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Dear Sophie: How can employers hire & comply with all this new H-1B craziness?

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’ve been reading about the new H-1B rules for wage levels and defining what types of jobs qualify that came out this week. What do we as employers need to do to comply? Are any other visa types affected?

— Racking my brain in Richmond! 🤯

Dear Racking:

As you mentioned, the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) each issued a new interim rule this week that affects the H-1B program. However, the DOL rule impacts other visas and green cards as well. These interim rules, one of which took effect immediately after being published, are an abuse of power.

The president continues to fear-monger in an attempt to generate votes through racism, protectionism and xenophobia. The fatal irony here is that companies were in fact already making “real offers” to “real employees” for jobs in the innovation economy, which are not fungible and are actually the source of new job creation for Americans. A 2019 report by the Economic Policy Institute found that for every 100 professional, scientific and technical services jobs created in the private sector in the U.S., 418 additional, indirect jobs are created as a result. Nearly 575 additional jobs are created for every 100 information jobs, and 206 additional jobs are created for every 100 healthcare and social assistance jobs.

The DOL rule, which went into effect on October 8, 2020, significantly raises the wages employers must pay to the employees they sponsor for H-1B, H-1B1 and E-3 specialty occupation visas, H-2B visas for temporary non-agricultural workers, EB-2 advanced degree green cards, EB-2 exceptional ability green cards and EB-3 skilled worker green cards.

The new DHS rule, which further restricts H-1B visas, will go into effect on December 7, 2020. DHS will not apply the new rule to any pending or previously approved petitions. That means your company should renew your employees’ H-1B visas — if eligible — before that date.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has formed a task force to review the rules and help with litigation. Although both the DOL and DHS rules will likely be challenged, they will likely remain in effect for some time before any litigation has an impact. They are actively seeking plaintiffs, including employees, employers and representatives of membership organizations who will be hurt by the new rules.

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Dear Sophie: Now that a judge has paused Trump’s H-1B visa ban, how can I qualify my employees?

On Thursday, October 1, a federal judge issued a temporary injunction that halted a presidential proclamation issued in June suspending the issuance of visas for some foreign workers until at least December 31, 2020.

The Trump administration asserted that the COVID-19 pandemic and its ensuing economic impacts made it necessary to impose a moratorium on issuing new green cards, but Judge Jeffrey S. White of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled that:

There must be some measure of constraint on Presidential authority in the domestic sphere in order not to render the executive an entirely monarchical power in the immigration context, an area within clear legislative prerogative …

To explain how employers can respond to the judge’s order, TechCrunch columnist and Silicon Valley-based immigration lawyer Sophie Alcorn has written a supplemental 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 saw yesterday’s news that a judge issued a temporary injunction on the presidential proclamation that halted the issuance of H, L and J visas for individuals abroad, but that it only protects companies in the plaintiff organizations. We have several new hires waiting for visa interviews outside of the U.S. How can they now qualify to get visas to come to the U.S.?

— Supercharged in Sunnyvale

Dear Supercharged:

I’m thrilled that Judge Jeffrey S. White of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California temporarily halted President Trump’s June proclamation, which suspended the issuance of H, J, L and other temporary work visas to individuals abroad.

Judge White found that Trump overstepped his authority and exercised “monarchical power” by barring these work visas, adding that it’s in the public interest to uphold the power of Congress in determining immigration matters. The executive proclamation “completely disregards both the economic reality and the preexisting statutory framework,” the judge wrote, “without any consideration of the impact on American firms and their business planning.”

The judge issued his order in response to a lawsuit filed in July by business groups against the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department. The suit challenged the legality of the June proclamation, which suspended the issuance of H-1B and other temporary work visas — and corresponding dependent visas — at U.S. embassies and consulates.

The order requires U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), an agency within Homeland Security, and the State Department to resume processing and issuing the following visas to the plaintiff organizations that brought the lawsuit:

  • H-1B visas for specialty occupations, which means if you have an approved H-1B petition from the March 2020 H-1B visa lottery, your H-1B visa beneficiary could proceed for an interview consular processing.
  • H-2B visas for temporary nonagricultural workers.
  • H-4 visas for the dependent spouse and children of H-1B and H-2B visa holders.
  • J-1 visas for interns, trainees, teachers, camp counselors, au pairs or the summer work travel program.
  • J-2 visas for the dependent spouse and children of J-1 visa holders.
  • L-1 visas and Blanket L petitions for managers and executives or specialized knowledge workers.
  • L-2 visas for the spouse and children of L-1 visa holders.

However, the preliminary injunction only applies to members of the plaintiff organizations. Therefore, it may be prudent for your company to seek membership in one of the following plaintiff organizations, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in order to seek inclusion in the protected group to qualify for visa interviews for your employees:

Judge White’s preliminary injunction remains in effect until a final ruling in the case — or an appeal of the case. An appeal appears likely given that last month in a separate case, Judge Amit P. Mehta of the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia declined to halt both the June proclamation and one issued in April barring green card applicants from entering the U.S.

Also last week, another piece of welcome news affecting immigration came from Judge White: In a separate case, he blocked USCIS’s new fee rule that was slated to go into effect on Oct. 2, 2020. The new rule would have dramatically increased the fees for applying for many immigration and naturalization benefits, including visa and green card petitions.

I’m glad to hear that your visa candidates, particularly for H-1B visas, are only awaiting visa interviews at a U.S. embassy or consulate. That’s because USCIS is expected to issue a new rule shortly that is designed to further restrict the issuance of H-1B visas. The new rule is expected to narrow which jobs qualify for an H-1B specialty occupation visa, limit or even exclude H-1B beneficiaries working at a third-party worksite, and significantly increase the minimum wage rate for H-1B recipients.

Remember that travel restrictions remain in place that bar foreign nationals who have been in any of the following countries during the past 14 days from entering the U.S.:

  • China
  • Iran
  • The European Schengen areas of Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City
  • United Kingdom
  • Republic of Ireland
  • Brazil

We often recommend that any new hires consider traveling to a country not on this list for at least a 14-day layover before proceeding to the U.S.

Congrats and best wishes!

Sophie


Adding to the recent string of good news in immigration, the Department of Labor’s Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) recently announced it will now issue PERM labor certifications electronically to employers, which should result in faster notifications. Employers must file for a PERM labor certification if they sponsor an employee for either an EB-2 or an EB-3 green card. The OFLC must approve a PERM application before an employer can submit an EB-2 or EB-3 green card petition to USCIS.


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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Dear Sophie: Will October 2020 Visa Bulletin changes expedite my immigration case?

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.”

“Dear Sophie” columns are accessible for Extra Crunch subscribers; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Sophie:

I’ve been waiting for years for my green card. Is there any way to expedite my case? What does the October shift in Visa Bulletin priority dates mean for me?

—Waiting in Woodside

Dear Waiting:

Thanks! There are a lot of ways to speed up the immigration process. Great news — last week the State Department released the October 2020 Visa Bulletin, which significantly reduces the waiting time for many folks from around the world seeking green cards. Basically final action dates progressed for EB-1, EB-2 and EB-3 and are all current now if you can use categories besides being born in India or China! Feel free to check out my recent podcast on seven ways to expedite an immigration case and check out our upcoming free educational webinar on October 8 for the latest on H-1Bs and other immigration updates.

If you were born in India or China, dates for filing for Adjustment of Status and the National Visa Center also sped up significantly for individuals in these categories. Here’s a typical question I receive: “I’m currently in the U.S. in valid nonimmigrant status. If I was born in India or China, can I file my I-485 in October 2020?” See below to check your priority date and talk to an immigration attorney to see what you can file in October 2020!

Is my China/India priority date current in October?

Here’s an overview of how to figure out whether you can file your I-485 this month if you need to use the categories of being born in India or China:

  • Step 1. Double-check your I-140 I-797C approval notice to determine your category and priority date:
    • Sec. 203 (b)(1) → EB-1 Category
    • Sec. 203 (b)(2) → EB-2 Category
    • Sec. 203 (b)(3) → EB-3 Category
  • Step 2. Check out the October Visa Bulletin. To understand the Visa Bulletin in more detail:
    • The number of green cards the U.S. issues each year is capped based on the type of green card and the green card candidate’s country of birth
    • As my podcast on priority dates explains, it is the date your green card petition was submitted or the date your employer submitted your PERM labor certification application.
  • Step 3. Find the date in the cell at the intersection of your category and country.

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Extra Crunch Friday roundup: Edtech funding surges, Poland VC survey, inside Shift’s SPAC plan, more

I live in San Francisco, but I work an East Coast schedule to get a jump on the news day. So I’d already been at my desk for a couple of hours on Wednesday morning when I looked up and saw this:

As unsettling as it was to see the natural environment so transformed, I still got my work done. This is not to boast: I have a desk job and a working air filter. (People who make deliveries in the toxic air or are homeschooling their children while working from home during a global pandemic, however, impress the hell out of me.)

Not coincidentally, two of the Extra Crunch stories that ran since our Tuesday newsletter tie directly into what’s going on outside my window:

As this guest post predicted, a suboptimal attempt I made to track a delayed package using interactive voice response (IVR) indeed poisoned my customer experience, and;

Sheltering in place to avoid the novel coronavirus — and wildfire smoke — is fueling growth in the video-game industry, perhaps one factor in Unity Software Inc.’s plan to go public ahead of competitor Epic Games. In a two-part series, we looked at how the company has expanded beyond games and shared a detailed financial breakdown.

We covered a lot of ground this week, so scroll down or visit the recently redesigned Extra Crunch home page. If you’d like to receive this roundup via email each Tuesday and Friday, please click here.

Thanks very much for reading Extra Crunch; I hope you have a relaxing and safe weekend.

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor
@yourprotagonist


In a two-part series that ran on TechCrunch and Extra Crunch, former media columnist Eric Peckham returned to share his analysis of Unity Software Inc.’s S-1 filing.

Part one is a deep dive that explains how the company has grown beyond gaming to develop multiple revenue streams and where it’s headed.

For part two on Extra Crunch, he studied the company’s numbers to offer some context for its approximately $11 billion valuation.


Image Credits: Edwin Remsberg (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

As we’ve covered previously, the COVID-19 pandemic is making the world a lot smaller.

Investors who focus on their own backyards still have an advantage, but the ability to set up a quick coffee meeting with a promising investor is no longer one of them.

Even though some VCs are cutting first checks after Zoom calls, regional investors’ personal networks are still a trump card. Tourists will always rely on guide books, however, which is why we continue to survey investors around the world.

A Dealroom report issued this summer determined that 97 VC funds backed more than 1,600 funding rounds in Poland last year. With over 2,400 early- and late-stage startups and 400,000 engineers in the country, it’s easy to see why foreign investors are taking notice.

Editor-at-large Mike Butcher reached out to several investors who focus on Warsaw and Poland in general to learn more about the startups fueling their interest across fintech, gaming, security and other sectors:

  • Bryony Cooper, managing partner, Arkley Brinc VC
  • Anna Wnuk-Błażejczyk, investor relations manager, Experior.vc
  • Rafał Roszak, investment director, YouNick Mint
  • Michal Mroczkowski, partner, Market One Capital
  • Marcus Erken, partner, Sunfish Partners
  • Borys Musielak, partner, SMOK Ventures
  • Mathias Åsberg, partner, Nextgrid
  • Kuba Dudek, SpeedUp Venture Capital Group
  • Marcin Laczynski, partner, Next Road Ventures
  • Michał Rokosz, partner, Inovo Venture Partners

We’ll run the conclusion of his survey next Tuesday.


Image Credits: cnythzl (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Even for fledgling startups, creating a robust customer service channel — or at least one that doesn’t annoy people — is a reliable way to keep users in the sales funnel.

Using AI and automation is fine, but now that consumers have grown used to asking phones and smart speakers to predict the weather and read recipe instructions, their expectations are higher than ever.

If you’re trying to figure out what people want from hyper-personalized customer experiences and how you can operationalize AI to give them what they’re after, start here.


For today’s edition of The Exchange, Natasha Mascarenhas joined Alex Wilhelm to examine how the pandemic-fueled surge of interest in edtech is manifesting on the funding front.

The numbers suggest that funding will far surpass the sector’s high-water mark set in 2018, so the duo studied the numbers through August 31, which included a number of mega-rounds that exceeded $100 million.

“Now the challenge for the sector will be keeping its growth alive in 2021, showing investors that their 2020 bets were not merely wagers made during a single, overheated year,” they conclude.


Image Credits: WhataWin (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

The odds are low that someone’s going to enter my home and steal my belongings. I still lock my door when I leave the house, however, and my valuables are insured. I’m an optimist, not a fool.

Similarly: Is your startup’s cybersecurity strategy based on optimism, or do you have an actual response plan in case of a data breach?

Security reporter Zack Whittaker has seen some shambolic reactions to security lapses, which is why he turned in a post-mortem about a corporation that got it right.

“Once in a while, a company’s response almost makes up for the daily deluge of hypocrisy, obfuscation and downright lies,” says Zack.


Image Credits: Eric Burger/EyeEm (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

There’s a lot of buzz about special purpose acquisition companies these days.

Used-car marketplace Shift announced its SPAC in June 2020, and is on track to complete the process in the next few months, so co-founder/co-CEO George Arison wrote an Extra Crunch guest post to share what he has learned.

Step one: “If you go the SPAC route, you’ll need to become an expert at financial engineering.”


Image Credits: Sophie Alcorn

Dear Sophie:

I am a software engineer and have been looking at job postings in the U.S. I’ve heard from my friends about J-1 Visa Training or J-1 Research.

What is a J-1 status? What are the requirements to qualify? Do I need to find a U.S. employer willing to sponsor me before I apply for one? Can I get a visa? How long could I stay?

— Determined in Delhi


While we count down to the September 23 premiere of NYSE: PLTR, Danny Crichton looked at the “robust secondary market” that has allowed some investors to acquire shares early.

“Given the number of people involved and the number of shares bought and sold over the past 18 months, we can get some insight regarding how insiders perceive Palantir’s value,” he writes.


Image Credits: JakeOlimb / Getty Images

Zack Whittaker interviewed Bugcrowd CTO, founder and chairman Casey Ellis about the best practices he recommends for creating a startup culture that takes security seriously.

“It’s an everyone problem,” said Ellis, who encouraged founders to promote the notion of “productive paranoia.”

Now that the threat envelope includes everyone from marketing to engineering, employees need to “internalize the fact that bad stuff can and does happen if you do it wrong,” Ellis said.

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Dear Sophie: Can we sponsor an H-1B university researcher for an EB-1B green card?

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.”

“Dear Sophie” columns are accessible for Extra Crunch subscribers; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Sophie:

Our company is considering sponsoring a job candidate for an EB-1B green card. She currently has an H-1B research position at an American university. How long does the EB-1B process take? What can we do to maximize our chances for approval? Could we sponsor her for more than one green card to improve her chances?

— Passionate in Pleasanton

Dear Passionate,

Thanks for your questions. The situation you describe is complicated, so as always, please consult with an experienced immigration attorney to explore your company’s options in more detail. In a recent podcast, I talk about how tech companies can use the EB-1B green card to attract and retain researchers. In a nutshell, yes, you can hire her, and sponsor her for more than one green card simultaneously. Here’s how.

The time it takes for a candidate to receive an EB-1B green card depends on their country of birth. If your candidate was born in China or India, she faces waiting several years for an EB-1B green card unless she already has a priority date. For candidates born in any other country, the EB-1B green card process could still take close to a year or more even if the I-140 green card petition and I-485 adjustment of status form are filed together or if the I-140 petition is filed with premium processing. Regardless, in order for the candidate to remain in the U.S. to live and to start working for you in the short term while your company pursues an EB-1B green card, your company would need to sponsor her for an H-1B or O-1A in the interim.

Before I go into more detail about the requirements for the EB-1B green card and what it takes to submit a strong EB-1B petition, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Since the candidate works for a university, she likely has a cap-exempt H-1B, which means that the H-1B was not subject to the annual numerical cap and lottery. Unfortunately, a cap-exempt H-1B can only be transferred to another cap-exempt employer, such as another university, a nonprofit, or a government research organization. Your company will need to sponsor the candidate for a new, cap-subject H-1B by registering her for the lottery next March. If the candidate is selected in the lottery and the H-1B petition is approved, the earliest she can start working for you would be Oct. 1, 2021. Alternatively, we can work with you to explore options for alternative cap-exempt H-1Bs that you can get any time of year.
  • If the job candidate was born in China or India and her current employer is sponsoring her for a green card, she may be able to retain her priority date, or place in line for a green card, when your company sponsors her for one.
  • With limited exceptions, the U.S. has stopped issuing green cards and H-1B visas to individuals outside of the U.S. at least through the end of the year under President Trump’s proclamations, so the candidate should try to remain in legal status in the U.S. without departing.

To sponsor an individual for an EB-1B green card as a private company (and not a university), your company must already employ at least three full-time researchers and show accomplishments in the field of research. Your company must show that the EB-1B candidate has been recognized for exceptional achievement in her or his field of research.

The candidate must have at least three years of research experience and must meet two of the following criteria:

  • Has received major prizes or awards for outstanding achievement.
  • Belongs to associations that require outstanding achievement.
  • Work or research has been written about in professional publications or other major media.
  • Has judged the work of others either alone or while serving on a panel.
  • Contributed original scientific or scholarly research in their field.
  • Authored scholarly books or published articles.

It’s similar to an EB-1A but a little bit easier.

After working with counsel to determine the two qualifying criteria to focus on, make sure your company and the candidate assemble strong, compelling evidence and documentation. Supplement that documentation with letters of endorsement from experts in the candidate’s area of expertise. Keep in mind that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) evaluates the EB-1B petition based on whether sufficient evidence is submitted to support two of the criteria and the quality of the evidence that indicates the candidate is outstanding in their field. As usual, any documents in a foreign language must be translated and certified.

Your company will need to include the job offer letter indicating the intention to employ the candidate in a permanent research position in their field in addition to evidence that your company employs at least three researchers and has achieved accomplishments in the research field. These are usually pretty hefty packages of evidence and documents that attorneys assemble.

As with any application or petition, retain clear guidance because small mistakes on the I-140 green card petition can delay or even derail a case. For example, make sure you use the most recent edition of the necessary forms. Make sure the correct pages are signed in blue or black ink by the appropriate parties, keeping signatures inside the box so it can be scanned. Make sure your company submitted the correct filing fee amounts and premium processing fee, if applicable. Submit the application packet to the correct address and make sure it can be tracked.

To answer your last question, yes, your company can sponsor a candidate for more than one green card to improve the chances of receiving one.

Both the EB-1A green card for individuals with extraordinary ability and EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver) for individuals with exceptional ability do not require employers to go through the lengthy PERM labor certification process. However, they have rigorous requirements. Check out this overview on those two green cards and how to prepare.

Three other green card options have less stringent requirements than the EB-1A and EB-2 NIW, but require PERM labor certification:

For more details on the PERM labor certification process, check out my podcast on the topic.

Let me know how things turn out.

Good luck!

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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The H-1B visa ban is creating nearshore business partnership opportunities

In June, President Donald Trump signed an executive order temporarily suspending work visas for H-1B holders, which includes skilled workers like software developers.

Considering that 71% of workers in Silicon Valley and other tech hubs are international, the order poses a number of logistical and business challenges for startups.

While nearshoring was an option before the virus struck, the urgency to nearshore due to the visa ban, combined with the remote revolution taking place, has meant companies are reconsidering it as a solution. As a result, the suspension presents an opportunity for companies to bring on board software development capabilities from abroad.

Nearshoring is a way to hire teams in locations that share similar time zones and are easily accessible. Nearshoring also enables U.S. companies to utilize services from close locations, where the talent, working conditions, and salaries are more favorable. In fact, it can save businesses up to 80% on costs, while providing employees with flexibility, autonomy and better career development pathways.

Not only is nearshoring a pragmatic response to the visa ban, it has the potential to be a long-term hiring alternative for businesses. Here’s how:

Laying the groundwork for remote teams

Amid the pandemic, demand for developers has remained high, no doubt due to companies needing teams to build, maintain and optimize digital platforms as they transition to online services. The visa ban means that businesses in foreign markets can help meet such demand, particularly as tech talent from other countries comes with a fresh, different skill set that empowers companies to solve problems in new ways.

In the past, moving to the U.S. and living the American Dream oriented many foreign businesses’ professional paths. However, the trend has changed. The appeal of the United States was slipping prior to the virus — it ranked 46th out of 66 for “perceived friendliest to expats” — and post-COVID-19 may be even more detrimental.

In a more connected world, businesses and individuals can reap the benefits of U.S. opportunities — top technology stack, access to exciting companies and world-class research — without having to actually live in the country. In this respect, nearshoring means foreign teams have the best of both worlds: the comfort of home and ties to an international powerhouse.

The remote shift is demonstrating that teams can function well at a distance; some studies have even revealed that employee productivity and happiness benefit from remote work. In the global remote shift, nearshoring is being seen as an accepted and advantageous model. Companies that opt to nearshore in response to the visa ban can take advantage of the changing tides and use this time to lay the groundwork for best practices within remote teams. For instance, by devising policies for things like communication, tracking progress, vacation and development plans according to the new conditions and specific mission statements. As a result, businesses can seamlessly build professional partnerships.

Another advantage of nearshoring is that the flexible teams contribute to a ready-to-scale model for startups. By having development partners located in different countries, companies can network on a wider level and grow faster among local markets. Rather than start from scratch when expanding, nearshoring gives companies a presence — no matter how small — across regions, which can later be built upon.

Attracting fresh investment

Similar to having a readiness to scale, the H-1B visa suspension positions nearshoring as a viable way to strategically partner with foreign development studios. In contrast to offshoring, nearshored businesses are often more vested in the projects they work on because they share time zones and are thus able to work more closely and with greater agility. Within startups, such agility is essential to continuously test, iterate and pivot products or services. Outsourced teams often have defined outputs to achieve, while freelancers are split across several projects, so aren’t completely ingrained in companies’ visions.

With nearshoring, startups can target partners that have experience in a particular area of business or with a specific tech feature and accelerate their time to market. Instead of building systems from zero, they can launch into version 2.0 because the wider choice of experts means there’s a higher chance of partnering with teams who already understand how the industry functions. Nearshore partners also have vast knowledge across industrial fields at a level that is impossible for direct hires to have. Companies therefore don’t have to tackle the difficulty of curating a great team, because nearshore partners are an already solid pairing.

When it comes to funding, this synchronicity, agility and preparedness indicates that a startup has momentum. For investors, nearshoring shows that the company has on-the-ground insights about potential markets to disrupt, and that the business model can thrive using remote teams. As the world braces itself to go fully digital, startups that have already adopted remote processes that catalyze growth will no doubt catch the attention of investors.

Promoting greater diversity in teams

Latin America is a clear choice for U.S. businesses looking to nearshore. The region’s proximity, increasing internet penetration, and impressive number of highly skilled developers are all a significant draw.

It’s also worth noting that diversity plays a core role in nearshoring. Currently within tech, Hispanic workers are noticeably underrepresented, making up a mere 16.7% of jobs. Despite the physical distance, nearshoring in Latin America can bring people from different social and economic backgrounds into companies, boosting their visibility in industries as a whole, and setting a firm foundation for equality.

Studies also show that diversity influences creativity among teams, as well as increases company revenue.

Moreover, nearshoring accelerates diversity in a manner that isn’t disruptive. Foreign team members don’t have to sacrifice their home, friends and family to further their professional career. Relocating to the U.S. can be daunting for people who haven’t previously worked abroad, especially when factoring the change in living costs and new culture norms. Nearshoring means teams can work from locations they’re familiar with, so need less time to get up to speed on business processes. They additionally have the emotional support of their social circles nearby, which in the current climate is important for employees’ personal and professional wellbeing.

Leveraging the right partnership

Research is key to successfully find a nearshore company, and startups don’t always have the time and resources to conduct an in-depth analysis of locations and their ecosystems. The most practical manner to nearshore the right talent is with a nearshoring partner that is responsible for scouting, vetting and communicating with foreign developers.

To find an appropriate partner, ensure that they have previous experience in your industry and positive testimonials from startups in your location. They should also have a clear presence in the regions they operate in; try checking online for their press releases, events they sponsor and general content that validates they are active and respected.

Once you’ve found an appropriate nearshore partner, rely on them to know what teams in your preferred locations need in terms of culture. Nearshore partners will essentially be your development partner — you can leverage them to be your whole Research and Development department. They can guide you on the tech side of your business, advise you on the right team at the right time, give you direction on stack and methodology, and curate the right environment for the team to be productive. In contrast, hiring freelancers comes with risks because you won’t necessarily know the specific needs of the location they’re in. Be aware — if there’s a cultural disconnect, you risk not finding a partner, but a vendor that’s buying into a superficial version of your startup, as opposed to your real startup vision.

Once you’ve settled on a well-fitting nearshoring partner, ensure you have detailed contracts with all team members, as well as nondisclosure agreements. Nearshoring requires a level of mutual trust, however, at such an early stage of your company’s lifecycle, you need to know that your processes and data will not be revealed to competitors. Check that your nearshore partner’s financial status is secure and sufficient for a long-term model. Correspondingly, service level agreements will set the parameters for job responsibilities and deliverables. After all the formalities are covered, you can focus on curating fruitful, long-term relationships.

Acclimatizing in the new normal

The COVID-19 crisis has made recruitment a remote-dominated sphere. Traditional modes of hiring are being reassessed, and companies are realizing that teams don’t have to be in an office to be productive. In fact, not having to cover visa and administration fees for foreign employees is much more cost-effective for companies.

As time passes and businesses develop habits best-suited to remote work, nearshoring will become increasingly popular. People are prioritizing joining teams where their career development, well-being and ethics are protected, all of which nearshoring can offer with the added benefit of not completely upheaving workers’ lives.

Startups who embrace nearshoring early on could find themselves competing with top tech firms that struggle because of recruiting limitations. With the end of the pandemic unknown, and thus no hard deadline for the visa ban, tech companies have to look at alternative modes of building teams. Startups have the advantage of revising their remote product development approach without disturbing workflows too severely. They are also known for pioneering fairer and more innovative workplaces that are enticing for a broader scope of employees.

Nearshoring is mutually beneficial because developers don’t have to give up their culture for a great employment opportunity, and businesses can reap the benefits of diversification. Ultimately, the H-1B visa suspension could stimulate true globalization in tech, where companies can achieve their best performance using global resources.

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Dear Sophie: Latest immigration and H-1B updates

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.”

“Dear Sophie” columns are accessible for Extra Crunch subscribers; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Sophie:

I work in people ops in tech. Restrictions and conditions placed on visas and green cards seem to be continuously changing.

What’s the latest for tech, such as H-1Bs and other nonimmigrant visas?

—Strong in San Francisco

Dear Strong:

And what a summer it’s been! Fortunately there’s a bunch of great news in immigration this week. I’d love to dive in to new State Department exceptions that apply for new H-1B visas at embassies and consulates around the world. This will help a lot of tech companies whose H-1B employees got stuck outside the U.S. on trips for “visa stamping” (consular interviews) earlier this year.

Before we get into that though, I wanted to share some additional and recent top immigration highlights: First, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is restarting interviews (our team just handled several naturalization interviews remotely for clients across the country) and it looks like green cards will be scheduled again soon. Second, USCIS announced that it is canceling plans to furlough more than 13,000 employees next week, thereby averting a massive slowdown of visa and green card processing. Third, for those Dreamers out there and the tech companies who love them, USCIS is starting to accept some DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) renewals and work permit applications.

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SMA opens Netherlands Office, names Rinske Harlaar as Director of SMA NL.

SMA Is proud to announce the official opening of our Netherlands office, SMA NL, headed by attorney Rinske Harlaar. Due to SMA’s strong relationship with the Dutch business community, we believe it is time to provide local counsel to our clients and be able to continue to provide services on all U.S. immigration matters. Ms. Harlaar spent two and a half years working at SMA’s headquarters in New York, and is very familiar with all U.S. immigration matters. As Director, she will provide direct services to Dutch clients in their native language and assist on all visa and immigration cases originating from the Netherlands, including E-2, L-1 and O visas, as well as employment and family-based cases.

With Ms. Harlaar’s ample experience and the backing of SMA in New York, headed by founder Steve Maggi, Esq., SMA NL will be able to expand its services to its Dutch clientele locally. Working in conjunction with SMA’s main office, Ms. Harlaar will be able to keep the Dutch community informed of all changes in US immigration law and be in tune with their needs, and provide a highly effective and cost-conscious solution to all their U.S. immigration needs.

We are very pleased and excited to start this new chapter of SMA’s growth under Ms. Harlaar’s direction.



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The Numbers Don’t Add Up

As of the end of May 2020, 40 million new Americans have filed for unemployment since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out.

As part of President Trump’s deflect and re-direct strategy for re-casting doubts on his efficacy in handling this pandemic, he has also added scapegoating “the other” as part of his way of obviating blame to anyone except himself. His favorite scapegoat going back to his first campaign trailblazing days has always been, the immigrant.

Always touted in his native New York City as a savvy businessman who mastered the art of closing deals the Wharton School of Business graduate has decided to make an economic-based argument for his new policies and proposals, which will greatly reduce the issuance of visas, both temporary and permanent, thus reducing competition from foreigners for US jobs.

As the U.S. attempts to stay near the top of entrepreneurial growth and innovation on a global level, the need for a steady flow of brain capital and financial capital is undeniable. The President touted (and took the credit for) a national unemployment rate of 3% before the Coronavirus flipped everything upside down and took that rate to 20% in less time then it takes for a season to end. This 3% number essentially proved that any able-bodied, highly-trained and educated American could be employed if they wanted to be.

Then on April 22, the President issued an executive order pausing the issuance of immigrant visas, arguing that those individuals who entered the U.S. with those visas would essentially be free agents who could apply for any job and therefore were a threat to American workers. In actuality, the numbers are roughly 300,000 people per year of foreign nationals who might procure an immigrant visa and be able to come to the U.S. to work, compared to 40 million positions which had opened up recently. The economic argument underpinning this measure was akin to not adding one drop of water to the ocean,

The President also announced that the administration would be considering a pause on the issuance of non-immigrant visas, possibly for up to one year, and this is where the economic argument completely comes off the rails and this is why:

  • Many jobs accepted by foreign nationals lead to a net gain in job creation for companies and help lower U.S. unemployment
  • Many visas are issued to foreign entrepreneurs, who have created MILLIONS of jobs for Americans.

Pausing the issuance of these visas will lead to companies closing, the slowing down of innovation to a snail’s place and the shrinking of the U.S. economy. No new blood in the field of innovation also makes U.S. companies less profitable and leads to outsourcing to foreign countries, moving businesses out of the U.S., and discourages the future Google founders to even invest/set up in the U.S. It sends the wrong message of “We don’t need your innovation, ideas or money here”, which is all wrong and in the long-term very destructive.

I have had the pleasure of working with entrepreneurs from all over the world who have set up their companies in the U.S., companies which were not only profitable but based on the metrics that the President used to measure success by, created many American jobs. I would guess that my clients have created tens of thousands of jobs based on my being able to open the door to the U.S. for them and let them do their thing after. It is one of the things that I am proudest of. Millions of Americans benefit from the issuance of these visas because they create jobs that did not previously exist. Right now, many U.S. employers may not make it through this crisis and come out on the other side with the ability to offer their fired or furloughed employees employment again. Therefore, visas for highly-skilled foreign workers who make U.S. companies more profitable and able to expand, and for foreign entrepreneurs who bring their ideas and capital to the U.S. and must hire locally to implement their business plans and grow their companies, are more essential to the U.S. economy than ever.

The numbers don’t add up Mr. Trump. Taking this step to slow down or stop the issuance of these kinds of visas would only serve to further damage the U.S.’s future prospects of rebuilding and growing, and take away hundreds of thousands of jobs that could be created for Americans.



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As I watch the videos of police violence perpetrated on innocent people of color

As I watch the videos of police violence perpetrated on innocent people of color all over America, it brings back images I saw as a child growing up in one of America’s many ghettos, Spanish Harlem in New York City. As a poor immigrant during the crack epidemic, all I could do was try to stay safe, as I saw many of my classmates and neighborhood basketball cronies racially profiled, harassed and beaten, and the cops who did so walk around like the neighborhood bullies who were untouchable, violent and always with a chip on their shoulder.

The images like the one of George Floyd being killed are now captured on people’s cell phones, and can no longer be brushed under the rug, as they were for so many decades in America because their existence can no longer be denied, covered up or refuted. I support all those Americans who protest peacefully and voice their outrage over a country whose systemic racism endures 4 centuries after its disgraceful genesis, and I send a prayer out to George Floyd and all the past, present and future victims of police brutality and racism, including many of my brothers who I grew up with. Please make your voice heard and show them that you are better and more dignified than they are by following in the steps of the civil rights movement, of Gandhi and MLK and all those whom we so respect and admire. By exercising free speech and being an example of nonviolent protest, we can show that none of us deserve to be injured or killed by the government which purportedly exists to protect our rights.



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