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.”
I work in HR for a tech firm. I understand that Biden is rolling out a new immigration plan today.
What is your sense as to how the new administration will change business, corporate and startup founder immigration to the U.S.?
—Free in Fremont
Today is a historic day. The pace of change is accelerating now, especially in Washington. At the time of this writing, Biden is expected to imminently launch a new legislative proposal for comprehensive immigration reform. As the world sits back and watches, we are focusing great collective attention on upgrading our political, sociological and technological structures so that each human has the chance to succeed.
One of the things I adore about my practice of supporting international professionals with U.S. immigration is bearing witness to the process of individual transformation; it is an honor to support people in their personal journey from living in a world of effects to becoming the cause.
The immediate focus of the proposed legislation is centered around a solution for Dreamers (who are in the U.S. without documentation) as well as supporting the rights of refugees and asylum-seekers and children. For more of my recent thoughts on this topic, check out my recent podcast explaining many of the changes. The draft bill is expected to span hundreds of pages, so please follow this Dear Sophie column for more updates as I track and explore the details, especially related to tech immigration.
Innovation will be supported by many new immigration opportunities coming into greater focus. Biden’s campaign platform celebrated how “Immigrants are essential to the strength of our country and the U.S. economy.” The Biden team has prioritized immigration as a key focus within COVID, with an immediate goal of rewriting most Trump-era rules. For context, Trump issued more than 400 immigration-related executive orders and proclamations during his term.
H-1Bs: Although H-1Bs have been in the news a lot regarding new wage rules changing the order of the lottery and litigation, the lottery is still happening this spring, and if you want to sponsor candidates, the time to act is now, regardless of what is happening in Washington. If your company is planning on sponsoring individuals for an H-1B visa — whether they’re already living in the U.S. or are living abroad — I suggest that you continue to prepare for the upcoming H-1B registration period.
Muslim Ban: Another immediate priority is ending the “Muslim Ban.” Biden and his team have explicitly stated that Trump’s executive order banning visa holders from mostly Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States would end rapidly.
Improved Processing Times: The coronavirus pandemic prompted all U.S. embassies and consulates to initially close to routine visa and green card processing and many still remain closed given the resurgence of the virus. The end of processing delays for visas and green cards largely depends on the COVID-19 pandemic timeline and budget for immigration and visa personnel. The Biden administration might decide to streamline the process by ending the Trump-era practice of reviewing most visa renewals with the same intense scrutiny as initial petitions even if the situation of the visa holder remains unchanged.
H, L and J Visa Ban: Immigration still remains possible thanks to the federal courts, where legal challenges to these bans and other restrictive immigration policies have been heard in recent months. Last fall, a federal court judge temporarily halted the ban on H-1B, H-2B, J and L visas for the plaintiff organizations in the case, which included the National Association of Manufacturers, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Retail Federation, TechNet and Intrax Inc. That meant employer sponsors who are members of any of these organizations are exempt from the H-1B ban. Read more about that federal court ruling in the Dear Sophie column from last October.
While President Joe Biden has criticized these bans, he has not said whether he would immediately end them. Because Trump put the bans on issuing H-1B, J and L visas and green cards abroad into place through executive proclamations, Biden can quickly and easily rescind them through an executive proclamation of his own.
USCIS Processing Changes: During the early months of the pandemic from March through June last year, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) continued to process immigration applications even while its offices were closed to in-person appointments and interviews. USCIS acknowledged earlier this year that its immigration processing is facing significant delays due to COVID-19 restrictions, an increase in filings and other factors. These delays are affecting receipt notices for some applications and petitions, such as green cards and employment authorization documents (work permits), as well as scheduling or rescheduling appointments to collect biometric data from applicants who have applied for green cards through adjustment of status, U.S. citizenship and other benefits.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, USCIS recently extended its policy of giving applicants and petitioners an extra 60 calendar days to respond to a Request for Evidence, Notice of Intent to Deny, Notice of Intent to Revoke, Rescind or Terminate dated between March 1, 2020, and Jan. 31, 2021.
That may be further extended depending on how long emergency measures for fighting the coronavirus remain in place. We are all crossing our fingers that improving USCIS processing times will be an easy fix for the incoming administration.
Keep checking back on my Dear Sophie column here with ExtraCrunch and TechCrunch → I’ll continue to share updates during this time of rapid unfolding.
All my best,
Have a question? Ask it here. We reserve the right to edit your submission for clarity and/or space. The information provided in “Dear Sophie” is general information and not legal advice. For more information on the limitations of “Dear Sophie,” please view our full disclaimer here. You can contact Sophie directly at Alcorn Immigration Law.
Also published on Medium.