Image courtesty of internet

The E2 visa, which is country specific Treaty Trader visa, was extended to citizens of Israel in 2012 by the US government. However, that needed to be approved by the Israeli government too.  On March 30, 2014, the government of Israel finally  approved the Treaty provisions and as of this week, citizens of Israel can apply for the E2 visa.

The E2 visa will give those citizens one more option to live and work in the US, while bringing much needed investment into the US with promise of more job creation.

Watson Immigration Law assists with E2 visas frequently and would be happy to help with these visas.

H1b Lottery: Puget Sound Business Journal Says It Best!

While it may be April Fool’s today, it is indeed a very serious day for American businesses trying to hire highly skilled workers.  As my clients anxiously wait to see if they will ‘win’ the lottery- never has it been clearer we need immigration reform- we need it for American businesses, we need it for economic growth- we need it for America.

Puget Sound Business Journal highlights this issue today in their headline story.  Thank you to Puget Sound Business Journal and Reporter Emily Parkhurst for covering this important issue that is affecting businesses locally and nationwide.

Image courtesy of PSBJ website.

Image courtesy of PSBJ website.

Tahmina to Speak at King County Bar Association CLE on Immigration for Startups

We are proud to announce that Tahmina will be speaking on immigration issues for Startups at a CLE by King County Bar Association titled: ADVISING STARTUPS IN THE SOCIAL MEDIA ERA – U.S. & ABROAD.  Below is a copy of the program. For anyone interested in issues related to startups, this is a great CLE to attend- whether you are a lawyer or an entreprenur. check out the full brochure here- KCBA startup visa CLE and register before they sell out!

KCBA startup visa CLE_Page_1 border


Immigrant Investor Visas: One Man’s loss is Many Men’s Gain.

Immigrant Investor Visas: One Man’s loss is Many Men’s Gain.

Image courtesy of the internet

Image courtesy of the internet

My regular readers may recall my recent article about the global competition over wealthy investors.  Indeed there is such a competition. Except, one country surprisingly stepped out of the race- Canada.

On February 11, 2014 , Canada announced that it is terminating their long established immigration investor visas which had about 60,0000 applications pending for several years.  A large number of those investors were Chinese citizens.  Instead, Canada would like to focus more on the newly created Start up visa (another interesting article for a later time!).

I can only imagine the disappointment of the investors who had been waiting to immigrate. One of my own clients told me his parents were affected by this news. So, where will these investors go?

Well, just because Canada doesn’t want them, doesn’t mean other countries do not. In fact, the competition is as fierce as ever.

Let’s take Australia for example. Australia’s Significant Visa is already a success. It has processed over 100 visas since it launched in 2012 and has an influx of applications.  Now the country is trying to speed up the process.   The UK saw a record number of Chinese investors in 2013 and recently has been discussing auctioning investor visas. Portugal’s Golden Visa is a raging success which is being emulated in several countries in Europe.

While wealthy investors have the world quite as their ‘oyster’, it is likely many may still choose to apply to the US.  This is because most who choose to apply to Canada, choose between the US and Canada.  With Canada out of the race, the United States will likely be the winner.

The EB5 visa in the US remains a popular visa and significantly cheaper than Australia’s 5 million (almost $4.5 million USD) and UK’s 1 million GBP (almost $2 million USD) threshold. The EB5 visa requires either $500,000 USD in a targeted employment area or otherwise $1 million USD.

We hope Canada’s loss is a gain for the US more than any other country.

**Copyright 2014 by Watson Immigration Law. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Watson Immigration Law is happy to discuss EB5 visas with anyone interested esp. if you have been affected by Canada’s visa program termination. 



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