Dear Sophie: How to maneuver the latest travel bans, H-1B alternatives

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.”

TechCrunch+ 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 2021 H-1B lottery process has been quite a rollercoaster!

We sponsored several people in this year’s lottery. One of our registrants was selected in the first round in March, but none were selected in the second round in July.

We just found out another of our registrants was selected in November, however, he’s from South Africa and restricted from traveling to the U.S. due to omicron.

What should we do? Any suggestions for what to do about our other prospective hires who didn’t get selected?

— Eager Employer

Dear Eager,

Congrats on getting two of your registrants selected in the most recent year’s H-1B lottery! Our clients had many candidates who got selected in subsequent selection rounds as well. This year’s H-1B lottery was a drawn-out process, and it’s great to see that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is committed to reaching the 85,000 H-1B cap. I touched on this in a recent podcast in which I talked about immigration changes and trends I expect to see in the year ahead.

I’m anticipating that granting as many of the 85,000 H-1B visas as possible each year will continue to be a priority for the Biden administration. To reduce immigration backlogs, they are working to rebuild resources and staffing levels at USCIS and the U.S. Department of State that had been gutted during the previous four years.

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)

The new travel ban

As you know, the Biden administration instituted a travel policy on Nov. 29 due to the omicron variant. The most recent policy bars individuals who have been in South Africa, as well as Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe within the previous 14 days from entering the United States. U.S. citizens, permanent residents and the spouses of U.S. citizens and permanent residents are exempted from this new travel ban.