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.”
What does President-elect Biden’s victory mean for U.S. immigration and immigration reform?
I’m in tech in SF and have a lot of friends who are immigrant founders, along with many international teammates at my tech company. What can we look forward to?
—Anticipation in Albany
Glimpsing into my crystal ball, I see opportunity ahead. President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris have long stood committed to important immigration changes that will directly affect the Silicon Valley tech ecosystem.
Dream with ambition, lead with conviction, and see yourself in a way that others might not see you, simply because they’ve never seen it before.
— Kamala Harris
We’re appreciative of what’s to come. As my firm’s mission is to transcend borders, expand opportunity and connect the world by practicing compassionate, visionary and expert immigration law in service of the betterment of humanity, we’re looking forward to a deluge of immigration changes that will support our clients as well as innovation and entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley and beyond.
I’m confident we’ll see meaningful changes in immigration for startups, founders, investors, researchers, highly skilled professionals, students, Dreamers and families under the Biden administration. Check out my Immigration Law for Tech Startups podcast for my take on some of the highlights. Of top priority, Biden and Harris plan to unravel recent executive orders and regulations, modernize our immigration system, and perhaps most importantly, welcome immigrants.
President-elect Biden’s six-point plan for building a fair and humane immigration system includes promises to:
- Rescind Trump immigration policies, regulations and executive orders.
- Modernize the immigration system.
- Create immigration policies and laws that welcome immigrants.
- Implement effective border screening.
- Restore U.S. commitment to support asylum seekers and refugees.
- Tackle the root causes of asylum seekers and refugees migrating to the U.S.
First 100 days
During the first 100 days of his administration, Biden has promised to take several actions designed to end the most damaging recent immigration policies. Biden will fully reinstate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which the Trump administration has sought to end, make Dreamers (DACA recipients) eligible for federal student aid, and protect undocumented immigrants until legislation is enacted that provides a path to citizenship.
He will also end the public charge rule that went into effect in February and affects most work visa and green card candidates.
And he promised to promote immigrant entrepreneurship, namely creating a startup visa! Just before leaving office, the Obama administration created the closest thing to a startup visa through an executive order: the International Entrepreneur Rule. However, the Trump administration tried to eliminate the rule, which ended up in court, while U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) never implemented it. I offer my support to the incoming administration to make the startup visa a reality.
Biden also promised to:
- Streamline and improve the naturalization process for qualified green card holders, which has been made more arduous under the Trump administration.
- Meet with the leaders of other countries to address the factors driving migration and develop a regional resettlement solution.
- Rescind the travel bans (Muslim bans) that currently affect individuals from Eritrea, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Myanmar, Nigeria, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Venezuela and Yemen.
- Review Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for countries with vulnerable populations. TPS designation is given to countries suffering major crises, such as war, a natural disaster or an epidemic. Citizens of TPS countries who are in the U.S. can remain and work in the U.S. until TPS expires.
- End raids at sensitive places, such as schools, churches, and hospitals, and ensure that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are held accountable for the inhumane treatment of individuals.
- Reunite children still separated from their families, stop separating families and end the prolonged detention of children.
- End the restrictions that the Trump administration placed on asylum eligibility.
- Protect and expand opportunities for people who risked their lives in military service.
- Stop the use of Department of Defense funds to build a border wall.
Modernizing the U.S. immigration system
Biden promised to work with Congress to pass immigration reform legislation. We’re still waiting to see whether the Democrats or Republicans will take the Senate, but the legislative priorities Biden outlined that most directly affect the tech industry include:
- Expanding the number of high-skilled (temporary) work visas, such as the H-1B and O-1 visas, while offering incentives to employers to recruit workers already in the U.S. for high-skilled jobs.
- Increasing or decreasing the number of employment-based green cards based on conditions within the U.S. labor market or demands from U.S. employers. Currently, the number of employment-based green cards is capped at 140,000 per year.
- Exempting any international graduates of a Ph.D. program in STEM fields in the U.S. from being included in the annual employment-based green card cap.
- Eliminating the per-country caps on employment and family green cards.
- Supporting family-based immigration by allowing any approved green card applicant to receive a temporary nonimmigrant visa until the green card is processed and exempting spouses and children of green card holders from the annual numerical caps on green cards.
- Keeping the diversity green card program.
- Creating a new immigrant visa (green card) category to allow cities and counties to petition for higher levels of immigrants to support their region’s economic development strategy and attract employers and workers to these areas.
- Enforcing the rules to protect both American and foreign workers.
- Providing a path to citizenship for the nearly 11 million people (Dreamers, their parents and others) who are undocumented immigrants, who are living in and contribute to the U.S. economy. The Biden campaign said the IRS collected $23.6 billlion in 2015 from 4.4 million workers who didn’t have Social Security numbers and many of whom were undocumented.
- Expanding protections for undocumented immigrants who report labor violations.
- Increasing visas for survivors of domestic violence, such as green cards under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
Biden plans to support communities with federal resources to among other things:
- Support entrepreneur incubators targeted toward immigrants and providing resources to help access business loans, mentoring and capital.
- Facilitate statewide efforts to lower the barriers to relicense professional degrees and certifications from other countries.
- Establish immigrant affairs offices at the city, county or state level to focus on making inclusive policies.
- Create neighborhood resources or welcome centers to help all residents find jobs and access to services.
- Help lawful permanent residents (green card holders) become naturalized citizens.
- Repeal anti-immigrant state laws that affect the ability of immigrant victims of crimes to seek safety and justice.
- Invest in programs to connect immigrant professionals with others in their field for cultural events.
It’s thrilling to have an incoming administration that recognizes the value of immigrants and international entrepreneurs. Looking forward to four transformational years ahead!
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.