Numerous paths exist for a software engineer to come to the United States to work. Many developers believe that they can only get to the U.S. on the H-1B employer-sponsored visa, the J visa for interns, or the F-1 student visa. However, if you have an existing business, some money to invest, or a proven track record of being extraordinary in your specialized field, you may qualify for other types of visas, such as the L, E, or O visa.
Existing business owners may qualify for an L-1A new branch visa as part of expanding their company. The visa applicant must have worked full-time for a year within the past 3 years for their foreign company. L visa holders can stay up to 7 years, their spouse can work in the U.S., and there is a path to apply for a green card.
Citizens of certain "treaty countries," including Spain, Mexico, Argentina and the United Kingdom, can apply for a small business investor visa called the E-2 visa. This allows you to come to the U.S. to start a new company or to manage a new investment. Unlike the million-dollar EB-5 investment green card, the E-2 visa investment can be as low as $100,000, and in certain circumstances, even less. While there is not a path to a green card, it is indefinitely renewable and your spouse can work while in the U.S.
Persons who are extraordinary in their specialized field, as defined under U.S. immigration law, might qualify for an O-1A visa. You need to show objective evidence that you have made unique contributions to your field, in the form of awards, honors, media coverage, expert opinion letters, high salary and/or work for distinguished projects or companies. O-1A visas are indefinitely renewable and have an indirect path to a green card.
There is no cap on any of these visas, and they can take as little as six months to process. However, they are very complicated and highly scrutinized by U.S. immigration authorities, so you must have an attorney's help in applying. Contact us at TheTeam@huwelaw.com for more information.