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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We’re a pre-seed startup thinking about sponsoring an early employee’s H-1B visa to stay in the U.S. and work for us.
How does the process work?
— Seeking in San Mateo
Thank you for granting peace of mind to your employee by planning now for H-1B sponsorship. This step means a lot to professionals early in their careers, many of whom paid full tuition for their U.S. bachelor’s and master’s degrees in order to have this chance.
Your startup can certainly register your employee for the H-1B lottery sometime in Q1 2023, but the government has not yet said when the registration window opens. If your employee is selected in the lottery, your startup can prepare, submit and pay the required fees to U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for an H-1B filing.
I highly recommend working with an experienced startup immigration attorney to support the process, particularly since USCIS tends to scrutinize early-stage companies more. An attorney can help you avoid missteps and submit a strong visa application while staying within your budget.
Consider the level of service you need
Most immigration attorneys charge flat fees for their services, but the fees, level of service, responsiveness and the amount of counseling and guidance can vary significantly, so look for a law firm that meets your needs. It’s also important to find an attorney you feel comfortable with.
It’s never too early to start preparing
Start assembling the documents you will need to submit as soon as you can. Your startup will need to be incorporated and receive its tax ID number from the IRS to prove that it is capable of sponsoring an individual for an H-1B. This needs to be done before your company submits a Labor Condition Application (LCA), which is also sent to the Labor Department. This application cannot be submitted more than six months before your employee will begin working on an H-1B.
An approved LCA must be submitted with your H-1B petition to USCIS. In addition to your startup’s tax ID, you’ll need some basics such as: