CASE TYPE: E-2 VISA/EB-1A VISA
How the path from E-2 to EB-1A helped a Swiss
Fintech company grow into an industry leader.
Social Fintech Company
E-2 and EB-1A
In October 2019 we were approached by a trio of Swiss nationals with an ambitious idea: create a social fintech company aimed at disrupting the predatory payday lending industry. Our initial task was to obtain E-2 visas for all three founders.
Prior to their arrival on the scene, most hourly workers seeking advances on their wages would be subject to exorbitant fees by lenders, and most solutions were made to keep consumers in a lending trap instead of helping them save. Nico Simko, the founder of the company (initially called Maverick and now known as Clair), saw both an injustice here and an opportunity to correct it. Nico found that, on average, lenders were charging workers an average of 300% on their advances. In creating Clair, Nico and his co-founders Alex and Erich, partnered directly with the freelance platforms and HR departments paying the hourly workers. The business model allowed the employers to advance the wages onto a worker’s Clair-issued debit card. The worker would not be charged any fees and Clair’s revenue would come from the transaction fees paid by Mastercard.
E-2 Visa Overview
The E-2 visa is a nonimmigrant visa category that allows citizens of certain countries to enter the United States in order to invest in and manage a business. The E-2 visa is available to citizens of countries that have a treaty of commerce and navigation with the United States. As of 2022, there are over 80 countries that have such a treaty with the U.S., including Canada, Mexico, Australia, the United Kingdom and, most recently, Portugal.
In order to qualify for an E-2 visa, applicants must show that they have invested, or are actively in the process of investing, a substantial amount of capital in a U.S. business. The business must also be a real and active enterprise, and the applicant must be coming to the U.S. to develop and direct the enterprise. The definition of a “substantial” investment can vary depending on the specific circumstances of the business, but generally it means that the investment is sufficient to ensure the success of the enterprise and the applicant’s commitment to the enterprise.
To learn more about the E-2 visa requirements please review our E-2 Visa Guide.
The Visa Process
After our initial consultation, we developed a detailed strategy for obtaining visas for Nico, Alex, and Erich. We gathered and reviewed the documentation and decided to submit Nico’s application first at the US Embassy in Bern, Switzerland. He was interviewed in January 2020 and received his approval within minutes. We subsequently submitted petitions for Alex and Erich, both of whom were met with equally smooth experiences in Bern.
Shortly thereafter all three founders were in the US and the business began to grow at breakneck speed. Within less than a year, Clair received $4.5 million USD in seed funding. Less than one year later, the company secured a $15 million USD Series A round led by Thrive Capital. The founders then approached Path Law Group to develop an immigration strategy to help attract and retain talented employees. To date, we have worked with Clair to obtain numerous E-2 essential employee visas, H-1Bs, and EB green cards via PERM. Notably, we were able to obtain I-140 approval for both Nico and Erich via the EB-1A, Extraordinary Ability category.
As of the time of this writing the company has grown from three founders to 50+ full-time employees in 30 months. Their service is offered across 8,000+ businesses ranging from 25 industries, from Fortune 500 companies to local small businesses – and we are honored to be part of their impressive growth.