Visanow raises $16 million from General Catalyst on immigration bet

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 12, 2014 7:36 AM

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - As President Barack Obama's vow to act on immigration brings the contentious issue back to the public eye, one company is betting that U.S. visa services will remain a lucrative business no matter what the political outcome.

Visanow, a Chicago-based company that helps individuals navigate immigration procedures, said it had raised $16 million in funding from venture-capital firm General Catalyst Partners.

According to a Securities & Exchange Commission filing, some $2 million of that will go to officers or directors of the company. A spokeswoman for the company declined to elaborate.

The company has an option to raise $6 million more, for a total of $22 million.

Each year, some 500,000 people become U.S. citizens, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Many more seek rights to visit or live in the United States on a temporary basis. This year, some 172,500 applications were filed for 85,000 H-1B visa slots, a popular category designed for professionals.

The paperwork involved has created a market many companies are tapping. Competitors include LegalZoom, Teleborder, and Bridge.US.

Visanow says it will use the funds to grow in its niche of individuals and small to medium-sized businesses.

General Catalyst partners Scott Griffith and Brian Shortsleeve will join Visanow's board, along with former Small Business Administration head Karen Mills.

(Reporting by Sarah McBride; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)