This is the second in a three-part series that provides guidance to new or foreign companies that are entering the U.S. market and seeking to employ either foreign nationals already in the United States on non-working visas, or foreign nationals overseas who wish to enter the United States with a work visa. The discussion is meant to raise important issues, provide best practices, and explain how startups can avoid common pitfalls and meet key deadlines critical to hiring foreign nationals—and maintaining them in legal status. It also includes a brief discussion that aims to help startups remain compliant with the labyrinth of complex immigration rules.

Startups can take advantage of certain nonimmigrant visa options that can help them to hire foreign nationals expediently, cost-effectively and, in some cases, without having to first apply through the immigration authorities in the United States. The following temporary work visas require no application through the U.S. immigration authorities in the United States and can be presented either at the U.S. consulate overseas, or at the U.S./Canadian or U.S./Mexican border:

  • TN Visa for professionals coming to the United States pursuant to the NAFTA agreement. They can present their TN application at the U.S./Canadian border and be admitted for up to three years. Mexicans can present their TN application at the U.S. consulate in Mexico and will obtain a one-, two- or three-year TN visa stamp to enter the United States;
  • E-3 visa for Australian nationals coming to work as professionals. They can apply for the E-3 stamp at a U.S. consulate and enter to work in the United States;
  • H-1B1s for Singaporean or Chilean nationals coming to work as professionals pursuant to free trade agreements between the United States and Chile, and the United States and Singapore. They can apply for the H-1B1 visa at the U.S. consulate overseas and enter to work in the United States;
  • Canadian nationals can enter the United States as L-1 intracompany transferees by processing at the U.S./Canadian border, or at an international airport by processing directly at these ports of entry without a formal work visa petition approval issued by the U.S. immigration authorities; and
  • E-1 or E-2 treaty trader or investor visas can be processed directly by U.S. consulate officials overseas for certain nationalities without a formal work visa petition approval. Such work visa classifications are governed by rules. When used, they can save startups money, time, and effort.