Unshackled Residency
A residence program for solo immigrant founders

Applications closed.

Applications closed on March 1, 2024
Pitch us

Unshackled Residency is the most reliable way for solo immigrant founders to explore their ideas while on a visa in the U.S. We provide $150K, full immigration support, and employment.

Immigrants start here

Who is Unshackled Residency for?

Residency founders we've backed

  • Solo immigrant founders enthusiastic about initial ideas or areas of interest.
  • Ambitious immigrants eager to be full-time entrepreneurs
  • Immigrants in the U.S. that want switch off an employer, university, or other sponsored visa, ASAP or ready to move to the U.S.
  • Curious builders ready to start once the burdens of immigration and lack of local networks are removed
  • An F-1 student from MIT focused on enterprise workflows for housing
  • An OPT student from Pennsylvania who is passionate about railroad infrastructure
  • An H1-B holder and Ph.D. grad from Harvard focused on climate and sustainability
  • A food scientist from Brazil on an F-1 who is working on the next plant-based solution
  • A former war refugee from Chechnya who is building a well-being app
Why this, why now?

Immigrants are our national advantage. As are the jobs they create. Our mission is to create 100,000 jobs in the U.S. to support the next decade of growth.

What Unshackled Residency founders can expect to receive:

Freedom to dream. Big.

With the Unshackled Residency, the only project you work on is your own. Have multiple projects? Across multiple industries? Even better.

Your immigration is covered.

Immigrants face unique constraints. The Unshackled Residency remove the biggest one: visa and green card sponsorship. At $0 cost to you. You can see our track record here.

Investment in you.

All investments are $150k for 10%. This should give you ~18 months of employment to explore your entrepreneurial dreams freely.

A trusted community.

Over the last nine years, 72% of our pre-seed founders graduated to a seed round. How? Our team and our founders help each other. We want the same for you.

Turbocharged answers.

The most important question is whether your idea is worth the next ten years of your life. How fast you answer that is critical. Our support and resources will get you there faster.

Technical guides galore.

Deep tech, gen AI, space, fermentation, BCI, energy storage, alt proteins, hardware, software, web3, consumer tech, etc. These are all spaces we've invested in which will benefit you.


What our Residency founders say about us

The best part of Residency for me is the speed of everything! From getting the yes to meeting the Unshackled Team in person to starting my visa strategy, everything was seamless, clear, and fast, which made general interactions fun and lighthearted. Besides, I truly enjoy working with the Unshackled team because we genuinely get along.
Luiza | Country of birth: Brazil
Unshackled has been the pillar of support in guiding me to realize my dream. The Residency program is well-structured and designed to handle all potential hurdles in an immigrant founder's journey. Everyone on the team gives you that positive, energetic feeling and is super motivating and inspiring. From day 1, there has been complete transparency, and it's like having a big team of genuine people constantly there to back you up. Go Unshackled!
Tejas | Country of birth: India

Being part of Unshackled's Residency has been a transformative experience for me. It goes beyond the financial and immigration support; it's about the validation, confidence, and support that the community extends to founders and builders like myself. The opportunity to connect with an exclusive, high-caliber network and participate in community events has allowed me to stay informed about the latest market trends in our industry, build relationships with investors, and gain insights into effective branding strategies.
Christine | Country of birth: Canada

My experience with Residency so far has been the most life-changing one. As someone with an immigrant background, it's incredibly valuable to have Unshackled believe in you and serve as a backbone for your story and your idea. The trust and belief Unshackled puts in its founders are unparalleled and don't just help make the world a better place, but also truly change lives. I also love how everyone becomes part of a community of brilliant fellow founders with a migration background, creating a support system that is unmatched.
Farisa | Country of birth: Chechnya
Want to learn more? Join an info session next time!

Our founders' words

Our goal is to make something wonderful. The work starts well before we invest.

Memories of our first meeting
What it's like working with us?
Describe Unshackled in 3 words. Go!
What are our superpowers?

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Unshackled doing this?


Immigrants are our National Advantage.

We believe in being the social signal others will follow. This means sourcing differently, making our own decisions, sponsoring visa holders in ways that gives them full freedom to work on their own ideas, connecting immigrants to new communities, and enabling more immigrants to reach their American Dream.

In year 9, our responsibility is clear: help as many immigrants start companies as possible, in a financially sustainable way. With Unshackled Residency we create another starting point. This time specifically for solo, first-time immigrants in the U.S.

By investing $5M across ~30 immigrant founders, we believe we can explore a new way to support overlooked and unrecognized immigrants in our community and break the patterns of venture funding.

Who should apply for Unshackled Residency?


Unshackled Residency is for solo first-time immigrant founders in the U.S. who want to dream and build a venture-style business without constraints.

Given the stage of this program, the more capable you are of building yourself, the more likely you will be able to move fast.

From an immigration perspective, whether you are new to the U.S., a recent graduate on a student visa, a visa holder employed or recently unemployed, an asylum seeker or political refugee, or someone whose immigration journey has stifled your creativity, we want to support you.

From a tech, industry, and sector perspective, everything goes. We are very fortunate to be a generalist fund since 2015, and this means we have had a front row to innovations around all sorts of tech stacks from generative AI, LLMs, materials & energy storage, sensors, autonomous vehicles, space, connectivity, AR/VR/MR, therapeutics, alternative proteins, BCI, etc. We've seen these technologies applied across many industries, from Healthcare, Climate and Sustainability, Food, Fashion and retail, Infrastructure, Consumer Social, eCommerce, TelCo, Web3, Enterprise productivity, and countless others.

Where do I have to be located?


This program is intended for immigrants who want to be in the U.S. full-time and have legal work authorization. Within the U.S., we are agnostic, as most of our collaboration will be over Zoom.

What are the terms and structure of investments?


$150K for 10%, invested on a post-money YC SAFE with our standard side letter.

Do I have to be incorporated before applying or joining?


Absolutely, not. In fact, more than 60% of our pre-seed companies aren't incorporated at the time of our commitment.

As a fund specifically designed for immigrants, we understand this topic creates questions and confusions. If you are selected into Unshackled Residency, we will work with you closely, based on your corporate, immigration and employment needs.

What is the selection process like?


We are conviction-driven, selective, and diligent investors. This means our process is thoughtful. We value founders’ time, conduct research between meetings, and maintain transparency on where we are. Our goal is to have 2-3 meetings to a positive investment decision. The process will support a fast decision on whether to pass or to invest. If we conclude that we are not a fit for Unshackled Residency, we will communicate it quickly and with honest feedback.

What would make me too early or late for this program?


The only way to be too early for Unshackled Residency, is if you aren't ready to go full-time on building something wonderful. As for too late, if you have a co-founder, built a product, or have any customers, we would kindly direct you to reach out for a pre-seed investment through our pitch us form.

Is it true that Unshackled provides complete immigration support to founders on visas?


Yes. We are the only VC with immigration attorneys as partners. We take care of everything immigration and employment for our portfolio founders, including visas and green cards. The exact solution varies for each individual, and our team works for portfolio founders to make sure immigration doesn’t slow them down, while maintaining complete compliance with U.S. immigration laws.

Immigration is personal to us since we started Unshackled with our experiences building companies while on a visa. We understand the critical role immigration plays in people’s lives, and are here to make it as less painful as it can be.  The objective is to allow you to innovate and build what you want to build - whether that means you do that as our employee or of your own startup.

We have made over 260 immigration filings across 13 different categories of work-authorization to ensure immigrants can start a company while on a visa, with a 100% success rate. Our immigration team also stays constantly engaged with portfolio founders throughout the journey, as your life and work situation changes.

What support do you provide beyond capital and immigration?


The best way to learn how we support founders is to talk to other Unshackled founders.

Absent of that, it all starts with seeing you as a person first and earning your trust. Trust happens when we understand what is happening throughout our lives, so any guidance, recommendations, or connections are fitting and welcomed.

Tactically, we will provide access to facilitated conversations with fellow cohort members, other Unshackled founders, and countless other customers and investors. And when it comes to things like co-founder search, equity grants, round constructions, immigration, customer development, go-to-market, product roadmaps, and hiring, the team at Unshackled will jump in actively.

How many founders will I be grouped with?


Initially, we anticipate selecting 8-10 founders per cohort. This allows us to support each person individually and collectively.

How often will I get to collaborate with my cohort?


For immigrants, the difference between success and failure is often who you know and when. Thus, community and cohort collaboration is at the top of our priority stack. It's why our last two hires on our team have profound community-building experience. This means we will create many formal opportunities to interact with your cohort (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly) and encourage founders to assemble independently. We plan to augment this with more time with other immigrant founders in our portfolio, including experts (advisors, investors, executives) outside the direct Unshackled community.

Can I apply with a co-founder?


Unshackled Residency is specifically designed for solo immigrant founders at this stage. So if you have a co-founder and you both are committed to building something wonderful, we would love to hear from you for a pre-seed investment. You can pitch us here.

What does success look like for Unshackled?


Success is helping as many immigrants start companies in the U.S. as possible. Implied in this is Unshackled Residency founders successfully navigating the ideation phase into something worth the next ten years of their lives. This could be building the team, raising additional capital, and/or getting customers to pay for something you are making. If you don't come to an idea worthy of the next ten years or decide another pathway is more important, success supports your path to a green card so that immigration won't hold you back.

How is this different from the Unshackled pre-seed investment checks?


Unshackled Residency is designed with the solo-immigrant founder in mind. The residency encourages immigrant entrepreneurs to fully immerse themselves in whether they want to build something wonderful. You won't need to have a specific idea mapped out. We hope to give you the freedom and access to dream as big as possible if that is your full-time job.

Still have more questions?


To learn more about Unshackled Residency, join an info session in the future.

To learn more about Unshackled (our pre-seed investment strategy), you can read out FAQs here.

Applications closed
Applications closed on March 1, 2024