Here is another edition of “Dear Sophie”, the advice column that answers questions related to immigration on working in technology companies.
“Your questions are essential to spreading the knowledge that enables people around the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” said Sophie Alcorn, immigration lawyer in Silicon Valley. “Whether you’re in people operations, a founder or looking for a job in Silicon Valley, I’d love to answer your questions in my next column.”
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I am a female entrepreneur who created my first startup a few months ago.
Once my startup has taken off – and COVID-19 is under control – I would like to visit the United States to test the market and meet with investors. What visas would allow me to do this?
—He is remarkable in Nairobi
Congratulations on the creation of your startup! There are many ways to engage with the American startup ecosystem, and you can get started right now, before you even physically come to the United States.
I recommend that you research the programs and resources available to entrepreneurs like you through the U.S. Embassy and consulates near you in your home country. I recently interviewed Lilly Wahl-Tuco, a foreign service officer who worked for the US State Department for 15 years, on my podcast.
Wahl-Tuco discussed some of the State Department’s resources – including programs, competitions, and grants – made available by U.S. embassies and consulates for entrepreneurs living in the region.
As the Senior Environmental, Science, Technology and Health (ESTH) Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2015, Wahl-Tuco was tasked with energizing Bosnian entrepreneurs . After traveling across the country, visiting each incubator, and meeting with several entrepreneurs, Wahl-Tuco said she was surprised most of the people she spoke with were unaware of the resources the U.S. government offers through of its embassies.
She recommends that entrepreneurs reach out, network, and research online to understand what’s on offer in their country or even if other foreign embassies offer resources and programs for entrepreneurs.
Wahl-Tuco also suggested that entrepreneurs contact their local U.S. embassy. For example, you can contact the US Embassy in Kenya to see if you can discuss your startup and business plan with an ESTH agent (if there is one) or someone from other there. Getting in touch with embassy staff can open up a lot of opportunities.