Dear Sophie: Any tips for negotiating visa and green card sponsorship?

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.”

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Dear Sophie,

I’m currently on an F-1 student visa. I’ll receive my bachelor’s degree in computer science in December and will apply for OPT. I’d like to stay and work in the U.S.

Do you have any tips for negotiating visa and green card sponsorship? Anything else I should remember as I start contacting prospective employers?

— Shy Student

Dear Shy,

I appreciate you reaching out to me with your questions. I absolutely have plenty of tips for you! Based on the current culture of work and the great resignation is, it’s critical to:

Be upfront

It’s important to communicate clearly with companies you’re applying to about your need for sponsorship. If they can’t do it or don’t want to, there’s no point in wasting your time.

Once you start reaching out to prospective employers, I think you’ll find that you’re in a great position to discuss visa and green card sponsorship. According to Envoy’s 2022 Immigration Trends Report, 40% of employers anticipate relying more heavily on F-1 international students and J-1 exchange programs for talent.

Of the employers who said they will become more reliant on these programs, 49% said the specific skills and training they are hiring for are most often found in recent graduates. In addition, employers are using green card sponsorship as a key recruitment and retention strategy for international talent. Moreover, 66% of the employers said their company typically starts the green card application process for sponsored employees within one year of the employee joining the company and 25% do so immediately, which is an 11% increase from 2021.

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)

Know the process

Knowing the process for obtaining OPT (Optional Practical Training), or STEM OPT, and entering the H-1B lottery will help you discuss options with prospective employers. It will be particularly helpful if you’re dealing with prospective employers that have little to no experience with immigration.

The earliest you can apply for OPT is 90 days before you get your degree, and you can’t apply any later than 60 days after you get your degree. Your OPT Employment Authorization Document (work permit) will be valid for one year. Because computer science is in the STEM field, you will be eligible to get a two-year extension, STEM OPT.