Startups

Dear Sophie: What’s happening with visa application receipt notices?

Comment

lone figure at entrance to maze hedge that has an American flag at the center
Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

Sophie Alcorn

Contributor

Sophie Alcorn is the founder of Alcorn Immigration Law in Silicon Valley and 2019 Global Law Experts Awards’ “Law Firm of the Year in California for Entrepreneur Immigration Services.” She connects people with the businesses and opportunities that expand their lives.

More posts from Sophie Alcorn

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 employs several individuals who are on work visas or have employment authorization. Many of them have been waiting for quite a while for the government to tell them their applications have been received.

Why? When will things be back on track? We have a few employees who are waiting for green cards, and a few F-1 visa holders who will be extending their OPT to STEM OPT.

Is there anything we can do?

— Patient in Pasadena

Dear Patient,

Thanks for your questions. Last September, an increase in applications submitted to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) amid COVID-19-related staff reductions created a substantial backlog and subsequent delay in USCIS sending out receipt notices.

My law firm partner, Anita Koumriqian, and I provided an update on receipt notices on a recent podcast. Dedicating an entire episode to receipt notices was unthinkable a year ago because applicants usually received receipt notices within one to three weeks after USCIS received their application.

For those who don’t know, USCIS sends a letter called a receipt notice to applicants when it receives an application. The receipt notice — also known as a Notice of Action or Form I-797 — contains information about:

  • Whether the application was accepted, in which case you will be notified of how it will be processed, or rejected if it was not filed appropriately, such as not using the latest form or forgetting to check a box on the application form.
  • A receipt number, which can be used to check the status of your case either online or by phone.
  • The date your application was received, which for most green card applications is the priority date. (Priority dates for the EB-2 and EB-3 green cards are when the Labor Department received the PERM Labor Certification application.) A priority date determines your place in line for a green card number to become available based on the green card category and the green card candidate’s country of birth.

What caused the backlog?

Before the pandemic, applicants would typically be notified in less than one month after USCIS received their application. Currently, applicants are receiving their receipt notice as long as eight to nine weeks after USCIS received their application, and sometimes longer.

As I mentioned earlier, coronavirus-related staffing reductions at USCIS coupled with a substantial jump in the number of applications submitted prompted huge delays that began in September. Application submissions surged primarily due to:

  • Anticipation of fee hikes that were slated to go into effect on October 2, 2020, before being blocked by a federal court judge.
  • Rapid forward movement in the monthly Visa Bulletin for some green card categories, which meant green card numbers became available to many waiting in line.

Since the fall, USCIS has been trying to catch up with receipt notices. Unfortunately, we don’t have any insight into when receipt notice processing will return to the under-30-day time frame.

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)

What to do?

Even if delayed, USCIS continues to issue receipt notices that reflect the original application filing date. In the meantime, find out if the check that was sent to cover the application fees was cashed by USCIS. If so, that means the application was received, and USCIS will print the receipt number on the check, which can be used to check the status of the case.

If your company is planning to file any new applications to USCIS, include an E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance (Form G-1145). This will allow you to receive notification by email or text message that USCIS accepted your application.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has received widespread reports of application rejections for reasons such as failure to:

  • Check a box.
  • Include all pages of a form.
  • Sign a form.
  • Submit the correct fee amount.

However, AILA notes that in many of these situations, the applications or fees were submitted correctly. If you receive a receipt notice rejecting an application, consult an immigration attorney to discuss your options. If there was an error in the application or fee amount, USCIS will allow the application to be refiled in most cases. Be aware that for green card beneficiaries, their priority date will be when the second application was received by USCIS.

Some employees, such as those on H-1B visas, remain in valid status while filing an extension petition and can continue to work with your company as their sponsoring employer. However, for employers who are waiting for employment authorization (work permit) for employees, such as F-1 students who are extending their OPT to STEM OPT, your company may, unfortunately, have to place them on unpaid leave until they receive their receipt notice if their form EAD expired, so please consult an attorney.

AILA states that Application for Employment Authorization (Form I-765) and Application for Travel Document (Form I-131) are experiencing significant delays not only for receipt notices but also in their adjudication. Previously, the average processing times varied from 90 days to six months, but are now taking as long as eight or nine months, according to AILA.

If the receipt notice or employment authorization delays are extreme, do not resubmit your application to USCIS. That would further clog the system and create confusion with the case.

Again, I suggest working with an immigration attorney to discuss options, such as contacting USCIS or requesting a case review by the Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman (CIS ombudsman) is warranted. A case review can be filed with the CIS ombudsman if no action has been taken on a case for more than 90 days. If that action produces no results, your attorney may suggest you contact your local senator or member of congress for assistance with the case.

In the meantime, hang in there and make sure to get support if you need it.

Best regards,

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!

More TechCrunch

Ahead of the AI safety summit kicking off in Seoul, South Korea later this week, its co-host the United Kingdom is expanding its own efforts in the field. The AI…

UK opens office in San Francisco to tackle AI risk

Companies are always looking for an edge, and searching for ways to encourage their employees to innovate. One way to do that is by running an internal hackathon around a…

Why companies are turning to internal hackathons

Featured Article

I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Women in tech still face a shocking level of mistreatment at work. Melinda French Gates is one of the few working to change that.

11 hours ago
I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s  broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Blue Origin has successfully completed its NS-25 mission, resuming crewed flights for the first time in nearly two years. The mission brought six tourist crew members to the edge of…

Blue Origin successfully launches its first crewed mission since 2022

Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the top entertainment and sports talent agencies, is hoping to be at the forefront of AI protection services for celebrities in Hollywood. With many…

Hollywood agency CAA aims to help stars manage their own AI likenesses

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

2 days ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

3 days ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities