Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.
“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”
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I’m a founder of a startup on an E-2 investor visa and just got engaged! My soon-to-be spouse will sponsor me for a green card.
Are there any minimum salary requirements for her to sponsor me? Is there anything I should keep in mind before starting the green card process?
— Betrothed in Belmont
Congratulations on your engagement and thanks for reaching out!
There are several things to keep in mind before you tie the knot. These important considerations are particularly relevant since you’re a startup founder, currently on an E-2 visa, and if you’ll continue to live in California.
My law partner, Anita Koumriqian, who is an expert in family immigration law, recently interviewed Lydia Hsu and Kara Foster, the co-founders of Foster Hsu, LLP, a California family law firm, on our podcast. They cover the ins and outs of family law and prenups, and what to know before you tie the knot and pursue the green card process.
California is a community property state, which means if your marriage doesn’t work out, all of the assets acquired by you and your spouse during the marriage will be divided up equally unless you have a prenuptial agreement (prenup) in place before you get married. Since you are an E-2 investor and I imagine you have significant assets, it’s beneficial to consider entering into a prenup before you become legally married.
This is especially important for you in pursuing a marriage-based green card because U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) often looks to see whether couples are commingling funds in a joint bank account when assessing if your marriage is good-faith to approve your green card.
“A prenup may not be right for you,” says Kara, “but at least you should be educated going into a marriage and know what you’re going to be responsible for, what your obligations are going to be, and how California is going to treat your property, assets and income during the marriage. We have a lot of people coming in later for a divorce saying, ‘If I had known this, I would have done everything differently.’”
In addition to California, there are several other community property states in the U.S., including Arizona, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin.
From the immigration side of things, keep in mind that the Affidavit of Support (Form I-864), which is required for a marriage-based green card, will remain in effect even in the event of a divorce — and takes precedence over any spousal support designated in a prenup.