I regularly get emails from UK Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa applicants with a question about alternative ways to apply for UK visa after not obtaining Endorsement for Tech Nation Visa and rejection of appeal on this decision.
The main argument for these people is very clear – they have done a great job of filling the application form, collecting the required letters of support, writing a personal statement and bringing other supporting documents together. Hence after a fail with this UK talent visa – are there any other routes to go? Sure, always there is one more way to follow. I decided to make a full guide about existing startup visa programs worldwide. I hope it will be helpful.
One of the very unique features of the talent visa program in Canada is legal permission to get visas up to 5 founders of the startup company. However, they must have not less than 10% of voting rights.
Canadian Startup Visa Program Requirements
Do you need to have own business: Yes. Moreover, at the time you receive your permanent residence this business must be incorporated in Canada.
Language requirement: Yes (minimum level of the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) 5 in either English or French)
Required Document: A letter of support from a designated organisation
Designated Organisations: 21 venture capital funds (agree to invest a minimum of $200,000 Canadian Dollars into your company), 8 angel investor groups (agree to invest a minimum of $75,000 Canadian Dollars), 25 business incubators (you have to be accepted to one of their programs).
Financial Requirements: you must have at least $12,475 Canadian Dollars. The amount you need depends on the size of your family. Numbers are updated every year.
Allow bringing family: Yes. The fee for partner’s visa is between $550 – $1040 Canadian Dollars. Child visa costs $150 Canadian Dollars.
Visa Costs: From $1,540 Canadian Dollars
Processing Time: 12 to 16 months
Visa Duration: 5 years
Number of Visas: 2,750 applications per year
United States of America
There are several visa routes in this country so let’s name them.
Its official webpage tells that you need to be physically present in the United States to apply for this visa. This visa route applies for visa applicants called Treaty Investors and also – for their employees.
Financial Requirements: you have to invest $1 million in a US business. Alternatively, if that business is in a rural area, you can obtain the visa with a $500,000 minimum investment. These requirements are made for Treaty Investor status.
Other requirements: for the status of an employee of Treaty Investor you must have special qualifications, in other words, skills which make the employee’s services essential to the efficient operation of the business. Knowledge of language and culture of another country is not enough for these criteria.
Visa Cost: 205 USD
Visa Duration: 2 years
Family: Treaty investors and employees may be accompanied or followed by spouses and unmarried children who are under 21 years of age
EB – 2 (C) Visa
EB-2 visa has two more categories (A) and (B) however, they both require a confirmed US job offer to apply for them.
But EB-2(C) does not! Yes, you can apply for this US visa without a secured employment offer. So the scheme to apply for this visa is very clear: among the 7 criteria you have to meet at least 3 of them.
Academic / Professional Requirements (at least 3 of the list):
- Proof of academic qualification in your field of exceptional ability
- Proof that you have at least 10 years of experience working full time in your field
- A professional license, if needed for your profession
- Proof that you earn a salary appropriate to your level of exceptional ability
- Membership of professional associations in your field
- Proof that your contributions to your field have been recognised by your peers, such as prizes and awards
- Some other proof of your exceptional ability is sometimes accepted, please contact us if you’re not sure if the evidence you have is suitable
Obligatory Requirements: to prove your skills and knowledge will make them an asset to the US.
Visa Cost: 205 USD
E – 3 Visa
This visa is available for Australian professionals only with citizenship of Australia (permanent residence does not work in this case).
Required Documents: (1) Confirmation page of the online nonimmigrant visa application form DS-160; (2) Appointment confirmation page (if relevant); (3) A passport or other travel document; (4) One 5 x 5 cm (2” by 2”) color photograph taken within the last six months; (5) If you are applying within the UK – evidence of your status in the United Kingdom; (6) Evidence of previously issued U.S. visas; (7) A job offer letter or other documentation from the prospective United States-based employer; (8) The approved Labor Condition Application, Form ETA 9035E, specified for “E-3Australia”; (9) Evidence of the necessary academic or other qualifying credentials; (10) A certified copy of any required license or other official permission to practice the occupation in the state of intended employment if so required; (11) If you have ever been arrested, cautioned, convicted you are required to declare it; (12) If you have a medical condition that could have a bearing on your eligibility for a visa, furnish a letter from your physician which discusses your current state of health (13) If you have been denied entry into or deported, or removed from the United States furnish documents relating to this
Visa Cost: 205 USD
O – 1 Visa
Having a good sense of humor, we can call this type of visa “Oh, my God, you are so talented” or “wOOOOOw, you have enormous talent” :). In other words, this is kind of Exceptional Talent Visa for the US, but without the same legal capacity. In other words, this visa is non-immigrant and does not guarantee you a green cart. However, it gives you a chance to legally live and work in the US if you have extraordinary talents or achievements. As the official website says, it is designed “for the individual who possesses extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or who has a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry and has been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements”.
Employment Requirement for O-1 Visa holders: to continue work only in the area of extraordinary ability
Required Documents: file Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, (see Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker), including job offer proof of their abilities
Requires Employment Offer: Yes, full-time employment
Designed Body: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
Visa Cost: 190 USD
L – 1 Visa
L – 1 Visas are created for intracompany transferees and again it is a non-immigrant visa. Particularly, an employee of an international company who is being temporarily transferred to a parent, branch, affiliate, or subsidiary of the same company in the United States. As you can see – this visa is temporary and you can apply only when you work for a company that has the US branch (or head) office.
Visa Types: L-1A (to transfer an executive or manager staff) or L-1B (a professional employee with specialized knowledge relating to the organization’s interests).
Visa Duration: depending on many factors including your country of origin and company’s profile. In general, it varies between 3 months and 5 years
Visa Cost: 190 USD
H – 1B Visa
This visa route allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. So what is a “specialty occupation”? A specialty occupation requires the application of specialized knowledge and a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent of work experience.
Number of Visas: 65,000 visas (+ 20,000 for those having an advanced degree from US universities) annually
Visa Duration: up to 6 years
Areas of Specialty Occupations: including but not limited to biotechnology, chemistry, computing, architecture, engineering, statistics, physical sciences, journalism, medicine and health: doctor, dentists, nurses, physiotherapists, etc., economics, education, research, law, accounting, business specialties, technical writing, theology, and the arts, and requiring the attainment of a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent as a minimum (with the exception of fashion models, who must be “of distinguished merit and ability”).
Requires Employment: yes, this visa is strictly limited to employment by the sponsoring employer. By the way, you cannot apply directly for an H-1B visa. Instead, your potential employer must petition for entry of you as the employee.
Visa Cost: 190 USD
B – 1 Visa
This visa route is designed for people who need temporarily to engage in business activities such as the negotiation of contracts, consultation with business associates, litigation, and participation in scientific, educational, professional or business conventions, conferences or seminars and other legitimate activities of a commercial or professional nature.
In other words, this is a short-term business visa that does not allow you to live and work in the United States but brings many options how you can start your journey to find a job, collaboration or give a start to other ideas.
Visa Cost: 160 USD
This country also has its Visa Tech Program. Under this visa route, it is possible to obtain a Work Visa within a maximum period of 15 working days.
Chilean Visa Tech Program Requirements
Do you need to be hired? Yes, you must work in the areas of science and technology or have proven experience in innovation, whether located in Chile or overseas, and be hired by a technology services company.
Required Documents: (1) a Letter of Invitation and/or (2) a Certificate of Sponsorship from Designed Body.
Additionally, the company must present the Certificate of Sponsorship and a simple copy of the Work Contract. This contract must be for a minimum of three months and include specific clauses on social security, income tax and the period of the contract.
Designed Bodies: InvestChile (in the case of companies with overseas capital), from Start-Up Chile (if the company is associated with this program) or the Undersecretariat of Economy (in the case of local companies)
Processing Time: 15 working days
Visa Duration: subject to contract
Startup Visa Lithuania is designed for startup founders who wish to establish a startup in Lithuania.
Lithuanian Startup Visa
Fields of Interest: Your startup must be operated in one of the following areas:
- Information Technologies
- Laser Technologies
Employment & Financial Requirements: No, you do not need to fulfill certain capital or employment requirements to obtain a residence permit. But you must be an owner at least of a part of the newly founded firm.
Required Document: Business Plan including information about your startup, team composition and professional background, a 1-year action plan, financial resources, and a 2-year strategy. Also, an applicant must apply the main personal information.
Company Financial Requirements: You must have enough financial resources to achieve your set business goals for 1 year. However, there is no set regulated amount and it depends on your business and goals. Also, there are no requirements to employ a particular number of employees.
Visa Cost: free of charge. But you have to pay for temporary residence permit between 114 – 228 EUR
Visa Duration: One year, with the possibility to extend for an additional year
Allow to bring family members: Yes, family members are permitted to accompany the main visa holder
Startup Visa process:
(1) Submit an online application. The application form asks for personal information, team composition, and professional background. Information about your startup, a 1-year action plan, financial resources, and a 2-year strategy should also be detailed in the application
(2) A video interview (2 – 5 minutes), that will be recorded and attached to the application for the overall assessment
(3) Final evaluation by the committee consisting of experts from a committee consisting of representatives of startup accelerators, venture capital funds, Startup Lithuania and the Agency for Science, Innovation, and Technology.
Check Eligibility: an on-line assessment tool
Latvian Startup Visa
Financial Requirements: 5160 EUR per year (confirmation via bank statement)
Financial Obligations: your company has to get EUR 60,000 investments total over 18 months. Additionally, you need to apply a written statement that after you receive the residence permit and as soon as you become the chairman of your startup (or an employee), you will have a monthly salary of at least EUR 859 per month
Required Documents: free-form description of planned activity in the next three years, certificate of clean criminal records.
Additionally, you need to provide a statement where you plan to live while in Latvia for at least the first 6 months (a rental agreement or a letter from the host of the accommodation).
Visa Duration: 3 years
Visa Cost: starting from 100 EUR + 14,23 EUR for temporary residence permit
Employment: only in own company. Not permitted to be a member of board or work in any other companies.
You can read details on Startup Visa to Estonia on the official webpage and frequently asked questions about it – on their Medium blog. In general, you can apply for this visa and after that – get the temporary residence permit.
Estonian Startup Visa
Financial Requirements: Yes. You need to have at least 130 EUR per month (or at least 1560 EUR annually) in your bank account and prove it in the bank statement.
Visa Duration: 3 months or 1 year (with the ability to extend the 12-months visa for 6 months more). Based on this visa, it is allowed to apply for applying for a temporary residence permit for entrepreneurship with duration up to 5 years.
Visa Cost: €80. Ukrainian and Belarusian residents are applying free of charge
Designed Body: Startup Committee consists of members of the Estonian startup community
Full list of documents:
- Valid travel document
- Confirmation letter from the Startup Committee regarding qualification as a startup, or confirmation regarding participation in a qualified accelerator program
- A colour photo sized 35 x 45 mm
- A document confirming the payment of the state fee
- Insurance policy valid for Estonia or for the Schengen area with a coverage of at least €30,000 for the entire duration of your stay
- Evidence of sufficient means of subsistence
- Evidence regarding your planned accommodation in Estonia
- Any information that supports your intention to leave the Schengen area before the expiry of the visa, such as return flight tickets
Visa Processing Time: 10 days for Startup Committee + 30 days for residence permit application
Work Permit: yes. If you establish your company and get a residence permit, you will have a work permit and allow you to work full-time or part-time in local companies simultaneously with work in your startup.
Allow to bring family members: Yes, family members are permitted to accompany the main visa holder
Average Acceptance Rate: over 45% (on the first year of the program they gave 140 positive outcomes of applications, with negative results on 170 applications).
Eligibility: self-check tool
French startup visa (or French Tech Visa) is a program launched in 2015 and has three sub-types: (1) for Founders, (2) for Employees, (3) for Investors. Also, there is a program called French Tech Ticket, but it is created only for international startups.
French Tech Visa
To be eligible for the French Tech Visa as a startup founder must have: (1) financial resources at least equal to the French annual minimum wage, 1498.47 EUR per month for 2018; (2) an innovative startup project to work and develop in France; (3) approval by a French public organization called the Direccte.
To be eligible for the French Tech Visa as an employee, an applicant must have:
- a graduate degree (master’s degree or higher);
- a work contract with a minimum duration of 3 months with a French company eligible to recruit via the French Tech Visa;
- a gross annual salary of at least €35,526.40 (twice the French minimum wage as of 1st January 2017).
To qualify for a Talent Passport marked ‘Business investor’ an applicant must be recruited by a venture capital firm based in France, or:
- be investing at least €300,000 in fixed tangible or intangible assets;
- be investing either directly or via a company in which they have at least a 30% shareholding;
- own at least 10% of the company in which they are investing;
- be creating or protecting (or committing to create or protect) jobs within the four years following the investment.
French Tech Ticket
The French Tech Ticket is something like an acceleration program supported by the French government. This one year program is designed to attract gifted and ambitious individuals from all around the world and help them set up and develop their startup in France. Talented people will get financial and business support in developing their products and selling them.
Every year the rules are reviewed and updated so at this moment there is only 2017 edition (2018/2019 is coming soon). Anyway, it provides a general understanding of the requirements to the teams (not individuals!) to participate in the program.
Main Requirements for the Teams:
- Be an early-stage-start-up or have a startup idea/plan
- Plan to develop your business in France
- Be a team composed of 2 or 3 co-founders (aged 18 or older). The members of the team have to be English-speakers, should not have French citizenship (however, it is allowed to have one French citizen in the team) and the whole team has to be ready to relocate to France and to be fully devoted to their project for the whole year.
You cannot apply for La French Tech Ticket if you are…
- A consulting firm, import-export and franchise businesses;
- A startup that is already incorporated in France;
- A team in which one of the founders may return to school next term or in a case when one or more founders will keep their current jobs (or still have a side job);
- A team in which one or more founders is not willing to relocate to France for a year and/or is not able to begin the program by its start and attend it;
- A team which has more than one French citizen (including binationals).
A program Startup Denmark is a visa scheme launched by the Danish Government to allow talented entrepreneurs to relocate and grow high-impact start-ups in Denmark.
Required documents: a business plan which is evaluated by an expert panel
Visa duration: up to two years with the possibility of extension for three years at a time
Eligibility to apply: self-employed persons, and only non-EU (European Union) and non-EEA (European Economic Area) citizens
Areas of business: any innovative and scalable businesses with clear growth potential (ideas about restaurants, consultancy firms, retail shops, and import/export enterprises will be rejected)
Designated Body: The Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration (SIRI)
Visa Processing Time: up to 1 month
Visa Cost: DKK 1,900 (around 228 GBP)
The Start-up Entrepreneur Programme (STEP) is a program for start-up teams to come to Ireland and do business there.
Requirements to the teams:
- Be a High Potential Start-Up
- Introduce a new or innovative product or service to international markets
- Involved in manufacturing or internationally traded services
- Capable of creating 10 jobs in Ireland and realizing €1 million in sales within three to four years of starting up
- Led by an experienced management team
- Headquartered and controlled in Ireland
- Less than 5 years old
Required Documents: business plan (sample is here), passport and those of your spouse/partner and dependants (if applicable), evidence of family relationships (if applicable), evidence of funds, evidence of investment or details of start-up, police report or character report from risk management consultancy for yourself and for your spouse or partner (if applicable).
Visa Cost: €350
The Italian Government launched the Italian Startup Program to attract and retain innovative entrepreneurs from all over the world. Depending on the location of the applicant, they offer 2 ways for this.
Italia Startup Visa
This visa route is created for non-EU citizens who are outside Italy in the moment of applying for the Italian Startup Visa.
To apply for this visa you need to send the following documents:
- Application form for ISV
- Presentation deck (in .ppt format or equivalent)
- Forecast of costs and revenues (business plan)
- Cover letter for proof of financial resources and attached files
- Copy of your passport
You have to send them to the Committee (firstname.lastname@example.org)with the following subject: APPLICATION ISV FIRST NAME: John LAST NAME: Smith. Nice subject, bye the way :). During the next 30 days, you will get an answer.
However, this is only the first step out of four ones. But it is the most, I believe, challenging stage – in the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa for the UK it is called “Endorsement Stage”.
After this approval of your visa application, you need to finish some bureaucratic tasks and Italy will wait for you.
Italia Startup Hub
This visa route is created for residents of Italy who are already in the country and would like to improve their immigration status by obtaining the Italian Startup Visa.
For this visa route, you need just two documents: application form for ISH and cover letter for proof of financial resources and attached files (e.g. Investment letter of intent). The sample of a cover letter is provided.
For both visa routes, you can apply either directly or via a certified startup hub and there are a couple of basic requirements:
- your business should be established not earlier than 5 years before your visa application;
- your personal financial contribution into business should not be less than 50K euros;
- at least 15% of revenue should be invested in the R&D activity;
- at least 1/3 of your staff has to be Ph.D. or Master’s Degree candidates;
- your company must have some Intellectual Property.
Visa Cost: €116
To be continued…
In Part 2 of this Guide, we will speak about Sweden, Spain, Netherlands, United Kingdom, New Zealand, South Korea, and Singapore.
If you have any ideas what countries I must include in my Guide and you have an interest in them – let me know.