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Dear Sophie: Is it easier and faster to get an O-1A than an 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.”

“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:

Is it easier and faster to get an O-1A extraordinary ability visa than an EB-1A extraordinary ability green card? What are the pros and cons of each?

—Outstanding in Oakland

Dear Outstanding:

Thanks so much for your timely questions about the extraordinary ability visa and green card. The short answer to your first question is yes, the O-1A visa is generally easier and faster to get than an EB-1A green card. In fact, I once helped a client get an O-1A approved in three days — of course, that was before the COVID-19 pandemic.

We recently launched “Extraordinary Ability Bootcamp,” a new, 15-module online course that takes a deep dive into the O-1A extraordinary ability nonimmigrant (temporary) visa, the EB-1A extraordinary ability green card, the EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver for exceptional ability) and what it takes to file a successful application in each category. Check my podcast where I discuss the Bootcamp in more detail. Register for the Extraordinary Ability Bootcamp and use code DEARSOPHIE for 20% off the enrollment fee.

In general, the requirements for a green card, which enable its holder to live permanently in the U.S., are more stringent than those for nonimmigrant visas, which only allow a temporary stay in the U.S. And U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) typically takes longer to process green card petitions than nonimmigrant visa petitions. Moreover, the U.S. imposes numerical and per-country caps on the number of green cards issued each year, which means some green card categories for people born in some countries, such as India and China, face long waits. Only a few visas have an annual cap (like the H-1B), but the O-1A visa is not one of them.

That said, the EB-1A has one of the shortest USCIS processing times, compared to other employment-based green cards. Also, EB-1A petitions are eligible for premium processing, which requires USCIS to make a decision on a petition within 15 days (whether it is “calendar” days or “business” days is currently in flux!). The I-140 petition can be adjudicated quickly in a few weeks, but for somebody whose priority date is “current” on the Visa Bulletin, the determining factor for how long a green card takes is often the I-485 processing time in the local field office. Recently that’s been taking about 1.5-2 years for interviews in the Bay Area.

Meanwhile, nonimmigration visa petitions can face delays for a number of reasons, but a delay happens most often when USCIS responds to a petition with a Request for Evidence (RFE). An RFE is a written notice from USCIS seeking additional evidence to make a decision on a case. During the past few years, the number of RFEs issued by USCIS for both visas and green cards has increased substantially.

Last month (September 2020) USCIS extended its policy of giving petitioners an extra 60 calendar days to respond to certain USCIS notices, including RFEs, intent to deny, revoke, rescind and terminate due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. For any of these notices dated between March 1, 2020, and January 1, 2021, a timely response will be considered 60 days after the date listed on the notice. Whether you want to take advantage of this extra time is a conversation to have with your attorney, based on the strength of your pending petition and the urgency of getting an approval.

As you probably know, the O-1A visa is for individuals who have achieved national or international acclaim and have risen to the top of their field in the areas of science, education, business or athletics. The EB-1A enables individuals who have achieved substantial international or national success in their field due to their extraordinary talent to live permanently in the U.S.

Here’s a summary of the pros and cons of the O-1A and the EB-1A:

O-1A NONIMMIGRANT VISA

(Temporary Stay)

EB-1A GREEN CARD

(Permanent Residence)

Pros

  • Easier standard than EB-1A.
  • A change of status can be processed by USCIS in a few weeks.
  • Eligible for premium processing.
  • Unlimited extensions possible.
  • Does not require an LCA or PERM.
  • No annual cap.
Pros

  • Possible to self-petition without an employer sponsor or job offer.
  • I-140 is eligible for premium processing.
  • Green card: Allows you to permanently remain in the U.S.
  • Does not require an LCA or PERM.
  • Five years after green card can apply for citizenship.
Cons

  • Requires employer or agent sponsorship.
  • Requires job offer or itinerary of gigs.
  • Individuals cannot self-petition.
  • Might require union letter or advisory opinion.
  • Not a green card (permanent residence).
Cons

  • Multiyear process.
  • High evidentiary standard.
  • Annual numerical and per-country caps exist.
  • Backlog for people born in India and China.
  • Under a presidential proclamation issued in April, green cards not currently being issued at Consulates.

Keep in mind that like the EB-1, the EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver) green card does not require an employer sponsor. However, the eligibility requirements for the EB-2 NIW are less stringent than for the EB-1A. For individuals born in India and China, the downside to the EB-2 NIW green card is that they face a much longer wait compared to the EB-1A. Unlike the EB-1A, premium processing is not available for EB-2 NIW petitions.

Remember, U.S. embassies and consulates are not processing green cards so you should try to apply for a green card while you remain in legal status in the U.S. Otherwise, you may have to return to and stay in your home country for a while.

Still, getting a visa or green card abroad remains possible. I recommend working with an experienced immigration attorney to discuss which options best match your accomplishments, goals and timing. Remember, you can sign up for Bootcamp and use code DEARSOPHIE for 20% off the enrollment fee to get qualified!

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!

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Four views: How will the work visa ban affect tech and which changes will last?

The Trump administration’s decision to extend its ban on issuing work visas to the end of this year “would be a blow to very early-stage tech companies trying to get off the ground,” Silicon Valley immigration lawyer Sophie Alcorn told TechCrunch this week.

In 2019, the federal government issued more than 188,000 H-1B visas — thousands of workers who live in the San Francisco Bay Area and other startup hubs hold H-1B and H-2B visas or J and L visas, which are explicitly prohibited under the president’s ban. Normally, the government would process tens of thousands of visa applications and renewals in October at the start of its fiscal year, but the executive order all but guarantees new visas won’t be granted until 2021.

Four TechCrunch staffers analyzed the president’s move in an attempt to see what it portends for the tech industry, the U.S. economy and our national image:

Danny Crichton: Trump’s ban is a “self-inflicted” blow to our precarious economy

America’s economic supremacy is increasingly precarious.

Outsourcing and offshoring led to a generational loss of manufacturing skills, management incompetence killed off many of the country’s leading businesses and the nation now competes directly with China and other countries in critical emerging industries like 5G, artificial intelligence and the other alphabet soup of technological acronyms.

We have one thing going for us that no other country can rival: our ability to attract top talent. No other country hosts more immigrants, nor does any other country capture the imagination of a greater portion of the world’s top minds. America — whether Silicon Valley, Wall Street, Hollywood, Harvard Square or anywhere in between — is where smart people congregate.

Or at least, it was.

The coronavirus was the first major blow, partially self-inflicted. Remote work pushed employers toward keeping workers where they are (both domestically and overseas) rather than centralizing them in a handful of corporate HQs. Meanwhile, students — the first step for many talented workers to enter the United States — are taking a pause, fearing renewed outbreaks of COVID-19 in America while much of the rest of the developed world reopens with few cases.

The second blow was entirely self-inflicted. Earlier this week, President Donald Trump announced that his administration would halt processing critical worker visas like the H-1B due to the current state of the American economy.

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Dear Sophie: What’s the best option for international founders to expand in the US?

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’m a startup founder in Israel looking to expand into the U.S. market. What is the best visa option for me and a key member of my executive team to come to the U.S. to establish a sales and marketing office there? I would like my spouse and children to join me if my spouse can also work in the U.S. Is that possible?

— Tenacious in Tel Aviv

Dear Tenacious:

Thanks for reaching out. Based on your situation, the E-2 visa for treaty investors and employees may offer the best option.

An underutilized option, the E-2 visa is ideal for startup founders and employees whose home country has a treaty of commerce and navigation with the U.S. Israelis became eligible for E-2 visas just last year, joining the citizens of 80 other treaty countries. For more details on E-2 visas for founders and employees, check out Episode 16 of my “Immigration Law for Tech Startups” podcast.

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Attorney Sophie Alcorn answers readers’ immigration questions

We had a great time hosting noted immigration attorney Sophie Alcorn on a live conference call with Extra Crunch members earlier this week.
Sophie writes our “Dear Sophie” column, where she answers questions about immigration status, particularly for founders and others in the tech ecosystem who want to work in …

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Dear Sophie: My H-1B was renewed, but I’m getting laid off

“Dear Sophie” is a collaborative forum hosted by Extra Crunch and curated by Sophie Alcorn, who is certified as a specialist attorney in immigration and nationality law by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization. Sophie is the founder of Alcorn Immigration Law, the fastest-growing immigration law firm in Silicon Valley and 2019 Global Law Experts Awards’ “Law Firm of the Year in California for Entrepreneur Immigration Services.”

Extra Crunch subscribers enjoy full access to “Dear Sophie” — use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Sophie: I’m a software developer at a large company. I just found out that I’m getting laid off and my last day of employment will be in 30 days. I have an H-1B visa that just got renewed, so it’s valid for almost three more years.

I need to stay in the United States because my wife has her own H-1B and a great job that she loves, we have a U.S. citizen baby and we bought a house last year. I’m starting to look for jobs. What should I do from an immigration standpoint?

— Nervous in New Haven

Dear Nervous: First of all, congratulations on turning over a new leaf in your career 😉 — I know it can feel scary, but you’re now open to new possibilities for your professional and personal development. I’ve spoken to a lot of people in your situation and have noticed that these sorts of situations usually turn out for the best.

You’re already doing the best thing you can do: looking for another job. You’ll have a 60-day grace period after your last day at work in which you can remain in the U.S. without working. If you can get another job in that time, you’re all set — just make sure your new company knows that they need to file a new petition before the final day of your grace period.

Source: TechCrunch

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Remitly launches Passbook, a neobank aimed at immigrants, to expand beyond money transfers

Last summer, the Seattle-based startup Remitly closed a $135 million round to go beyond money-transfer services into a wider range of financial products catering to its primarily-immigrant customer base.

Today, it’s taking the wraps off a new product that puts paid to that plan: it’s launching Passbook, a new bank aimed at immigrants that lets a person use any form of picture ID — whether it’s from the US or not — to sign up. The service is starting first in the US — Remitly’s biggest market today among its 15 “send from” countries and 40 “send to” countries. The long-term plan is to roll out Passbook anywhere that Remitly is active over time.

Aimed at the 44 million immigrants in the country that Remitly already targets with services to send money back to their home countries, the idea is to give them options to open and use bank accounts even if they are not in possession of Social Security numbers or other forms of US-originated identification, as long as they are living in the US, have another form of identification (for example a passport from another country), and in cases where the ID lacks an address, proof of where they live.

Passbook is tapping into a problem that extends into both developed and developing markets, where collectively some 1.7 billion people globally remain “unbanked,” with no access to bank accounts and therefore mostly off the financial grid, and therefore unlikely to have access to services like credit that can potentially help them improve their financial station in life.

Passbook is interesting not just because it’s addressing a gap in the market of financial services, but because of the timely subject matter.

The subjects of migrant workers, immigration, nationality — and how to best to handle the influx of new populations of people within a country’s borders coming for a variety of reasons — are all being hotly debated in the US and elsewhere. Large political shifts and platforms are being built and pivoting around how people view the movement of people.

But while those subjects get lots of attention in the media, in the halls of government, at the bar and around the proverbial dinner table, ironically the subject of those arguments — the people themselves — regularly get overlooked when it comes to building new services and calibrating tech to focus on them, two things that could clearly improve their individual lots and the economy as a whole. Immigrants globally represent some $1.3 trillion in wages and $900 billion in spending power annually.

“No-one should be excluded from banking and financial services,” said Matt Oppenheimer, the CEO and co-founder of Remitly, in an interview in London last week about Passbook.

Passbook is a logical expansion for Remitly because there is a strong overlap between the typical Remitly’s target customer, a country’s immigrant population, and those living in a country like the US who are underbanked.

Today many of the individuals who use money transfer services are immigrants, who use them to send money to family and friends in their “home” countries. Those immigrants, in turn, are the most likely US residents to lack social security numbers and other kinds of US-issued identification.

Up to now, that has made it harder for them to open bank accounts, since many banks in the US — in an effort to avoid risk, not because of a legal requirement — often require those US-originated identification documents to open the accounts in the first place.

But that opens an opportunity for a company like Remitly, which can use a banking service to expand its services funnel with its existing users — it has to date sent some $6 billion in funds on behalf of its users — and to open a new front in adding in other customers who may not already be using it for money transfer.

Since the main requirement is to satisfy “Know Your Customer” compliance, Remitly can do this using other documentation that a person is likely to have.

Remitly has set Passbook up like a typical challenger bank (these days often referred to as a “neobank”), in that it operates as a virtual, online-only bank with no physical office and has partnered with another banking partner called Sunrise that runs all the services under the hood and provides FDIC guarantees for deposits up to $250,000. On top of that, Remitly has worked in a number of features that it believes give customers not just a bank account, but one that has features specific to those that might appeal to its specific customer base.

That includes, in addition to basics like having an account into which money can be paid in and out, and having a Visa-based debit card to make cashless transactions, users getting the ability to “choose your flag” to personalise a card, no fees for transactions when the payment card is used abroad, no account maintenance fees, no overdraft fees, no ATM fees and no minimum balance.

As you would expect, Remitly will soon be adding in the ability to link the Passbook accounts to their money transfer feature to make the process more seamless, and presumably cheaper to entice more cross-service signups. No loans on the platform yet, but you can imagine credit, mortgages and other kinds of lending to make its way there over time as well.

Given the focus on immigrants as users, I asked Oppenheimer about the potential risk that they would be providing services to people who are in the US undocumented and potentially illegally, and wether that could pose problems for the company. He replied that the company is committed to protecting the privacy of its customers and since all that is needed is to satisfy KYC compliance, Remitly would never have information on a users’ immigration status one way or the other, leaving the question off the ledger altogether.

I also asked Oppenheimer where the company stands on funding. It has now raised just under $400 million, and for now is in no hurry to raise any more, he said. But when and if financing is added into the mix of services, you might imagine that will change again.

Source: TechCrunch