Startups

Ask Sophie: What are my options if a company rescinds my OPT job offer?

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 “Ask 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 “Ask Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Readers: I first must share my gratitude. A big THANK YOU to everyone who voted for me for the Disrupt Audience Choice Award: I’ll be speaking live from the stage at #Disrupt2023! I always love getting to meet you spontaneously, but now we can plan for it. Get your tickets and get your ESTA or B-1/B-2 — I can’t wait to meet you!


Dear Sophie,

I’m an international student graduating this month, but the company I was supposed to start working for on OPT has rescinded my job offer.

What are my options?

— Grappling Grad

Dear Grappling,

First of all, congratulations on your upcoming graduation. I know things might feel daunting for you right now, but remember to celebrate your accomplishment and this important milestone.

A lot of immigrants often find themselves in situations that require them to pivot quickly. You are not alone and there are resources out there to support you.

There actually might be some silver linings here for you. As you explore your options, remember that often the most innovative and insightful ideas have been born during challenging times.

Notify your DSO

If you haven’t already, you should notify the Designated School Official (DSO) at your university about your situation and make sure your records get updated. Federal regulations require you to notify your DSO within 10 days of any employment or personal information changes. DSOs are required to update the information in the federal Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) system within 21 days.

One important detail to keep in mind is that F-1 students on OPT (Optional Practical Training) are only allowed to be unemployed for 90 days after they graduate. Some of the details of your next steps may differ depending on whether you already have applied for and received your OPT work permit yet.

Now, let’s dive into some options!

A composite image of immigration law attorney Sophie Alcorn in front of a background with a TechCrunch logo.
Image Credits: Joanna Buniak

Create your own company

If you’ve ever read my column, you’ve probably figured out that I’m pretty partial to founders and I love the excitement and world-changing potential of startups. So, I’m presenting this option first, although it might be different from what your parents and peers have been recommending!

Did you know that you can create your own job by founding or co-founding a startup? Founders are allowed to be self-employed on OPT as long as most of the work done at their startups is related to their field of study, they notify their DSO and as long as they have their Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card in hand.

From a corporate law perspective, you need to set up your company and obtain any business licenses required by the state in which you’re located. I suggest you consult with both a corporate attorney and an immigration attorney to guide you based on your goals and post-OPT plans.

As your startup grows, you can structure things so that it can sponsor you for other immigration benefits, such as STEM OPT, the two-year extension of OPT if you are a STEM grad or various work visas such as the H-1B specialty occupation visa or O-1A extraordinary ability visa.

Qualifying your company to sponsor you for STEM OPT work authorization can be complex, so I suggest consulting with an immigration attorney. To be eligible for two-year STEM OPT work authorization once your one-year OPT work authorization expires, your field of study must be listed on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s STEM Designated Degree Program List.

To work for your own company under STEM OPT or a work visa, you must have a formal employer-employee relationship with your company, and your company will need to develop a training plan for you and enroll in the government’s e-Verify system.

Demonstrating an employer-employee relationship means you will need to designate a supervisor, such as a co-founder, to oversee your work and control your employment. There may be other considerations as well. These are all very doable, but you should keep these factors and compliance requirements in mind when proceeding down this path. Take a look at this previous Ask Sophie in which I dive into more detail about applying for STEM OPT.

The earliest you can apply for STEM OPT is 90 days before the current 12-month OPT EAD is set to expire. For an additional fee, 30-day premium processing is now available for OPT and STEM OPT.

Find another job

If you’re feeling that things are not quite ripe yet to found your own startup, you will need to find another job in your field within 90 days from the start date listed on your OPT EAD card. Inform your DSO when you find a job.

You may be comforted to hear that the number of tech job postings in April in the top five tech categories, which includes software developers and engineers, other computer occupations, IT support specialists, systems analysts and data scientists, increased by nearly 15,000 to nearly 210,000, according to a report by the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), a nonprofit trade association.

When you’re on OPT, you can only be unemployed for up to 90 days. So if you’re unable to find a job within the 90-day window, you must either leave the U.S. or change your status to another visa that doesn’t require a job offer and an employer sponsor: You could enroll in a new F-1 program and resume your studies (but potentially waive the remainder of your OPT) or even change your status to a B-1 temporary business visitor visa.

The B-1 visa would enable you to engage in certain activities, such as attending interviews and meetings, negotiating contracts and participating in a hackathon. However, you are not authorized to work on the B-1. If you do, you risk jeopardizing your current status or future immigration plans. Consult your immigration attorney if you have questions about activities that are allowed.

After OPT and STEM OPT

If you travel outside of the United States while you’re on F-1 OPT or STEM OPT, keep in mind that you must maintain non-immigrant intent as an F-1 student to reenter. That means you must demonstrate to immigration officials at a U.S. port of entry that you intend to eventually return to your home country. In other words, you must not intend to stay permanently in the United States by getting a green card.

When you’re on OPT and if you’re eligible for the two-year STEM OPT extension, your startup or your employer can register you in the annual H-1B visa lottery every March for the next three years (and even beyond). If your startup plans to sponsor you for an H-1B, you will need to demonstrate an employer-employee relationship. Startups with multiple co-founders can enjoy an easier process. Your startup will also have to meet other requirements, which you should discuss with an immigration attorney.

Given the dramatically shrinking chances of getting selected in the H-1B lottery (this year, there were nearly 800,000 individuals registered in the lottery for 85,000 H-1B visas) and the time, cost and energy it takes to apply for an H-1B visa, I typically recommend pursuing other options such as a cap-exempt H-1B or the O-1A extraordinary ability visa. The work that founders do to start and grow their company typically makes the O-1A visa easily attainable.

The three years of OPT and STEM OPT will also give you a great chance to build up your qualifications for an O-1A, which requires you to meet at least three of eight criteria, such as winning a national international award, writing articles in your field or being the subject of articles published in professional, trade or major media publications. Check out this previous column in which I discuss the O-1A qualifications in more detail.

The O-1A can also offer much more flexibility and job security if you use an agent to file an O-1A petition on your behalf rather than a single employer. Using an agent will enable you to change or add jobs or projects in the United States without amending the petition every time as long as you continue to work in your field.

You’ve got this! All my best!

— Sophie


Have a question for Sophie? Ask it here. We reserve the right to edit your submission for clarity and/or space.

Sophie Alcorn, founder of Alcorn Immigration Law in Silicon Valley, CA, is an award-winning Certified Specialist Attorney in Immigration and Nationality Law by the State Bar Board of Legal Specialization. Sophie is passionate about transcending borders, expanding opportunity, and connecting the world by practicing compassionate, visionary, and expert immigration law. Connect with Sophie on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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

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.

3 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.

2 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

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?