By Ann K. Cunn, Managing Attorney for Accel Visa Attorneys, PC 

Board Member of New Founder School 

Foreign founders have a unique challenge when it comes to entrepreneurship in the U.S. In addition to navigating the traditional challenges of starting a company: firming up ideation, executing a proof-of-concept, raising funds, going-to-market; foreign founders must first secure valid work authorization in the U.S. One false step could prove problematic downstream. Sometimes asking the right questions for immigration attorneys is the first step.

Where to start in procuring a work visa? Time is of the essence and spending hours on Google researching immigration attorneys is inefficient. Our best recommendation is to tap into your network but first educate yourself with a series of questions to ask immigration attorneys. Understand what your needs are before embarking on the vetting process. 

Our focus is on immigration attorneys rather than other “immigration consultants or specialists.”  Attorneys licensed to practice law in the U.S. will provide foreign founders with the reassurance they have (at minimum) basic legal training and a safety net for recourse should the legal relationship turn sour. Other “experts” may simply vanish if matters go sideways. Our best guide for foreign founders to vet potential immigration attorneys includes these top seven questions to ask: 

What Is Your Experience Working with Foreign Founders in Entrepreneurship? 

Not all immigration attorneys have matching expertise for your specific background. Are you a foreign founder focused on developing hardware manufacturing in the US using AI? Is your company focused on providing SaaS software? Is your background in media and social influence services? Or is your company focused on providing artistic products or services? Or do you need an immigration attorney able to guide you through entrepreneurship in conjunction with visa matters? You would not go to a doctor specializing in cardiology if you are experiencing skin problems. The same applies when vetting immigration attorneys. Ask what experience they have in specific areas of entrepreneurship. Would they understand your business model? Would they understand how to leverage your experience and explain that to Immigration? 

What Is Your Success Rate? 

Unbelievably, the way an immigration attorney responds to this question may matter more than the actual response. Does their response instill confidence in the foreign founder and if so, why? 

What Is Your Availability to Assist Me During the Application Prep and Process? 

The immigration attorney providing the initial assessment and consultation may not be the attorney or staff member managing the actual prep or process. Foreign founders should explore what the prep process will be like and who will be their day-to-day contact during that process. This will allow you to determine if the process is acceptable for your needs. 

How Much Interaction Will I have With You? 

In parallel, foreign founders should also understand the interaction they will have with the immigration attorney and their staff. What is their response time and procedures? Are calls available (unlimited) or at an additional cost? Do they have the technology to meet your security needs? 

How Does Your Fee Structure Work? 

Costs may also be a crucial factor to consider when vetting and comparing immigration attorneys. Understand what you are paying for and the scope of services the payment(s) covers. Are there tiers? Are there multiple sequential processes that trigger fees? How is their invoicing completed? 

If My Matter Triggers a Request for Evidence, How Will the Attorney Respond? 

Even well-prepared matters may trigger a request for more evidence from Immigration. Foreign founders should understand how the immigration attorney will continue to assist and if there will be additional fees. 

If I am not eligible for a visa today, what are my options? 

Not every matter will be ripe for success at the time it is assessed. Foreign founders may find themselves having to do more work to fortify their credentials for a successful immigration visa in the future.  How does the immigration attorney respond to a non-viable matter? Are they offering to sell you other services instead? Do they continue to instill confidence? Be wary of promises that seem too good to be true. 

The entrepreneurial journey is wrought with challenges. Partnering with competent, experienced, and well-matched immigration counsel should not be one of them. If you have reservations, try, and understand what they are and listen to your gut. Go forth and good luck! Hope these Questions for immigration attorneys help you!

Want to pursue the path of immigrant entrepreneurship? Check out this lesson by Ann on how to pursue your path as an Immigrant founder in US.


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