GW x Penn West Global Build Fellowship

The GW Penn West Global Build Fellowship, in collaboration with the immigration experts from The Build Fellowship by Open Avenues and George Washington University, provides foreign national founders, entrepreneurs, or industry experts with a visa solution. Program participants will land at Studio by Tishman Speyer, a premium coworking space located at 900 19th Street NW. Studio is part of the Penn West Equity and Innovation District (Penn West) in the heart of Washington, DC’s bustling Golden Triangle neighborhood and just blocks from the White House.

Benefits of the Program

  • Cap-exempt H-1B visa solutions for foreign nationals.
  • Formal partnership with George Washington University, a world-renowned university located in the heart of Washington DC.
  • Access to GW’s U.S. Market Discovery Program which assists international startups in solidifying their go-to-market strategy and commercial viability in the U.S. market.
  • Ongoing immigration support and guidance from the Open Avenues Foundation, a nonprofit focused on immigration solutions for foreign national founders, entrepreneurs, and industry experts, for the duration of your fellowship.
  • Flexible, discounted office and coworking space at Studio by Tishman Speyer, Washington DC’s designated international soft landing space, located in the Penn West Equity and Innovation District, a nexus of international business and local innovators.


  1. A U.S. Bachelor’s degree, U.S. Bachelor’s degree equivalent, or equivalent work experience in a field that aligns with the role they will be performing in their fellowship.
  2. The drive and availability to dedicate 5+ hours weekly to support The Build Fellowship’s nonprofit and university partners.
  3. Adequate funding (either through a company sponsor or other economic benefactor) to cover the costs of the fellowship.


Step 1: Application
Step 2: Becoming a Build Fellow
Step 3: U.S. Employment

The Build Fellowship welcomes applications from foreign national innovators, experts, and entrepreneurs seeking immigration solutions allowing them to live, work, and build their careers in DC. Your application will then go into an approval process through The Build Fellowship's immigration team for review and approval.


Once your application is reviewed and approved. The Build Fellowship team places candidates in part-time positions at our partner Nonprofits and Universities. This placement then allows you to receive a cap-exempt H-1B visa solution, allowing you to live in DC and work 5 hours per week at a cap-exempt organization.

By working part-time for GW x Penn West Global Build Fellowship's partner organizations, Build Fellows secure their cap-exempt H-1B visa, allowing them to be employed full time at U.S. companies. This means your company will now be able to sponsor you for a concurrent visa, allowing you to live, build your startup, and thrive in DC.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who should apply?

Foreign nationals and startup founders.

  • Participation in GW’s U.S. Market Discovery Program, which assists international startups in exploring the commercial viability of their idea in the U.S. market. GW’s program includes a required half-day U.S. Market Discovery Advisory Board session, as well as an optional one-month U.S. Market Discovery Short Course. More information can be found on the GW Office of Innovation & Entrepreneurship website.
  • Work 5 hours per week on assigned tasks from the GW Office of Innovation & Entrepreneurship OR provide one micro-internship for a GW student interested in entrepreneurship skill-building.

A one-time $22,000 initiation fee (includes $4,000 George Washington US Market Discovery Program) covers legal and administrative costs for visa petitioning and program onboarding. Additionally, a $1,300 monthly program fee covers ongoing Build Fellowship programming, software, and compliance and immigration support.

All inclusive benefits are:

• GW U.S. Market Discovery Program
• Visa Application Fees & Visa Compliance Management
• Guarantee on Fellow Salary
• Discounted Rent with Studio by Tishman Speyer

Fellowships last a minimum of 6 months and up to 3 years. An additional 3 year extension is possible. Fellows are accepted on a rolling basis and can start the program at any time of the year.

Yes, and you can find more information on the GW Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship website.

There are three stages of the process to become a Build Fellow: Evaluation & Contracting, Visa Petition, and Employment. Prior to Contracting, we go through Evaluation to ensure candidates are well-aligned with the Fellowship role and well positioned for a successful H-1B petition for The Build Fellowship and their full-time employer.

Processing times vary but generally about 2 to 3 months.

The foreign nationals in this program will have two employers, a nonprofit partner (5 hours per week) and the company seeking to employ them full-time (40 hours per week). During their Fellowship, the nonprofit partner controls the employment of the Fellow and facilitates their work with college and university partners. The Build Fellowship’s education team works with Fellows to scope and launch projects in their field of expertise (STEM/Business) for students at partner schools and the general public. As subject matter experts, the Fellow’s job is to lead these technical projects and work with the participants on a weekly basis. The employment for their full-time employer would be controlled by their full-time employer and the duties involved with their full-time role – the same as you would do for a regular cap-subject H-1B petition.

Ready to take the next step?

To apply, visit the GW x Penn West Global Build Fellowship website.

Contact Us

Kerry Slattery
Program Manager, International Entrepreneurship
 Office of Innovation & Entrepreneurship (OIE), The George Washington University

Ian Davis
Director of Partnerships
The Build Fellowship, Cap-Exempt H-1B Visa Fellowships for Foreign Nationals