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.”
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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
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.