Ask Sophie: Which visas allow us to expand our startup in the US?


Here’s another edition from “Ask Sophie”, the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.

“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that empowers people around the world to push beyond limits and chase their dreams,” says Sophie Acorn, a Silicon Valley immigration lawyer. “Whether you’re in people management, a founder, or looking for a job in Silicon Valley, I’d love to answer your questions in my next column.” members get access to weekly “Ask Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to buy a one or two year subscription at 50% off.

Dear Sophia,

My co-founder and I launched a B2B SaaS startup in Poland a few years ago and are now looking to expand into the United States for market entry as we market in a few countries in Europe.

We really need to be on site to interview our ideal users in the US. What visas can we do that with?

— Focus on America

Dear target,

Congratulations on taking this next big step forward in growing your startup! I appreciate you reaching out to Immigration Guidance. Setting up your business in the United States is a valuable foundation for successfully sponsoring you, your co-founder, and other potential employees for visas or green cards, and it also makes investors feel more comfortable investing in invest your business. I recommend that you consult both a startup business attorney in the state where you plan to establish your business and an immigration attorney to assist you in your endeavors.

A composite image of immigration attorney Sophie Alcorn in front of a background with a TechCrunch logo.

Image Credits: Joanna Bunjak / Sophie Acorn (Opens in a new window)

Matteo Daste, a corporate attorney, partner and head of the Northern California Emerging Companies and Venture Capital practice at global law firm Mayer Brown, recommends international founders spend some time in the US to get a sense of the environment and opportunities before they move here. I recently talked to Daste on the challenges facing international founders in the US He says he has seen an increase in the number of international founders visiting the US post-COVID-19 to kick ties and launch their long-awaited expansion and immigration plans.

Come visit!

If you’d like to follow Daste’s advice, you and your co-founder can either get a B-1 business visitor visa, which allows you to stay for at least six months, or a ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) visa waiver, which allows citizens of 40 countries (including Poland) to stay for 90 days or less without first obtaining a visa. You must tell the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer upon arrival in the US that you will be conducting business during your stay here. You must specifically apply for B-1 business visitor visa status or, if on ESTA, WB (waiver-business) status. That can be very important!


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