Dear Sophie: Help! My H-1B wasn’t chosen!

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.”

Extra Crunch members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Sophie:

My startup registered two H-1B candidates in this year’s lottery. Sadly, neither was selected.

One is my co-founder, the other is on OPT. Help! We can’t afford for them to have to leave the U.S. What are our options?

— Lost in Los Angeles

Dear Lost:

Take a deep breath; I’ve got your back. There are many creative immigration pathways for you, your co-founder and your F-1 OPT employee to explore. We’ll take a look at several options, and you can also check out my recent podcast in which my colleague Nadia Zaidi and I explain them in greater depth.

I hope the below ideas inspire you and fill you with a sense of hope and possibility. As always, I suggest consulting with an experienced immigration attorney who can help you identify the strongest path forward, as well as backup options for your co-founder and employee. The particular immigration strategy that’s best for you is always an individual determination. It’s best identified through a personal consultation with an attorney such as myself based on a variety of factors, including each person’s immigration history and your particular startup’s goals.

Co-founder immigration options

For a funded startup, there’s a great H-1B Plan B: the Cap-Exempt H-1B. Especially if your co-founder has a STEM background (and possibly even for some founders who don’t have this), there’s a wonderful new triple-win option that supports startups, international candidates and even diverse U.S. STEM college students seeking better project-based learning opportunities.

What is this magical rainbow-striped unicorn option, you ask? Well, here’s the legal background: Some employers qualify to petition for an H-1B visa at any time without going through the lottery. These employers — called cap-exempt employers because they are not subject to the annual H-1B cap of 85,000 visas available to for-profit employers — include:

  • Institutions of higher education.
  • Nonprofits tied to institutions of higher education.
  • Nonprofit research organizations.
  • Government research organizations.

If your co-founder can get a part-time H-1B visa through one of these cap-exempt employers, your startup can concurrently sponsor your co-founder for an H-1B regardless of the recent lottery results.

A composite image of immigration law attorney Sophie Alcorn in front of a background with a TechCrunch logo.

Image Credits: Joanna Buniak / Sophie Alcorn (opens in a new window)

To take advantage of this special law, I’m a huge fan of Open Avenues Foundation, which offers a Global Talent Fellowship. In this program, international talent can receive cap-exempt H-1B visas by leading university students for about five hours a week in real-world, project-based work within their field of expertise for the startup that nominated them for the fellowship. The candidate gets to stay in (or come to) the U.S., your startup gets a team of students working on a group project that benefits your company and increases diversity in your hiring pipeline, and U.S. students get the benefit of hands-on high quality STEM learning.

Once your candidate’s first cap-exempt H-1B is in place, your startup can petition for a second, concurrent Cap-Exempt H-1B for direct startup employment.

Interested in variations? If you’re not in STEM but have a university that would host you (free to the university), you can potentially partner with OAF. In addition, many universities in the U.S have global entrepreneur-in-residence programs that can help international co-founders qualify for concurrent Cap-Exempt H-1Bs. Your startup should also consider sponsoring your co-founder for an O-1A visa or change of status.

Another option to consider is for your co-founder to apply for International Entrepreneur Parole (IEP), a new 30-month immigration status in the U.S. The International Entrepreneur Rule (IER) was created by President Barack Obama and is the closest thing the U.S. has right now to a startup visa. The Trump administration tried to eliminate it, but the National Venture Capital Association, led by Jeff Farrah, successfully challenged the administration’s effort in federal court, so IEP remains on the books.

A lot of folks don’t believe it’s an option yet, so I’m currently looking for international startup founders with a strong case to file for IEP to test out this new program and demonstrate its existence to the world. We’re currently seeking global startup founders holding at least 15% equity in a U.S. startup that’s less than five years old and has raised at least $250,000 from U.S. investors. If you want to be on our free interest list, you can fill out this form. If we think you have a strong application, we’ll reach out.

If your co-founder wants to remain permanently in the U.S., consider starting a green card now such as the EB-1A green card for individuals of extraordinary ability or an EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver) green card for individuals of exceptional ability. Of these, the EB-1A is the quickest option, but its qualification requirements are tougher than for the EB-2 NIW.

F-1 OPT employee immigration options

If your F-1 OPT employee graduated with a qualified STEM degree, that employee can apply for a 24-month work extension, known as STEM OPT. That will allow the employee to remain in the U.S. to continue working for you. In the meantime, you can register them again next year for the H-1B lottery. If there’s no possibility for STEM, please check out the Cap-Exempt H-1B option explained above.

If your F-1 OPT employee only has a bachelor’s degree, they might want to consider pursuing an advanced degree. Individuals with a master’s or higher degree from a U.S. university have better odds of being selected in the annual H-1B lottery. That’s because 20,000 of the 85,000 H-1B visas available each year are earmarked for individuals with a master’s or higher degree from a U.S. university.

You should be aware, however, that next year’s H-1B lottery will likely shift from the current random selection process to one based on the highest wages. Unless the Biden administration changes the policy, which was devised by the previous administration, employers who pay their H-1B candidates a Level III wage or higher have the best chance of getting selected to file for an H-1B visa.

As you know, sponsoring employers must agree to pay an H-1B candidate the higher of either the actual wage paid for the job or the prevailing wage, which is broken down into four levels based on experience required for the position and location of the position. Level I wage is basically for an entry-level position, while a Level IV wage is for a position requiring the most experience. While this will add greater predictability to the annual H-1B “lottery,” early-stage startups and small businesses may have a difficult time competing against more established companies on salary, particularly because stock options and equity are not included in the salary calculation.

If you need to find alternative visa solutions, you can always consult with an attorney. I hope all of these options help you realize the control and agency you have in this situation. You have choices!

All my best,

Sophie


Have a question for Sophie? Ask it here. We reserve the right to edit your submission for clarity and/or space.

The information provided in “Dear Sophie” is general information and not legal advice. For more information on the limitations of “Dear Sophie,” please view our full disclaimer. You can contact Sophie directly at Alcorn Immigration Law.

Sophie’s podcast, Immigration Law for Tech Startups, is available on all major platforms. If you’d like to be a guest, she’s accepting applications!

#column, #diversity, #green-card, #h-1b-visa, #immigration, #immigration-law, #lawyers, #sophie-alcorn, #startup-visa, #tc, #verified-experts

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Dear Sophie: What should I know about prenups and getting a green card through marriage?

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.”

Extra Crunch members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Sophie:

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

Dear Betrothed,

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 composite image of immigration law attorney Sophie Alcorn in front of a background with a TechCrunch logo.

Image Credits: Joanna Buniak / Sophie Alcorn (opens in a new window)

“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.

#column, #diversity, #e-2-visa, #ec-column, #green-card, #h-1b-visa, #immigration-law, #labor, #lawyers, #sophie-alcorn, #startups, #verified-experts

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Dear Sophie: When can I finally come to Silicon Valley?

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.”

Extra Crunch members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Sophie:

I’m a startup founder looking to expand in the U.S. I was originally looking at opening an office in Silicon Valley to be close to software engineers and investors, but then… COVID-19 🙂

A lot has changed over the last year – can I still come?

— Hopeful in Hungary

Dear Hopeful:

How and where work is getting done in Silicon Valley (as well as in much of the world)  shifted during the COVID-19 pandemic. That said, yes, it can still make business sense for many to join the Silicon Valley ecosystem.

According to a recent report from PitchBook, Silicon Valley will continue to be the center for VC investment and high-tech talent, even though several large tech companies relocated out of Silicon Valley and implemented full-time work-from-home policies — and many predicted that “the Bay Area tech scene as we know it would be lost, and VC would find a new home.”

Clearly, while the pandemic’s impact on the venture industry will be felt in years to come, VC will continue to be centered in Silicon Valley. In a recent episode of my podcast, I discussed work trends and how to use immigration to support company priorities as well as attract and retain talent in the United States.

The PitchBook report points out that Silicon Valley “has kept a tight hold on fundraising in the U.S., closing on commitments exceeding $151 billion over the past five years, more than the rest of the U.S. ecosystems combined. LPs have continued to funnel capital to area VCs because of the region’s track record of success, which includes 17 of the 22 U.S. companies to ever receive a private valuation of $10 billion or more.”

A composite image of immigration law attorney Sophie Alcorn in front of a background with a TechCrunch logo.

Image Credits: Joanna Buniak / Sophie Alcorn (opens in a new window)

So while VCs will likely return to the old ways of networking and funding post-pandemic, we’ll see a hybrid of online and in-person meetings because there are so many benefits to in-person networking and exchanging ideas.

#column, #diversity, #ec-column, #ec-how-to, #green-card, #h-1b, #immigration-law, #labor, #lawyers, #sophie-alcorn, #startups, #verified-experts

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Dear Sophie: What type of visa should we get to fundraise in Silicon Valley?

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.”

Extra Crunch members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Sophie:

A friend and I founded a tech startup last year. Like a lot of other startups, we’re looking for funding. Should we come to Silicon Valley to meet with venture capitalists?

How should we begin that process? What type of visa should we get and how easy is it to get?

—Logical in Lagos

Dear Logical:

Thanks for reaching out to me from the entrepreneurial hotspot of Lagos!

In a recent episode of my podcast, I spoke with Esther Tricoche, director of investments at Kapor Capital, who offered up many words of wisdom to founders. She also mentioned that in many emerging entrepreneurial markets, including Lagos, accelerator funding and Series A funding are relatively easy to find, but pre-seed and seed funding are not.

Getting yourselves and your startup in front of Silicon Valley investors that focus on pre-seed and seed funding will be important to rapidly scale. Esther mentioned that even in U.S. cities, such as Atlanta, that are entrepreneurial hotspots, investment dollars are not as plentiful as they are in Silicon Valley. Moreover, investors outside of Silicon Valley tend to be more risk-averse.

A composite image of immigration law attorney Sophie Alcorn in front of a background with a TechCrunch logo.

Image Credits: Joanna Buniak / Sophie Alcorn (opens in a new window)

So, yes, you should meet with Silicon Valley investors, but be aware that most U.S. embassies and consulates remain closed to routine visa and green card processing due to the ongoing pandemic. Given that, you can start requesting virtual meetings now; and you will have to wait until the U.S. consulate in Lagos comes back to full capacity to apply for a visa to come to the U.S. I like checking for visa availability through the Waypoint Embassy and Consulate Directory (full disclosure: I am an advisor to Waypoint).

As always, I recommend that you consult an experienced immigration attorney when you’re ready to take the step of actually applying for a visa.

Once U.S. consular offices reopen, if you aren’t eligible for ESTA, you can apply for a B-1 visitor visa for business. With a B-1 visa, you can request an initial stay of up to six months. This is a great status for business meetings such as to talk to prospective investors, negotiate contracts and incorporate a new business. However, you can’t work in the U.S. You must be aware that no hands-on work for pay (or even the chance of future remuneration) by a U.S. entity is allowed.

#column, #dear-sophie, #diversity, #ec-column, #ec-future-of-work, #immigration, #labor, #lawyers, #policy, #sophie-alcorn, #startups, #verified-experts, #work-visa

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Dear Sophie: What are the pros and cons of the H-1B, O-1A, and EB-1A?

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.”

Extra Crunch members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Sophie:

I’m an entrepreneur who wants to expand my startup to the U.S. What are the benefits and drawbacks of various types of visas and green cards?

The ones I’ve heard the most about are the H-1B, O-1, and EB-1A.

— Intelligent in India

Dear Intelligent:

I’m happy to hear you’re considering the O-1A extraordinary ability visa and the EB-1A extraordinary green card! Individuals often assume they need to have won a Nobel Prize or some other major award or be well-known in their field to qualify for either the O-1A or the EB-1A—and that’s simply not the case.

A composite image of immigration law attorney Sophie Alcorn in front of a background with a TechCrunch logo.

Image Credits: Joanna Buniak / Sophie Alcorn (opens in a new window)

“Particularly for folks from Asia, being a self-promoter is massively looked down upon. Humility is important,” says Navroop Sahdev, a pioneering economist and blockchain expert whom I recently interviewed for my podcast. Sahdev is founder and CEO of The Digital Economist, a Connection Science Fellow at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a partner at NextGen Venture Partners.

She spoke with me about her immigration journey to the United States, which included two H-1B visas, an O-1A visa, and an EB-1A green card.

Here are the pros and cons of each visa and green card that you listed.

H-1B visa

Overall, the requirements for the H-1B specialty occupation visa are not as stringent as those for the O-1A visa and the EB-1A green card, which is why many employers sponsor international students who are on an F-1 visa and recently graduated or on OPT (Optional Practical Training) or STEM OPT for an H-1B.

Because demand for the H-1B far exceeds the annual supply of 85,000, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) holds a random lottery to determine who can apply for an H-1B. (That random lottery is slated to switch to a wage-based selection process next year.)

#column, #diversity, #ec-column, #ec-future-of-work, #green-card, #h-1b-visa, #immigration, #labor, #lawyers, #policy, #sophie-alcorn, #startups, #united-states, #verified-experts

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Dear Sophie: Can you demystify the H-1B process and E-3 premium processing?

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.”

Extra Crunch members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Sophie:

Our startup is planning on registering an international student employee in this year’s H-1B lottery. This will be our first H-1B.

Can you help demystify the H-1B process and provide any tips? We also want to hire an Australian and transfer their E-3. How quickly can this be done?

— Plucky in Pleasanton

Dear Plucky:

Thanks for your timely questions! There’s some great news for Australian citizens currently in the U.S. and looking for job transfers, amendments and extensions. Premium processing is now available for the E-3 working visa category! This means that transfers, changes of status, and extensions of status for Australians in the U.S. seeking an E-3 can now obtain adjudications from USCIS in as little as 15 days, making it much easier to hire an Australian who is currently in the U.S. for a new role. Go for it!

On the topic of H-1Bs, the registration period for this year’s H-1B lottery will open at 9 a.m. PST on March 9 and will close at 9 a.m. on March 25. Startups need to make sure they’re registering anybody they want to sponsor during this window. Take a listen to my recent podcast on H-1B Lottery Planning, Part 1 and Part 2, for a general explanation of how this year’s process will work and how best to prepare.

Planning is key for implementing a successful immigration strategy. As always, I suggest you consult with an experienced immigration attorney ASAP to help get organized for registering your H-1B candidate for the March lottery and doing as much prep work as possible so that you can put together a strong H-1B petition in the event your candidate is selected in the lottery.

An attorney will also be up to date on all the recent changes to immigration policy, such as USCIS rescinding a Trump-era policy that went into effect in 2017 that effectively made computer programming positions ineligible for an H-1B visa. You will also want to discuss backup options for the international student employee if they are not selected in this year’s lottery.

A composite image of immigration law attorney Sophie Alcorn in front of a background with a TechCrunch logo.

Image Credits: Joanna Buniak / Sophie Alcorn (opens in a new window)

Registration and lottery process

Recently, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced it will delay until next year the plan to shift from a random H-1B lottery to a wage-based one that would have selected registrants who would be paid the highest wage for their position and location. In January, the previous administration had finalized the rule implementing the wage-based lottery. The latest announcement ended weeks of speculation whether USCIS under the Biden administration would retain a wage-based H-1B allocation process, which falls in line with President Biden’s presidential campaign platform.

The random H-1B lottery in March means that H-1B candidates with the same education level who will be paid more will have no greater advantage than those being paid less. However, next year that may not be the case.

Regardless of whether there’s a random or wage-based lottery, individuals with a master’s or higher degree from a U.S. university will continue to have the best chance of being selected in the H-1B lottery. The annual cap on H-1Bs remains at 85,000 and of those, 20,000 H-1Bs are reserved for individuals with a master’s degree or higher from a U.S. university. USCIS randomly selects enough registered candidates from the entire pool of registrants to reach the 65,000 regular H-1B cap first. Then it randomly selects another 20,000 registered candidates holding a U.S. master’s degree or higher, in what is called the advanced-degree cap exemption. Therefore, individuals with a U.S. advanced degree have two chances to be selected. To be eligible, your international student employee must have earned their advanced degree from an eligible and accredited U.S. institution by the time the H-1B petition is filed.

After the online registration period closes on March 25, USCIS will conduct a random computerized selection of registrations and will notify those selected by March 31. A completed H-1B petition must be filed within 90 days of being notified that the H-1B candidate was selected in the lottery, which means the filing deadline will be June 30.

In order to register your candidate for the H-1B lottery, your company will need to set up an online USCIS account if it does not already have one. This can be done at any time between now and the end of the registration period. Your attorney can help you with this and the online registration process.

For the online registration process, your company will have to provide the following information:

  • Full legal name of the candidate.
  • Gender.
  • Date of birth.
  • Country of birth.
  • Country of citizenship.
  • Passport number.
  • If the candidate is eligible for inclusion in the U.S. advanced-degree cap.

In addition, your company will have to pay the $10 registration fee, which can be submitted by entering a credit card, debit card, checking or savings account directly into the H-1B registration portal.

Tips for preparing

Generally, your startup and your H-1B candidate should start assembling documents you will need to submit. Your startup will need to get its tax identification number verified by the U.S. Department of Labor to prove that your startup is capable of sponsoring an individual for an H-1B. This needs to be done before your company can submit a Labor Condition Application (LCA), which is also sent to the Labor Department. An approved LCA must be submitted with your H-1B petition to USCIS. In addition to your startup’s tax ID, it will need the following:

  • If your startup formed recently, articles of incorporation, pitch deck, business plan, term sheet, cap tables.
  • Documentation showing your company can pay the prevailing wage for the H-1B candidate’s position and location: bank statements, tax returns, other financial documents.
  • Documents to prove your company is operating within the normal course of business, including marketing materials, company reports, screenshots of the company website.
  • Job offer letter to the H-1B candidate, including job title, detailed duties, benefits, salary and start date.
  • Minimum requirements for the position.

Your H-1B candidate will need:

  • An up-to-date resume.
  • Originals of diplomas, certificates, and transcripts (also scanned copies).
  • Past immigration documents, such as Form I-20 (certificate of eligibility for F-1 student status) or Form DS-2019 (certificate of eligibility for J-1 status.
  • Translations of any documents not in English along with a certified translation document.

For tips for filing the H-1B petition, listen to my podcast episodes on “Your Startup’s First H-1B” and “What Makes a Strong H-1B Petition.” Your attorney will be able to make the case that your H-1B candidate and the position your startup is offering meet the requirements of the H-1B specialty occupation visa.

As of now, premium processing for H-1B petitions remains available. Currently, USCIS is severely backlogged in all case types, so I often suggest using it, depending on the H-1B candidate’s start date and current geographic location. With premium processing, which is an optional service for a $2,500 fee, USCIS guarantees it will make a decision on a case within 15 days. If USCIS approves your H-1B petition, the earliest the international student employee can begin working under the H-1B visa is Oct. 1, 2022, which is the first day of the federal government’s new fiscal year.

Fingers crossed for you in this year’s H-1B lottery

All the best,

Sophie


Have a question for Sophie? Ask it here. We reserve the right to edit your submission for clarity and/or space.

The information provided in “Dear Sophie” is general information and not legal advice. For more information on the limitations of “Dear Sophie,” please view our full disclaimer. You can contact Sophie directly at Alcorn Immigration Law.

Sophie’s podcast, Immigration Law for Tech Startups, is available on all major platforms. If you’d like to be a guest, she’s accepting applications!


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Dear Sophie: Which immigration options are the fastest?

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.”

Extra Crunch members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Sophie:

Help! Our startup needs to hire 50 engineers in artificial intelligence and related fields ASAP. Which visa and green card options are the quickest to get for top immigrant engineers?

 And will Biden’s new immigration bill help us?

— Mesmerized in Menlo Park

Dear Mesmerized,

I’m getting this question quite frequently now as more and more startups with recent funding rounds are looking to quickly expand. In the latest episode of my podcast, I discuss some of the quickest visa categories for startups to consider when they need to add talent quickly.

As always, I suggest consulting with an experienced immigration lawyer who can help you quickly strategize and implement an efficient and cost-effective hiring and immigration plan. An immigration lawyer will also be up to date on any immigration policy changes and plans in the event that the Biden administration’s U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 passes. It was introduced in the House and Senate this month.

That proposed legislation would enable more international talent to come to the U.S. for jobs and clear employment-based visa backlogs, among other things. Given the legislation’s substantial benefits offered to employers, I encourage your startup — and other companies — to let congressional representatives know you support it.

A composite image of immigration law attorney Sophie Alcorn in front of a background with a TechCrunch logo.

Image Credits: Joanna Buniak / Sophie Alcorn (opens in a new window)

Given that most U.S. embassies and consulates remain at limited capacity for routine visa and green card processing due to the pandemic, it is generally quicker to hire American and international workers who are already in the U.S. Although U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is experiencing substantial delays in processing cases due to the coronavirus, as well as an increase in applications, Premium Processing is currently available for most employment-based petitions. We are still able to support many folks with U.S. visa appointment scheduling at consulates abroad using various national interest strategies.

With all of that in mind, here are the visa categories that offer the quickest way to hire international talent.

H-1B transfers

Hiring individuals by transferring their H-1B to your startup can be completed in a couple of months with premium processing. Premium processing is an optional service that for a fee guarantees USCIS will process the petition within 15 calendar days.

What’s more, H-1B transferees can start working for your startup even before USCIS has issued a receipt notice or made a decision in the case. You just need to make sure that USCIS received the petition, which is why I always recommend sending all packages to USCIS with tracking.

Premium processing can help to get a digital receipt as the paper receipts are often backlogged. I stopped suggesting this route during the Trump administration, but am feeling more comfortable providing it as an option under the Biden administration. The H-1B is the only type of visa that allows somebody to start working upon the filing of a transfer application.

#column, #diversity, #ec-column, #green-card, #h-1b, #immigration-law, #labor, #lawyers, #sophie-alcorn, #startups, #verified-experts

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Dear Sophie: Tips for filing for a green card for my soon-to-be spouse

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.”

Extra Crunch members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Sophie:

My fiancé is in the U.S. on an H-1B visa, which is set to expire in about a year and a half.

We were originally planning to marry last year, but both he and I want to have a ceremony and party with our families and friends, so we decided to hold off until the pandemic ends. I’m a U.S. citizen and plan to sponsor my fiancé for a green card.

How long does it typically take to get a green card for a spouse? Any tips you can share?

— Sweetheart in San Francisco

Dear Sweetheart:

Congratulations! It’s so wonderful to hear you’re planning to take the next step with your beloved. I understand wanting to wait to have a big wedding and party. However, to avoid the risk that your husband-to-be will have to leave the U.S., I recommend that you get married in a civil ceremony as soon as possible and immediately file for a green card.

Be sure to check out the podcast that my law partner, Anita Koumriqian and I posted on the ins and outs of applying for a fiancé visa (if your fiancé is living outside of the U.S.) or a marriage-based green card.

If your husband has already been sponsored for a green card by his employer and he’s only waiting for his priority date to become current, his employer might be able to renew his H-1B visa beyond six years, which would mean he won’t have to leave the U.S. while he waits for either green card to come through. Keep in mind that due to COVID-19 restrictions and an increase in filings, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is facing significant delays in processing all immigration cases. Currently, USCIS may take more than a year to process marriage-based green card petitions.

To answer your second question, here are my tips for getting a marriage-based green card for your soon-to-be husband:

Ask for employer support

Given that your fiancé’s employer could benefit by retaining him without going through (or needing to complete) the lengthier and more costly process for an employer-sponsored green card, your fiancé should ask his company to cover the legal and filing costs for the marriage-based green card. Your fiancé’s employer will also probably still have to submit an H-1B visa renewal on his behalf.

For a good-faith marriage, marriage-based green cards generally are quicker, less document-intensive and less expensive than getting an employer-sponsored green card. If your fiancé is from India or China, he would face a substantially longer wait for an employee-based green card due to the annual numerical and per-country caps.

There are no numerical or per-country caps on marriage-based green cards for immediate relatives. Because of this, you will be able to file Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative), which establishes your relationship to your spouse, and Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) for the green card at the same time (concurrent filing).

A composite image of immigration law attorney Sophie Alcorn in front of a background with a TechCrunch logo.

Image Credits: Joanna Buniak / Sophie Alcorn (opens in a new window)

Hire an immigration attorney

Filing a petition to sponsor a spouse for a green card sounds straightforward, but it requires more than just filling out the appropriate forms. Many couples come to us after going it alone and running into problems or getting denied.

#column, #diversity, #ec-future-of-work, #ec-how-to, #green-card, #h-1b, #immigration-law, #labor, #lawyers, #policy, #sophie-alcorn, #startups, #verified-experts

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Dear Sophie: What’s the recipe for an H-1B?

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.”

Extra Crunch members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Sophie:

I want to sponsor a potential employee for an H-1B but the process for an H-1B petition seems pretty complex.

What goes into an H-1B petition? How has it changed in recent weeks? Is the lottery going to be wage-based or random?

— Hungry to Learn in Hillsborough

Dear Hungry:

This is a great time to get started on the H-1B lottery process — the time is fast approaching. In my most recent podcast episode about H-1Bs on Immigration Law for Tech Startups, we covered planning for the H-1B lottery.

For all those foodies out there, in this column, I include a recipe for making your very first H-1B, plus the latest on lottery timing, whether the lottery will be wage-based and pay-to-play, the end of Buy American, Hire American, and changes in how H-1B wage levels are calculated.

New to the H-1B?

To get started, if you’re a newbie looking to whet your appetite with what’s involved in the H-1B process, there’s no need for the H-1B lottery season to feel complex or daunting. In fact, I wrote out a recipe so you can easily understand how to cook up an H-1B petition. 😉

Alcorn H-1B Petition Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 hungry employer seeking top global talent
  • > 1 motivated job seeker(s) from around the world
  • > 1 experienced business immigration attorney
  • > 1 compassionate business immigration paralegal
  • 1 package clear communication
  • 1 gallon legal strategy; add more to taste
  • 1 gallon hard work, divided
  • 4 cups enthusiasm and dedication
  • 2 questionnaires
  • 1 Labor Condition Application (LCA)
  • 4 forms for USCIS, 5 if you want to broil the case and eat sooner
  • 1 robust letter of support from the company
  • To taste: Job seekers’ supporting documents, as needed
  • For startup flavor: sprinkling of company formation documents

Directions

  1. It’s important to start off the H-1B with a solid legal strategy. Start by combining the employer and job seeker with at least one business immigration attorney and at least one business immigration paralegal. Add communication, half gallon of legal strategy and 1 cup of enthusiasm and dedication.
  2. After the legal strategy has been prepped, separate the rest of the ingredients into separate containers (there will be some overlap).
  3. Take the two questionnaires and distribute evenly between the employer and job seeker. Add to pan over medium-low heat or high heat depending on how soon everyone wants to eat.
  4. Once the questionnaires are evenly browned, remove from heat and examine to make sure everything is cooked properly.
  5. Once the questionnaires are reviewed, use some of the flavors to prepare the Labor Condition Application (LCA). Add in 1 cup of legal strategy and 1 quart of hard work. Let simmer for 7-10 days.
  6. While the LCA is simmering, prep your forms one at a time. Add ½ cup of legal strategy and 2 cups of hard work.
  7. After the forms are prepped, use the remaining legal strategy (more if necessary), 2 quarts of hard work, and 1 cup of enthusiasm and dedication to prepare the letter of support.
  8. Once that’s ready, and the LCA is fully cooked, use ½ quart of hard work to add the glazed forms, LCA and letter of support into a bowl (preferably Adobe Acrobat). After adding the letter of support, fold in the job seekers’ supporting documents. Add 1 cup of enthusiasm and dedication. Add startup sprinkles if desired.
  9. Finally, use the remaining 2 cups of enthusiasm and dedication to bake the case with USCIS!
  10. Allow to cool for 15 calendar days if famished, or 4-6 months if you’re not that hungry.
  11. Enjoy!

For those experts out there hungering for the latest H-1B updates, here’s a rundown of what we’ve been seeing over the last two weeks since the Biden Administration took office:

Lottery timing

We expect an imminent announcement regarding the details of the upcoming FY2022 H-1B lottery registration process for cap-subject nonimmigrant visa petitions. The electronic registration period lasts at least 14 days, and the latest possible start date will be March 18, 2021. We’re also awaiting details on when the initial registration period will begin; last year it lasted from March 1 to 20. Feel free to listen back to Get Ready for the H-1B FY2022 Lottery for more details on how this worked last year and please stay tuned if you’re planning on filing an H-1Bs this year: Following these dates is crucial.

Will the lottery be pay-to-play?

A final rule called “Modification of Registration Requirement for Petitioners Seeking To File Cap-Subject H–1B Petitions” issued under Trump is currently scheduled to take effect on March 9, 2021. It would change the lottery from being random to being allocated based on highest to lowest relative wage. On January 20 the Biden administration instructed all agencies to consider delaying the effective date of certain rules not yet in effect, such as this one.

We’re all waiting with bated breath to see if this new change will go through. So far USCIS has not published any rule in the Federal Register indicating that the wage-based H-1B lottery will be delayed until after the scheduled start date. Also, over the past few days, there are some preliminary indications that the system will go forward as Trump planned, even under the Biden administration. This includes changes to the H-1B registration online tool and the form.

Although a wage-based allocation might make H-1B salaries more expensive for some employers, it would also dramatically increase immigrant security and employer predictability. As we all wait to see what USCIS will decide to do here, you can also access our free H-1B guide for more information on H-1Bs.

The end of Buy American, Hire American

On January 25, President Biden issued Executive Order 14005, “Ensuring the Future Is Made in All of America by All of America’s Workers.” This ends Trump’s “Buy American and Hire American” Executive Order and ensures a broader focus of helping American businesses “compete in strategic industries” and helping “America’s workers thrive.” We anticipate that this change will probably lead to higher rates of U.S.-business-based visas and green cards being approved in the future.

Changes in wage-level calculations

There are changes to the way that prevailing wages are calculated for visas such as H-1Bs and the PERM portion of the green card process. White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain indicated that new rules may be withdrawn or delayed. We’ve already seen the Department of Labor withdraw the Office of Foreign Labor Certification H-1B Program Bulletin and a Wage and Hour Division Field Assistance Bulletin (FAB) on LCAs, so it is no longer in effect. Additionally, DOL announced this week that it will delay the rule regarding prevailing wage levels, to not take effect until May 14, 2021.

We’re tracking all the major H-1B changes here, so stay tuned to Dear Sophie for all the latest!

All my best,

Sophie


Have a question? Ask it here. We reserve the right to edit your submission for clarity and/or space. The information provided in “Dear Sophie” is general information and not legal advice. For more information on the limitations of “Dear Sophie,” please view our full disclaimer here. You can contact Sophie directly at Alcorn Immigration Law.

Sophie’s podcast, Immigration Law for Tech Startups, is available on all major podcast platforms. If you’d like to be a guest, she’s accepting applications!

#column, #dear-sophie, #diversity, #ec-column, #h-1b, #immigration-law, #labor, #lawyers, #policy, #sophie-alcorn, #startups, #verified-experts

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Dear Sophie: How can I sponsor my mom and stepdad for green cards?

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.”

Extra Crunch members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Sophie:

I just got my U.S. citizenship! My husband and I want to bring my mom and her husband to the U.S. to help us take care of our preschooler and toddler.

My biological dad passed away several years ago when I was an adult and my mom has since remarried. Can they get green cards?

— Appreciative in Aptos

Dear Appreciative:

Congrats on becoming a citizen! That is a long road, and you did it. 🙂 For all those out there awaiting citizenship, good news: It’s a priority for the Biden administration to speed up processing times. Other good news — the Muslim Ban is cancelled! And USCIS is going to make things a lot better for Dreamers seeking DACA.

We can definitely figure out a plan to support your mom and stepdad to get green cards in the U.S. As your mom married your stepdad after you turned 18, you can’t sponsor him directly. You need to sponsor your mom for a green card first, and then she can sponsor him as her husband. My law partner, Anita Koumriqian, who is an expert in family-based immigration, and I discussed getting green cards for parents and siblings in a recent podcast. Check it out for more details. To set clear expectations, this is a multistep process that will probably take a few years. So you may want to consider hiring a nanny if you need childcare sooner than that! 😉

Alternatively, to speed things up for your stepdad, if he has a daughter, son or sibling who is a U.S. citizen, any of them can sponsor him for a green card. If your mom ends up sponsoring him once she’s a permanent resident, that’s quicker than a U.S. citizen sibling sponsoring a brother, for example, but generally is not as quick as a U.S. citizen child sponsoring a parent.

Since your mom is abroad, she won’t be able to come to the U.S. until the U.S. embassy or consulate in her home country reopens and resumes processing routine visa and green card applications. However, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is currently open.

It’s possible to get started sponsoring your mom for a green card now, and you can work with an attorney to streamline the process. You need to be at least 21 years of age and be a U.S. citizen. As her sponsor, you will also need to accept legal responsibility for financially supporting her.

You will need to initially submit to USCIS documents such as your birth certificate and proof of U.S. citizenship, and make sure that all foreign language documents have certified English translations. Currently, the USCIS California Service Center is taking about seven months to process green card applications for parents.

#column, #dear-sophie, #diversity, #immigration, #immigration-law, #labor, #lawyers, #policy, #verified-experts

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Dear Sophie: What are Biden’s immigration changes?

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.”

Extra Crunch members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Sophie:

I work in HR for a tech firm. I understand that Biden is rolling out a new immigration plan today.

What is your sense as to how the new administration will change business, corporate and startup founder immigration to the U.S.?

—Free in Fremont

Dear Free:

Today is a historic day. The pace of change is accelerating now, especially in Washington. At the time of this writing, Biden is expected to imminently launch a new legislative proposal for comprehensive immigration reform. As the world sits back and watches, we are focusing great collective attention on upgrading our political, sociological and technological structures so that each human has the chance to succeed.

One of the things I adore about my practice of supporting international professionals with U.S. immigration is bearing witness to the process of individual transformation; it is an honor to support people in their personal journey from living in a world of effects to becoming the cause.

The immediate focus of the proposed legislation is centered around a solution for Dreamers (who are in the U.S. without documentation) as well as supporting the rights of refugees and asylum-seekers and children. For more of my recent thoughts on this topic, check out my recent podcast explaining many of the changes. The draft bill is expected to span hundreds of pages, so please follow this Dear Sophie column for more updates as I track and explore the details, especially related to tech immigration.

Innovation will be supported by many new immigration opportunities coming into greater focus. Biden’s campaign platform celebrated how “Immigrants are essential to the strength of our country and the U.S. economy.” The Biden team has prioritized immigration as a key focus within COVID, with an immediate goal of rewriting most Trump-era rules. For context, Trump issued more than 400 immigration-related executive orders and proclamations during his term.

H-1Bs: Although H-1Bs have been in the news a lot regarding new wage rules changing the order of the lottery and litigation, the lottery is still happening this spring, and if you want to sponsor candidates, the time to act is now, regardless of what is happening in Washington. If your company is planning on sponsoring individuals for an H-1B visa — whether they’re already living in the U.S. or are living abroad — I suggest that you continue to prepare for the upcoming H-1B registration period.

#column, #diversity, #green-card, #h-1b, #immigration-law, #labor, #lawyers, #policy, #startups, #verified-experts, #work-visa

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Dear Sophie: What’s the new minimum salary required for H-1B visa applicants?

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.”

Extra Crunch members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Sophie:

I’m a grad student currently working on F-1 STEM OPT. The company I work for has indicated it will sponsor me for an H-1B visa this year.

I hear the random H-1B lottery will be replaced with a new system that selects H-1B candidates based on their salaries. How will this new process work?

— Positive in Palo Alto

Dear Positive:

Thanks for your timely question! The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which oversees U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), finalized a new rule last week (Jan. 8), that replaces the random H-1B lottery with a pay-to-play system. There may be litigation that could change things before this year’s selection process, but interestingly, removing the randomness from the H-1B lottery is one point on which both Biden and Trump agree.

To find out more about all the changes that will impact this year’s H-1B process and how to prepare, register for our upcoming webinar on Jan. 20, on how to Get Ready for the H-1B FY2022 Lottery. In the meantime, listen to my recent H-1B podcast in which I discuss what the 2021 lottery will look like, and download our free H-1B guide. Also, check out the podcast episode on What Makes a Strong H-1B Petition.

Under this new wage-based H-1B allocation system, which is slated to go into effect on March 9, USCIS will select H-1B registrants based on the highest relative wages paid, taking into account the job, where it will be done and the job level (think of it like a career stage). This change is aimed at encouraging employers to offer higher salaries and higher-skilled positions to H-1B candidates to better protect the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers and increase the likelihood that H-1B visas will be awarded to the best and the brightest individuals. In a nutshell, this is great news for Silicon Valley companies that have cash and need to remove risk.

While the new rule substantially increases predictability in the “lottery” process, it may make it more difficult for companies that are unfunded, pre-revenue early-stage startups to get H-1B visas for founders or employees, particularly since other forms of compensation, such as equity or stock options, are not considered wages. So the lesson here is to get some predictable revenue or runway prior to Q2 when you need to submit the I-129 petition so you can demonstrate the “ability to pay” at a higher wage level.

#column, #diversity, #green-card, #h-1b, #immigration-law, #labor, #lawyers, #policy, #sophie-alcorn, #startups, #verified-experts

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Dear Sophie: Banging my head against the wall understanding the US immigration system

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.”

Extra Crunch members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Sophie:

Now that the U.S. has a new president coming in whose policies are more welcoming to immigrants, I am considering coming to the U.S. to expand my company after COVID-19. However, I’m struggling with the morass of information online that has bits and pieces of visa types and processes.

Can you please share an overview of the U.S. immigration system and how it works so I can get the big picture and understand what I’m navigating?

— Resilient in Romania

Dear Resilient:

We welcome you to the U.S.! Our country greatly benefits from international entrepreneurs like you who expand here to innovate, create jobs and bolster the global economy.

I followed in my father’s footsteps to become an immigration attorney to fulfill my personal mission of helping people live the life of their dreams in the United States. A big part of making that happen is to give individuals the information and the tools they need to clearly set their immigration goals and to reach them quickly.

Check out my recent podcast where I provide a brief, high-level overview of the U.S. immigration system. The United States is a nation founded by immigrants. The immigration system is based on many of the same values and principles enshrined in our Constitution.

In 1965, the U.S. Congress passed the Immigration and Nationality Act, the foundation of all of our immigration laws today. Although some amendments to the act have been made over more than 50 years since then, the immigration system still operates under the same framework created back then. One of the things I appreciate about this framework is that there are so many legal routes to immigrate to the U.S. that are available.

There are many visa and green card categories you can use to chart your course. As a creative lawyer with plenty of lead time before somebody moves to the U.S., it provides many options to work with. Law doesn’t just place restrictions on people; it can be used as a tool for creation.

So, even though the system has its challenges and can be greatly improved, successfully navigating the system is doable. Everyone from individuals to founders, CEOs at startups and HR and Global Mobility at giant companies, families and couples in love — you just need to know the right questions to ask and the information to empower you to find the right immigration path.

My father used to always say there are five main areas of immigration law:

  • Business immigration
  • Family immigration
  • Asylum
  • Appeals
  • Removal and deportation

I have worked on cases in each of these areas, but my firm focuses primarily on business and family immigration. Business immigration encompasses both visas and green cards, whereas family immigration only involves green cards that are based on an individual’s relationship to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident (green card holders), including fiance visa and different pathways to green cards.

At a high level, the U.S. offers two types of visas: nonimmigrant visas and immigrant visas. Immigrant visas are also called green cards.

Nonimmigrant visas allow for a temporary stay in the U.S. Each nonimmigrant visa that allows its holder to work in the U.S. requires an employer to sponsor the individual and hire them after approval and arrival. Each nonimmigrant is designed to allow an individual with certain skills, education or expertise that will benefit the employer, the employer’s industry or the U.S in general, such as a multinational executive (L-1) an individual in a specialty occupation (H-1B) or with extraordinary ability (O-1).

Some nonimmigrant visas are based on the candidate’s home country or whether the individual’s home country has a trade agreement with the U.S. Each work visa has different requirements for renewals. I discuss these and other startup-friendly visas and green cards in more detail in a podcast on the most startup-friendly visas and green cards.

A green card allows its holder to live and work permanently in the U.S. and is the first step to obtaining U.S. citizenship. Some nonimmigrant visas lead directly to a green card. However, many do not. So it’s important to be creative and strategic from the beginning of your U.S. immigration journey.

Most employment-based green cards require an employer sponsor. The two exceptions are the EB-1A green card for extraordinary ability and the EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver) for exceptional ability. Individuals can apply for these green cards on their own without an employer sponsor or job offer. We cover both of these green cards, as well as the O-1 nonimmigrant visa in Extraordinary Ability Bootcamp, an online course that takes a deep dive into the O-1A nonimmigrant visa, and the EB-1A and EB-2 NIW green cards, for which you may be eligible to apply.

Most international founders and entrepreneurs typically qualify for an E-2, L-1 or O-1 visa, or an EB-1A, EB-1C or EB-2 NIW green card. Take a look at the immigration options chart we created that outlines the most common visa and green card categories that apply to founders, investors and talent.

In addition to the various visa and green card options, you should know that you can apply for a visa or green card while living outside the U.S. or while living inside the U.S. Living outside the U.S., you can apply for a visa or green card at a U.S. embassy or consulate, which is called consular processing. Once living in the U.S., you can apply for change of status to another visa or adjustment of status to a green card. For more information about specific visas and green cards and how to navigate the U.S. immigration system, check out my weekly podcast.

Even during COVID, I’m confident you’ll find your way to the U.S. to begin your journey of expanding your company. I wish you good health and much success in 2021!

Best regards,

Sophie


Have a question? Ask it here. We reserve the right to edit your submission for clarity and/or space. The information provided in “Dear Sophie” is general information and not legal advice. For more information on the limitations of “Dear Sophie,” please view our full disclaimer here. You can contact Sophie directly at Alcorn Immigration Law.

Sophie’s podcast, Immigration Law for Tech Startups, is available on all major podcast platforms. If you’d like to be a guest, she’s accepting applications!

#column, #diversity, #eb-1, #green-card, #immigration-law, #labor, #lawyers, #policy, #sophie-alcorn, #startups, #verified-experts

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Dear Sophie: Tips for getting a National Interest green card by myself?

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.”

Extra Crunch members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Sophie:

I’m working in the Bay Area on an H-1B visa and my employer won’t sponsor my green card.

I really want permanent residence, but I never won a Nobel prize; I’m single; and I don’t have a million dollars yet. However, I think I might qualify for an EB-2 NIW green card.

What can you share?

— National in Napa

Dear National:

Wonderful that you’re taking matters into your own hands! This is a complicated process, so the most important advice I can give you is to retain an experienced business immigration attorney to represent you and prepare and file your green card case.

For additional do’s and don’ts in U.S. immigration, please check out the recent podcast that my law firm partner, Anita Koumriqian, and I posted on the commandments of immigration (and especially what to not do when it comes to visas and green cards).

This particular episode focuses on family-based green cards, but these recommendations are timeless and apply to individuals who are self-petitioning for employment-based green cards, such as the EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver) for exceptional ability and the EB-1A for extraordinary ability. Our top recommendation in that podcast episode is to avoid DIY immigration, so definitely retain legal counsel!

Filing for an EB-2 NIW or any green card requires more than just filling out the appropriate forms. The process needs to be understood, as the law and legal requirements, and the analysis of whether and how you can best qualify is complicated.

With any immigration matter, one needs to have the resources to fully understand the process, the steps for applying, and the timing and deadlines. We want to always make sure that you always maintain legal status (never falling out of status) so that you can remain in the U.S. (and don’t have to leave).

#column, #diversity, #green-card, #immigration-law, #labor, #lawyers, #policy, #sophie-alcorn, #startups, #verified-experts

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Dear Sophie: What’s ahead for US immigration in 2021?

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.”

Extra Crunch members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Sophie:

I’m in people ops and our team is trying to plan ahead for immigration in the new year and beyond.

What’s ahead for U.S. visas and green cards?

—Ready in Redwood City

Dear Ready:

Ha! I love it. Well, although I don’t have a crystal ball (yet), there’s a lot of opportunity, predictability and security that we can anticipate for immigration ahead.

Our U.S. immigration policy will experience a tremendous growth spurt in the coming months as Trump completes his regulatory agenda, litigation culminates and Biden takes office on January 20. The changes I’m tracking will incentivize U.S. companies to hire and retain top global talent and will make it easier for them to do so. There are also going to be increased opportunities for families and founders, strengthening the U.S. and Silicon Valley tech startup communities.

We can anticipate that the first 100 days of President-elect Biden’s term will focus on undoing many Trump-era immigration changes. Some of this will happen by executive order (although probably not tweets!) and some of it will be required to follow the procedures set forth in law through the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The APA governs the process by which federal agencies develop and issue regulations.

Following procedures to rescind or amend rules already put into place — even on an expedited basis — takes time to allow for adequate review and public comments. We can anticipate that due process will unfold to effectuate these changes.

#column, #diversity, #eb-1, #green-card, #immigration-law, #labor, #lawyers, #sophie-alcorn, #startups, #verified-experts

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Dear Sophie: How did immigration change for startup founders in 2020?

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.”

Extra Crunch members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Sophie:

I’m on an F1 OPT and am about to incorporate a startup with my two American co-founders. What were the biggest immigration changes in 2020 affecting us?

—Ambitious in Albany

 

Dear Ambitious:

Congrats on creating your startup. The Electoral College has voted and Biden is scheduled to take office on January 20, 2021. It may take him a few months to undo many of the Trump immigration changes, so there are several things for you to consider.

2020 gave many of us whiplash with all the things that happened! We braced for the worst in April after President Trump tweeted that he would suspend immigration to the U.S. In the end, the executive proclamations he issued in April and June fell far short of that and immigration remains possible.

However, these bans remain in effect until at least the end of 2020. The proclamations placed moratoriums on the issuance of green cards by the U.S. Embassies and consulates abroad, as well as H-1B, H-2B, J-1 and L-1 work visas. The Department of State has expanded the list of exceptions to these bans so many people now qualify.

One of the current constraints affecting the most people is that many embassies and consulates remain closed or are operating at significantly reduced capacity. Given that, we are recommending to our clients who are already in the U.S. to avoid leaving by seeking Extensions of Status, Changes of Status and Adjustments of Status with USCIS stateside.

The H-1B may be another promising visa option for your future as a founder. There are two ways to do it: “cap-subject” (the annual spring lottery) and “cap-exempt” (anytime of year). At a minimum, it’s easy for your startup to register you for the upcoming H-1B lottery in March 2021. It only costs $10 to register an H-1B candidate. If you’re selected, your startup could file an H-1B petition on your behalf. If you are not selected, your startup can register you again in 2022.

#column, #diversity, #green-card, #h-1b, #immigration-law, #labor, #lawyers, #policy, #sophie-alcorn, #startups, #verified-experts, #work-visa

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Dear Sophie: Can founders get visas in 2021 through DACA or other means?

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.”

Extra Crunch members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Sophie:

Does the United States have a startup visa? If not, what are the best visas for startup founders?

If my friend is a Dreamer in the U.S. who is undocumented but wants to found a startup, is it possible?

—Cheerful in Chile

Hello Cheerful!

Much to be cheerful about for your friend today as DACA is back! DACA is “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” and it provides work permits for people who were brought to the U.S. as children. Some of the basics to see if your friend might qualify for DACA are if they were under the age of 31 on June 15, 2012; if they came to the U.S. before they turned 16; and if they have lived in the U.S. since June 15, 2007. USCIS announced that it is accepting first-time DACA applications, renewals and advance parole documents to travel in two-year increments. This is great news for many folks for whom the U.S. is truly home, who have been educated here or served in the armed forces, and who want to further contribute to the tech ecosystem and economy.

Besides DACA, what other options are there for founders to move to the U.S. in 2021?

To be clear: The U.S. does not currently have a startup visa (you can read more about it in my op-ed in the Times of San Diego). According to the National Foundation for American Policy, if the U.S. had established a startup visa in 2016, it would have created 1 million to 3.2 million jobs over 10 years. I’m doing all I personally can to contribute to the creation of the U.S. Startup Visa or possibly the resurrection of International Entrepreneur Parole as we look ahead to the Biden/Harris administration.

That being said, we have solutions, advanced information and creative options, some of which I can share here with you. Check out 7 of the Most Startup-Friendly Visas Explained. Coming out of COVID in 2021, here are the most common visas and green cards that work for many founders. As immigration law is very nuanced, often people contact me to find specific alternative strategies that better suit their long-term goals.

B-1 visa for business visitors

The B-1 is a nonimmigrant (temporary) visa that enables entrepreneurs to explore the U.S. market. Under a B-1 visa, a founder or entrepreneur cannot be employed in the U.S., but can come for a business trip. This means you should not do any paid or unpaid work for a U.S. entity on your trip. However, some activities for founders are OK, such as meeting with investors, negotiating contracts, interviewing and hiring staff, and establishing an office. A B-1 visa typically allows for a maximum stay of one year — six months under the initial application and a six-month extension. It’s usually best to spend less than half the time in the U.S. on B status to ease future entries.

Founders who are citizens of designated countries, including Chile, can qualify for the ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) visa waiver program, allowing them to travel to the U.S. for business for 90 days or less without first obtaining a visa. ESTA cannot typically be extended or changed once you are in the United States.

L-1A visa for intracompany transferee managers and executives

#column, #diversity, #green-card, #h-1b, #immigration-law, #labor, #lawyers, #policy, #sophie-alcorn, #startups, #verified-experts

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Dear Sophie: Hacks for the March 2021 H-1B lottery?

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.”

Extra Crunch members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Late-breaking update: since the time of writing this Dear Sophie column, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White struck down two of the H-1B rules mentioned: increasing the prevailing wage and restricting the definition of “specialty occupation.” I’ll keep you posted on any further developments down the road, but for today, the entire nonimmigrant visa classification program is strengthened. Yay!

Dear Sophie:

The startup I am co-founding will be sponsoring my co-founder for a visa in the March 2021 H-1B lottery.

We’ve been so focused on building our startup that we haven’t kept up with all the recent changes. What are we supposed to do?

—Focused in Foster City

 

Dear Focused:

You are right on track as the time to start is now. In December, we usually kick off our H-1B planning and prep work with startups, companies, HR and people ops, employees and recruits for the spring lottery. Although there are a lot of recent proposals and changes, please go ahead now and initiate retaining counsel to put any and all potential candidates in the lottery.

Although there are several new rules slated to go into effect in December and early January, these are subject to potential removal by President-elect Biden and may also be the topic of a great deal of litigation, so we should proceed as usual. H-1B visas for specialty occupations are still available. In my recent H-1B podcast, I discuss what the 2021 lottery will look like and there’s a free H-1B guide for you to download. Same as before, you can also check out the podcast episode on What Makes a Strong H-1B Petition.

Looking into my crystal ball, the three new rules that may have the biggest effect on the H-1B process are:

  • A new rule by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), which went into effect immediately when it was announced in October. That rule substantially increased the minimum wage that employers are required to pay to H-1B candidates. According to the Cato Institute, the average H-1B employer will have to increase wage offers to H-1B candidates by more than 30%. It’s not worth being concerned about this potential wage increase now as you don’t have to commit to a proposed wage for your future H-1B hire until your candidate is actually selected in the lottery and you prepare and file the full petition in Q2. And even then, the new wage wouldn’t take effect until the H-1B is approved and the earliest possible start date is October 1, 2021. So don’t let it scare you.
  • Another rule proposed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in November seeks to replace the random H-1B selection process — or lottery — with a new selection process that would prioritize the selection of H-1B candidates based solely on the highest wages paid by the employers who sponsor them. It does not consider the experience of the candidate nor whether the candidate is a specialized worker in an in-demand field, such as medicine or research. Once again, we have no idea when and if this will actually go into effect. Although it sounds scary, it might actually be great for funded startups that need more predictability than a random lottery about whether key hires will be able to join the team.
  • Finally, a rule proposed by USCIS in October requires an H-1B candidate to have a bachelor’s or higher degree specifically related to the specialty occupation the H-1B candidate is applying for and H-1B employers must show the position is directly related to the education degree. This for sure will be the subject of lots of litigation. If you’re hiring folks for professional or tech roles and you have funding to pay them, this isn’t really an issue, just an annoyance, and you can avoid questioning by doing a very thorough job on the original petition, which my firm specializes in.

So tips and tricks: I am recommending that everyone begin preparing based on the H-1B lottery in 2020 and to consult with an immigration lawyer to devise a strategy and discuss options. Your co-founder needs to remain in valid legal status if they are already in the United States. If your startup/co-founder is not selected to apply for an H-1B, check out 7 of the Most Startup Friendly Visas Explained for alternative options.

Your startup may want to explore whether it can bypass the H-1B visa altogether by sponsoring your co-founder for either an O-1A extraordinary ability visa, an EB-1A extraordinary ability green card or an EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver) green card. If you would like to learn more, we will be hosting a webinar on Wednesday, December 16 at 11 a.m. PST. We will have a special promotion and a freebie for those who attend. Register here!

If you proceed with pursuing an H-1B, make sure your startup has the appropriate corporate structure and documentation in place that demonstrates a valid employer-employee relationship exists between your startup and your co-founder. That includes making sure your co-founder will have a true employee relationship with the company and they will be hired, supervised and can be fired. Listen to my podcast episode on what startups should know about sponsoring their first H-1B candidate.

Your startup will need to register your co-founder for the H-1B lottery on March 1. The USCIS registration fee is only $10 so it’s easy to do it for everybody who might benefit. The registration process closes on March 20. If your startup is selected to apply for an H-1B on behalf of your co-founder, USCIS will inform your startup by March 31. Your startup will have until June 30 to submit its H-1B petition. Over the next few months, your startup and your co-founder can start assembling documents and evidence so that you’ll be ready if your startup/co-founder is selected to apply for an H-1B. If not selected in March, there may be a second digital lottery at the beginning of Q3 for any remaining H-1B visa slots.

I’ll continue to keep you and the other Dear Sophie readers informed on the latest changes to the H-1B lottery process here in this column, so stay tuned!

You got this — go for it!

Sophie


Have a question? Ask it here. We reserve the right to edit your submission for clarity and/or space. The information provided in “Dear Sophie” is general information and not legal advice. For more information on the limitations of “Dear Sophie,” please view our full disclaimer here. You can contact Sophie directly at Alcorn Immigration Law.

Sophie’s podcast, Immigration Law for Tech Startups, is available on all major podcast platforms. If you’d like to be a guest, she’s accepting applications!

#column, #diversity, #green-card, #h-1b-visa, #immigration-law, #labor, #lawyers, #policy, #sophie-alcorn, #verified-experts

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Bottom-up SaaS: A framework for mapping pricing to customer value

A few years ago, building a bottom-up SaaS company – defined as a firm where the average purchasing decision is made without ever speaking to a salesperson – was a novel concept. Today, by our count, at least 30% of the Cloud 100 are now bottom-up.

For the first time, individual employees are influencing the tooling decisions of their companies versus having these decisions mandated by senior executives. Self-serve businesses thrive on this momentum, leveraging individuals as their evangelists, to grow from a single use-case to small teams, and ultimately into whole company deployments.

In a truly self-service model, individual users can sign up and try the product on their own. There is no need to get compliance approval for sensitive data or to get IT support for integrations — everything can be managed by the line-level users themselves. Then that person becomes an internal champion, driving adoption across the organization.

Today, some of the most well-known software companies such as Datadog, MongoDB, Slack and Zoom, to name a few, are built with a primarily bottom-up product-led sales approach.

In this piece, we will take a closer look at this trend — and specifically how it has fundamentally altered pricing — and at a framework for mapping pricing to customer value.

Aligning value with pricing

In a bottom-up SaaS world, pricing has to be transparent and standardized (at least for the most part, see below). It’s the only way your product can sell itself. In practice, this means you can no longer experiment as you go, with salespeople using their gut instinct to price each deal. You need a concrete strategy that aligns customer value with pricing.

To do this well, you need to deeply understand your customers and how they use your product. Once you do, you can “MAP” them to help align pricing with value.

The MAP customer value framework

The MAP customer value framework requires deeply understanding your customers in order to clearly identify and articulate their needs across Metrics, Activities and People.

Not all elements of MAP should determine your pricing, but chances are that one of them will be the right anchor for your pricing model:

Metrics: Metrics can include things like minutes, messages, meetings, data and storage. What are the key metrics your customers care about? Is there a threshold of value associated with these metrics? By tracking key metrics early on, you’ll be able to understand if growing a certain metric increases value for the customer. For example:

  • Zoom — Minutes: Free with a 40-minute time limit on group meetings.
  • Slack — Messages: Free until 10,000 total messages.
  • Airtable — Records: Free until 1,200 records.

Activity: How do your customers really use your product and how do they describe themselves? Are they creators? Are they editors? Do different customers use your product differently? Instead of metrics, a key anchor for pricing may be the different roles users have within an organization and what they want and need in your product. If you choose to anchor on activity, you will need to align feature sets and capabilities with usage patterns (e.g., creators get access to deeper tooling than viewers, or admins get high privileges versus line-level users). For example:

#asana, #column, #entrepreneurship, #growth-marketing, #marketing, #pricing, #saas, #startups, #verified-experts

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Dear Sophie: What I’m thankful for

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.”

Extra Crunch members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Reader,

Thank you so much for being a part of the genesis of “Dear Sophie” over the course of this year. As I reflect on the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, I’m appreciative of how much all of us around the world have come to know in 2020. We are all interconnected, regardless of where we were born or wherever we currently reside. This year has included major, transformative events. These changes serve us to better know what we want and what we don’t. As a result, I am positive that our future experiences will be enhanced.

Looking back over the last year, I’m appreciative of President Trump’s digitization effort to improve the H-1B lottery process.

Looking forward, it’s exhilarating that increasing access to immigration opportunities is a major priority for President-elect Biden. I’m confident the Biden-Harris administration will support the U.S. embracing our roots as a land of opportunity. Moving into 2021 we will recognize our immigrant heritage, welcome newcomers and recognize the important contributions of immigrants for a better world.

There’s so much to be thankful for:

I’m appreciative of you, my readers, and the messages and feedback I receive from you about this column, questions you have and topics you would like to see covered. I appreciate TechCrunch and Extra Crunch for this platform to share my thoughts, experiences and knowledge.

I’m appreciative of all of our clients from around the world who we’ve been able to successfully support. Many moments this year seemed bleak, but we were able to come through. I appreciate their many contributions to the U.S. and creating health solutions and jobs as they have gone on to launch and scale innovative startups in Silicon Valley and beyond.

I’m appreciative of my amazing team at Alcorn Immigration Law and for our successes in supporting folks to come to live and work in the U.S. and achieve their dreams. And I’m appreciative of our team to compile a “64 Questions to Ask Your Immigration Attorney,” a checklist of questions you should ask when interviewing immigration attorneys before starting the immigration process. I’m appreciative for having the opportunity to share my knowledge on my podcast, Immigration Law for Tech Startups — this week’s podcast is all about appreciation!

And finally, I’m appreciative of my amazing job. I have the privilege of supporting people from all around the world to create their dreams. It’s humbling and inspiring to listen to my clients’ stories, hopes and dreams. It’s the most magnificent chess game to identify and tailor immigration strategies that best fit their unique situation, priorities and timing.

Part of why being an immigration attorney inspires me is because our amazing clients entrust us to support them in navigating the U.S. immigration system to make their dream a reality. We had many major legal victories this year:

I appreciate the client who was on an E-2 Visa for Treaty Investors as an employee. He was desperate to join an early-stage startup and was in a difficult bind of needing to get expedited approval in the pandemic and be able to provide his contractual notice to his current employer. We all knew it was risky, so I’m proud of our team for successfully petitioning for the startup to sponsor him in O-1A Visa for Extraordinary Ability status.

I also appreciate the aspiring startup founder we helped to gain independence from a corporate employer by assisting him with self-petitioning his green card. We succeeded in getting him approved for an EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver) exceptional ability green card.

I am also appreciating that we successfully supported a prospective startup co-founder to remain in the U.S. while maintaining his position in line for a green card. A prominent VC required that he immediately leave his current employer and begin working full time for the very early-stage startup prior to investing $6 million. This founder had been bound at a prior company in L-1A Visa for Intracompany Transferee Managers and Executives, and he didn’t want to lose his midstream green card process. We successfully transitioned him to the new company quickly and secured him green card portability. He can now focus on the startup and spending time with his family.

While most U.S. consulates remained closed, I appreciate that we were able to support our client to get an E-3 Visa interview, have her visa approved and be able to move to the U.S., even in the middle of the pandemic.

Notably, we helped a client avoid having to return to her home country for two years after her J-1 Educational and Cultural Exchange Visa was set to expire, and her employer was about to do a round of layoffs. We guided her through the green card process, including helping her prepare for an interview at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), as well as accompanying her to the interview. Instead of being banished from the U.S., now she is celebrating that it is her permanent home.

And there are so many more stories like these.

I’m also appreciative that we launched our first online immigration course, Extraordinary Ability Bootcamp. Many of our client successes stem from options such as the O-1A nonimmigrant visa, as well as the EB-1A extraordinary ability green card and the EB-2 NIW green card. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to record a series of classes that can help anybody meet the criteria for U.S. immigration.

This Thanksgiving, I hope you caught a glimpse of this feeling of appreciation for people and experiences in your life. I feel exhilarated and eager about the future and to see what’s ahead. 2020 has taught me that we are empowered at this moment because we have the freedom to choose how we feel. We can always choose to love and appreciate unconditionally. New opportunities are ahead that will support us all.

Thank you for being a part of “Dear Sophie.”

Joyfully,

Sophie


Have a question? Ask it here. We reserve the right to edit your submission for clarity and/or space. The information provided in “Dear Sophie” is general information and not legal advice. For more information on the limitations of “Dear Sophie,” please view our full disclaimer here. You can contact Sophie directly at Alcorn Immigration Law.

Sophie’s podcast, Immigration Law for Tech Startups, is available on all major podcast platforms. If you’d like to be a guest, she’s accepting applications!

#column, #green-card, #h-1b-visa, #immigration-law, #labor, #lawyers, #policy, #thanksgiving, #verified-experts

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6 reasons why reporters aren’t interested in your content marketing

Digital PR is an excellent strategy to pair with content marketing, especially if your goals include increasing your brand awareness and improving your backlink portfolio.

When you create excellent content and pitch it to writers, you not only get great media coverage, but you get the link back to your project and the authority that comes with being mentioned in a trusted publication.

This earned media tactic is very effective — but it isn’t easy.

If you get any part of it wrong, your chances of success decrease dramatically. If you’ve run into roadblocks, make sure you’re not making any of these mistakes with your content or your pitching.

1. It’s not newsworthy

Sure, it’s easy to say the news only wants to cover material that is, well, news worthy.

But what does that actually mean?

For content marketers, it usually refers to three criteria: timeliness, relevance and significance.

But there’s a catch: Most content marketing programs don’t have journalists devoted to breaking news like actual media outlets do. So how can you create content that is truly newsworthy without the resources of a newsroom?

By creating and analyzing your own data.

If your brand provides a fresh data set or a new analysis of existing data, then you’re the sole owner of information, and you can offer it exclusively to publications. This makes your pitch much more interesting.

This tactic is a combination of original content marketing and digital PR.

But the content can’t just be timely. It also has to be relevant to the writer you’re pitching and that writer’s audience. I’ll explain more on that in #4.

Finally, significance, which refers to the impact it has on the audience. When you think of local news, this is why they report on things like traffic jams and school closures: It directly affects the daily lives of the people watching and listening.

Alternatively, your data can be significant to writers covering specific beats. For example, for our client ZenBusiness, we surveyed Americans and asked what they thought about the government’s relief packages for COVID-19.

While ZenBusiness operates in the office/work niches, this new insight into American perspective was appealing to the political publication The Hill.

Significance is tough criteria from a brand perspective, but if you’re able to offer brand-new insights, it’s certainly not impossible.

2. The significance isn’t clear

Imagine a stranger handing you a book with a blank cover and saying, “Here, you’ll find this interesting.” Would you read the whole book?

#column, #content-marketing, #entrepreneurship, #growth-marketing, #media, #pr, #startups, #verified-experts

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Dear Sophie: Can an H-1B co-founder own a Delaware C Corp?

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.”

Extra Crunch members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Sophie:

My VC partner and I are working with 50/50 co-founders on their startup — let’s call it NewCo. We’re exploring pre-seed terms. One founder is on a green card and already works there. The other founder is from India and is working on an H-1B at a large tech company. Can the H-1B co-founder lead this company? What’s the timing to get everything squared away? If we make the investment we want them to hit the ground running.

—Diligent in Daly City

Hello, Diligent!

Thanks for your questions. It’s always very exciting for me to hear about new companies launching and this has been the year for creativity as necessity is the mother of invention. The easiest path is for the founder with a green card to be president and CEO, and for the H-1B co-founder to be an employee working in a specialized technical role to qualify for an H-1B transfer from the current employer to the new startup. However, there are a few potential immigration issues to be aware of. Check out my recent podcast about due diligence in immigrant-founded startups.

The good news is that we can get the H-1B founder’s work transferred to NewCo, even though it’s a small, pre-revenue company. Presumably NewCo has a strong business plan. If you can make the investment so the company has the ability to pay the H-1B prevailing wage, we can usually effectuate the H-1B transfer for the founder in about 2-3 months.

It’s important to be aware of the proposed equity split between the founders. Simplest is if the founder on H-1B will own less than 50% of the company. If this individual must own the majority, some structural work can be done with a corporate attorney to set things up to qualify for an H-1B, but it’s more complicated.

This is because to qualify for an H-1B — whether it’s a transfer, initial petition or extension — the sponsoring employer must demonstrate that an employer-employee relationship exists between the company and the H-1B beneficiary. That means the employer must have the ability to hire, supervise and fire the H-1B beneficiary, and the H-1B beneficiary cannot own a controlling stake in the sponsoring company. For additional context, check out my podcast on H-1B Transfers for Startup Founders.

The co-founder who has the green card would probably need to be designated as the person who will have the authority to hire, supervise and fire the co-founder on the H-1B visa on the immigration forms. As always, I recommend working with an experienced startup immigration attorney who can present a strong legal argument for the H-1B as well as efficiently streamline the H-1B transfer process.

#column, #diversity, #green-card, #h-1b, #immigration-law, #labor, #lawyers, #policy, #sophie-alcorn, #startups, #verified-experts

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Conflicts in California’s trade secret laws on customer lists create uncertainty

When salespeople in California’s dynamic tech economy transition between jobs, the value they bring to their new company is often their customer relationships. Startup founders and salespeople considering joining competitors often assume continuing to maintain these customer relationships is noncontroversial given California’s well-known policy favoring employment mobility and outlawing non-competition agreements.

Yet California trade secret law regarding the ability of salespeople to solicit these customers once they jump to a competitor is increasingly confused and fails to provide meaningful guidance on what type of conduct is permissible. Thus, a salesperson’s move from their current company to a competitor is risky given it is unclear whether and to what extent they can continue servicing clients or contacts they previously worked with.

A salesperson working for a value-added reseller (VAR), for instance, should understand what they are getting into before moving to a competitor — they may risk longstanding relationships with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and end users. This article explains the conflicting law on this issue so that salespeople planning on jumping ship, and the companies considering hiring them, can be informed regarding the current legal landscape.

California law invalidates non-competition agreements

In the vast majority of states, employers can, and do, require employees to enter into some form of non-competition agreement in exchange for continued employment.1 In contrast, California has a long-standing policy of favoring employment mobility over an employer’s concerns. California’s policy is embodied in Business and Professions Code section 16600, which provides: “Except as provided in this chapter, every contract by which anyone is restrained from engaging in a lawful profession, trade, or business of any kind is to that extent void.”

California courts “have consistently affirmed that section 16600 evinces a settled legislative policy in favor of open competition and employee mobility” that is intended to “ensure that every citizen shall retain the right to pursue any lawful employment and enterprise of their choice.”2 The policy also allows California employers to “compete effectively for the most talented, skilled employees in their industries, wherever they may reside.”3 Accordingly, unlike in most states, the “interests of the employee in [their] own mobility and betterment” generally outweigh the “competitive business interests of the employers.”4

Courts have broadly applied section 16600, invalidating non-competition agreements, which would prohibit or restrict an employee from leaving to work for a competitor.5 Importantly, courts have also invalidated contractual provisions purporting to restrict an employee’s ability to leave and then solicit the company’s customers.6 In other words, a salesperson cannot be contractually precluded from leaving their company, joining a competitor and continuing to solicit, service and communicate with their former company’s clients. Furthermore, with limited exceptions, California courts will disregard a “choice of law” provision purporting to mandate that the court follow the law from a state that enforces noncompetes.7

#articles, #california, #california-legislature, #column, #hiring, #intellectual-property-law, #labor, #law, #lawyers, #north-dakota, #policy, #startups, #tc, #trade-secret, #verified-experts

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Dear Sophie: What does Biden’s win mean for tech immigration?

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.”

Extra Crunch members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Sophie:

What does President-elect Biden’s victory mean for U.S. immigration and immigration reform?

I’m in tech in SF and have a lot of friends who are immigrant founders, along with many international teammates at my tech company. What can we look forward to?

—Anticipation in Albany

Dear Anticipation,

Glimpsing into my crystal ball, I see opportunity ahead. President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris have long stood committed to important immigration changes that will directly affect the Silicon Valley tech ecosystem.

Dream with ambition, lead with conviction, and see yourself in a way that others might not see you, simply because they’ve never seen it before.

— Kamala Harris

We’re appreciative of what’s to come. As my firm’s mission is to transcend borders, expand opportunity and connect the world by practicing compassionate, visionary and expert immigration law in service of the betterment of humanity, we’re looking forward to a deluge of immigration changes that will support our clients as well as innovation and entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley and beyond. Please join me tomorrow for a free webinar as we take a look at what’s ahead for U.S. immigration in 2020, what these important developments mean for Silicon Valley, for startup founder immigration, and for recruiting, hiring and retaining top talent.

I’m confident we’ll see meaningful changes in immigration for startups, founders, investors, researchers, highly skilled professionals, students, Dreamers and families under the Biden administration. Check out my Immigration Law for Tech Startups podcast for my take on some of the highlights. Of top priority, Biden and Harris plan to unravel recent executive orders and regulations, modernize our immigration system, and perhaps most importantly, welcome immigrants.

President-elect Biden’s six-point plan for building a fair and humane immigration system includes promises to:

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Dear Sophie: How will this election nail-biter affect immigration?

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.”

Extra Crunch members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Sophie:

The last 24 hours have been a nail-biter; I feel powerless and I’m angry that we’ve come to this. I’m worried things won’t improve and I’m confused about where we even stand.

Sometimes I just feel so very, very tired of the struggle. I am just so ready to let go. I want to live in a world where we can create harmony, peace and opportunity for all. Can I still find that in the United States?

— Wanting in Walnut Creek

Dear Wanting,

I hear you.

The good news is that there is great potential, even as the world watches the U.S. presidential election results. If anything, what the last four years have taught me is that two clichés are really true: necessity is the mother of invention, and, where there is a will, there is a way. I can relate to many folks around the world because I know what it’s like to have the world of Silicon Valley feel so close, yet so far away, at a time when I felt powerless to make a difference.

Looking back over the past four years, amazing things have been possible for our clients and my team at Alcorn Immigration Law. I founded the firm out of my kitchen just years ago when my kids were toddlers. I would look out my kitchen window hand-washing tiny baby dishes. I can still remember the feeling of the suds on my fingers as I gazed longingly at the tall building on Castro Street in downtown Mountain View where 500 Startups used to sit on the top floor. YC was just down the street.

I felt so powerless. I desperately wanted to make the world a better place, and reaching the world of Silicon Valley, even though it was just past my backyard, seemed like getting to Mars.

From those humble beginnings to now, as I founded and bootstrapped Alcorn Immigration Law on my own journey of becoming a single mom, I know what’s possible, even during the last four years of the Trump administration. We’ve had amazing success — claiming thousands of victories in supporting companies, people and families to live and work legally in the United States. If I was able to grow my firm during the last four years, I know that it’s possible for anybody to follow their heart and succeed. It’s our human essence to long to be a creator in this world, and anybody can and deserves to make a difference.

And here is what else I know: immigration law is created by acts of Congress and signed into law by the president. Mere tweets may be intended to try to bend the rules, but they cannot break them. That is what democracy is about.

In democracy, we have agreed to abide by basic laws, such as the inviolable dignity of the human being and that we want to agree on procedures for how we make decisions, like the process of passing a law about immigration. Democracy is not about majority tyranny. Democracy is about the fact that we uphold a few principles and we agreed on a decision-making process. When Trump ignores our basic laws and he ignores our legal processes, democracy is in peril.

But democracy does not need to be disrupted, it only requires small adjustments to thrive. In any group it is possible to make jointly supported decisions, taking the needs and resources of all into consideration. “Although the world is complex and decision making is complex, the components of decision making are simple,” according to Richard Graf, founder of K-i-E. Simple tools like the DecisionMaker can allow a miracle to happen — in an environment of openness and anonymity, we can all safely share our needs and concerns so that proposals can be formed based on collective best practices, knowledge, experience, intelligence and intuition. Even if it’s a complex situation, the way forward can immediately become clear.

And in our democracy, the paths to live and work in the U.S. will always remain viable, even if we need to remove a branch or navigate around a new boulder. Here at Alcorn, despite the furor and fear-mongering present in the world surrounding immigration, we are continually securing real victories for our clients. Not a client yet? Global founders can still create a startup, pitch it to investors and secure pathways to live and work legally in the United States with visas, green cards and citizenship.

So I know this and will repeat: Whatever the election results, there will still be many ways for people to legally navigate the U.S. immigration process and access the opportunity and security of life here. For more insight on these ways, please join my Election Results Webinar next week.

In the meantime, here are my thoughts on how the election results will affect the future of U.S. immigration:

Looking ahead, if Biden takes the victory, he has pledged to undo all Trump-era immigration regulations in the first 100 days and support comprehensive immigration reform. He promised to promote immigrant entrepreneurship, which could finally mean a startup visa! He also wants to speed up naturalization, rescind the Muslim travel bans, pass legislation to expand the number of H-1Bs, increase the amount of employment-based green cards, exempt international STEM PhD graduates from needing to await a priority date, create a new type of green card to promote regional economic development and support immigrant entrepreneur incubators.

Alternatively, we can expect that a Trump administration would continue restricting immigration, leading to litigation and judges deciding the fate of many recent policies. We can foresee a continued COVID freeze on green card interviews at consulates.

Also, DHS recently announced its intent to remove the randomness from the H-1B lottery and prioritize the annual H-1B selection process from highest to lowest wage starting in spring 2021. I’m sure there will be litigation about this; in the meantime, Alcorn Immigration Law continues to recommend that all employers proceed with registering employees and candidates in the lottery as usual. These details will take time to shake out and we don’t want anybody to lose a chance at being selected.

In other updates, immigration is just continuing along and there is actually some great news for folks: The State Department recently released the November Visa Bulletin and it stayed the same from October. (If you think your priority date is current or may be current soon, please contact your attorney as soon as possible to discuss filing your I-485 this month to avoid the possibility of retrogression in December!)

And if you need the freedom to build your startup, but were told that you don’t yet qualify for an O-1A visa, EB-1A or EB-2 NIW green card, you can join me in Extraordinary Ability Bootcamp with promo code DEARSOPHIE to receive 20% off.

We’re optimistic about the future. Life always offers us opportunities to grow through contrast and uncertainty, and we remain passionate about our mission to create greater freedom, empowerment, knowledge and love in the world.

Sophie


Have a question? Ask it here. We reserve the right to edit your submission for clarity and/or space. The information provided in “Dear Sophie” is general information and not legal advice. For more information on the limitations of “Dear Sophie,” please view our full disclaimer here. You can contact Sophie directly at Alcorn Immigration Law.

Sophie’s podcast, Immigration Law for Tech Startups, is available on all major podcast platforms. If you’d like to be a guest, she’s accepting applications!

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