Dear Sophie: When should I sponsor engineers for green cards?

​​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 engineers that we’re trying to recruit are increasingly requesting that we sponsor them for green cards. I don’t have an HR background, but I’ve been assigned HR duties at our startup.

Can you give me a rundown of the green cards that are available?

Is it possible to sponsor someone for a green card without them getting an H-1B or other visa first? Which green card is the fastest?

— Targeting Talent

Dear Targeting,

With the ongoing and intensifying competition for tech talent in the wake of the Great Resignation, I find myself addressing questions like yours quite frequently. That’s no surprise: Turnover in tech last year was remarkably higher than in health care, according to the Harvard Business Review. Resignations within the tech industry increased 4.5% last year compared to the previous year, while in health care, resignations increased 3.6%.

As you explore this process, consider looking at green cards and other immigration support not only as a way to recruit candidates and retain employees, but as an opportunity to shape your company culture. Now is the time to present your company as one that values innovation, diversity, creativity, inclusivity and the security and well-being of your employees. This will ultimately bring resilience to your company.

Let’s get into it.

Which green card is the fastest?

Of all the employment-based green cards, the EB-1A extraordinary ability green card is the quickest option. This option requires significant proof of accomplishment in your field — which can be a challenge for some (more details below).

The EB-1A is the fastest for two main reasons: It currently allows for Premium Processing, where you can pay $2,500 extra and the government will adjudicate the petition in 15 calendar days, and, for people subject to the India/China-green card backlogs, the EB-1 First Preference green card category always has the most movement and availability.

Good news for green card processing: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services just announced that it will be adding premium processing to more categories. This fiscal year, it will be adding a Premium Processing option to both the EB-1C Multinational Manager and Executive green card category as well as the EB-2 National Interest Waiver green card category. In the coming months, USCIS will launch this option: You will be able to pay an additional $2,500, and USCIS will promise to adjudicate your I-140 petition in EB-1C or EB-2NIW in 45 (not 15!) days.

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)