Immigrant Founders — 5 Things to Keep in Mind When Choosing an Immigration Attorney

Unshackled Ventures
6 min readAug 30, 2023


Written by Unshackled Investor, Alexis Z. Maciel

A founder’s worst enemy is misinformation. That’s especially true for many immigrant founders embarking on their entrepreneurial journey in the United States.

One essential ally you need on this path is an immigration attorney who understands the intricacies of your entrepreneurial aspirations and the legal landscape. Not every immigration attorney understands the nuances of being a founder (versus an employee). This is a choice that requires careful consideration, so it’s important to do your homework. Here we’ll delve into five key factors to consider when selecting an immigration attorney. Let’s dig in…

Disclaimer: Unshackled Ventures is not a law firm and anything written here should not be viewed as legal advice or applicable to any individual’s specific case. We recommend working with an immigration attorney prior to taking any legal action.

1) Have a clear understanding of your short and long-term immigration goals.

All immigration attorneys are not equal. Specialization and experience matters. Knowing your goals and needs will help you find the right partner for yourself.

What this can look like:

Short-Term Goals:

  • Establish your business in the United States temporarily, perhaps to test the market or secure initial funding.
  • Launch a specific product or service that requires your physical presence in the United States for a limited period.
  • Do you need a work permit to perform those tasks, or can you do them as a business visitor?

Long-Term Goals:

  • How long do you intend to be in the United States?
  • How long can you work in the US in a temporary work status before you would actually need to consider getting permanent residency?
  • Is your goal to expand your business internationally and utilize the United States as a launching pad?

With your articulated goals in mind, your attorney should guide you through the maze of regulations, ensuring that your immigration strategy aligns seamlessly with your company-building aspirations. The more clarity you have about your goals, the better equipped you’ll be to make informed decisions at every stage of your entrepreneurial journey — including the selection of an immigration attorney.

2) Do their questions go beyond the surface level?

An immigration attorney who is genuinely invested in your success will ask the right questions. Their questions should go beyond the surface, exploring the nuances of your education, experiences, family, business, funding sources, and short/long-term goals. These questions aren’t just for information-gathering; they showcase the attorney’s dedication to comprehending the intricacies of your immigration pathways.

Attorneys who ask the right questions demonstrate a commitment to offering guidance that is not only legally sound but also strategically beneficial for your business - If they aren’t, take note and consider that a red flag 🚩

What this can look like:

  • Questions about your prior work and life experiences. These questions are essential to properly assess which visa pathway makes sense for you.
  • Asking you questions about your company — Where did the idea come from? How is this changing your industry?
  • What is your preferred method of fundraising for your business? Are you considering bootstrapping, seeking angel investment, venture capital, or exploring crowdfunding?
  • How does your chosen fundraising method align with your immigration goals? Different visa categories may have varying requirements based on the source and amount of funding your business receives.
  • What level of control are you comfortable relinquishing to investors? This question ties into both your business strategy and the type of visa you’re pursuing.

3) Do they have a strong track record?

A successful track record is a crucial indicator of an immigration attorney’s effectiveness. Look for attorneys who have experience working with immigrant founders. Check if they’ve successfully navigated similar situations and have helped clients achieve their immigration and business goals.

TIP: When researching an attorney’s track record, consider asking for case studies or client references. This can give you valuable insights into how they’ve handled challenges and opportunities for other clients. An attorney with a proven history of guiding immigrant founders through the immigration process and helping them establish and grow their businesses is more likely to be equipped to assist you effectively.

What this can look like:

Unshackled Ventures legal partner, Serrotte Law shares case studies openly on their website.

4) Do they have a transparent fee structure?

Another pivotal consideration when selecting an attorney lies in their pricing framework. It’s understandable to feel enticed by the idea of opting for the most budget-friendly attorney available. While this approach might bring momentary financial relief, it could cause problems and be more costly in the long run. Like anything else, you get what you pay for!

What this can look like:

Hourly Fee: Some immigration attorneys charge an hourly rate for their services. The rate can vary significantly depending on the attorney’s experience and location.

Flat Fee: Many immigration attorneys offer flat fee arrangements for specific types of cases. For instance, they might charge a fixed amount for preparing and submitting a visa application, green card application, or citizenship application. This approach provides clarity about the total cost upfront.

TIP: Most immigration attorneys charge an initial consultation fee, with rates varying from a few hundred dollars to over $1,000, depending on the complexity of your case. However, you can attempt to request a “free initial call” asking for 10–15 minutes of their time, to simply gauge if there is going to be some connection or trust that will be established.

If the attorney doesn’t want to provide that initial call, send them a summary of your situation, and see if that piques their interest. If you are going to be a good client, willing to pay their fee, they should at least give you 10 minutes to have a brief discussion. Use this opportunity to discuss your case, ask questions, and assess whether the attorney is a good fit for your needs. Pay attention to how well they listen to your concerns and whether they provide thoughtful insights during this initial meeting.

5) How risk-averse are they?

Most attorneys are risk-averse and are trained to see what can go wrong. This is reasonable since they want to make sure they are covered in terms of liability and minimize their exposure when advising clients. However, that’s not the world of an entrepreneur.

As a founder, you’re constantly taking on risk so you need to understand the law and the boundaries of what is allowed. It’s just as important to understand what is not allowed, and the consequences of violating aspects of immigration law. Don’t leave it up to your attorney to make that risk/reward analysis. You need to make that decision.

What to keep in mind: Some attorneys prefer high-volume cookie-cutter cases and some love getting creative. The latter works best for founders since most founder cases are nuanced and require creative thinking to achieve successful outcomes.

TIP: Keep looking until you find the “you can” attorney. Those who focus on what you can’t do are not the right partners for founders. You want an attorney who will understand what you want to do, and if that is legally possible, will work with you to find the right ways to get there.

🙌🏼 If you’re as passionate about immigrant entrepreneurship in this country as I am, I’d love to stay connected with you. Subscribe to Unshackled’s medium for more or find me on X (@alexismaciel). Founders raising pre-seed, let’s connect! You can reach me via email: or connect via LinkedIn :)

About Unshackled Ventures:

Unshackled Ventures is the only early-stage venture capital fund that enables unrecognized and excluded immigrant founders to start companies in the U.S. Since its founding in 2014, Unshackled has proven its thesis that investing and supporting this population drives strong investment returns across key industries, including American infrastructure, generative AI, healthcare, space, and enterprise SaaS. To date, the firm has invested in 80 companies and over 200 entrepreneurs.

If you are an immigrant founder looking to join a community of like-minded entrepreneurs apply to Unshackled’s Immigreat Slack community!

  • Immigreat is a community for immigrant founders to connect with one another and build meaningful relationships. To learn, share, and generally support each other in succeeding.

About Serotte Law:

Serotte Law is the proud legal partner of Unshackled. Serotte Law immigration attorneys provide services in a variety of U.S. immigration cases, including business, family or career-based immigration.



Unshackled Ventures

Pre-seed fund dedicated to investing in and unlocking opportunities for immigrant entrepreneurs.