The Alcorn Immigration Law team sees many startups make the same immigration mistakes. So when I spoke to startup founders at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin last month, I wanted to make sure they know the top mistakes to avoid:
Here’s what I told the TC Disrupt Berlin audience:
1. Don’t Go It Alone
Oftentimes startup founders come to Alcorn Immigration Law after encountering a problem with a visa or green card for themselves, a key employee or a prospective one. Getting a visa or green card requires more than just filling out forms.
You wouldn’t create a startup without a strategy. Immigration matters should be treated the same way. Hire an immigration attorney who can help you create an immigration strategy. Immigration can be a long and confusing process. And how you structure your startup could impact your immigration options. Having an attorney on your side to help guide you through the immigration process will allow you to focus on the more important effort of growing your startup.
Make sure your immigration attorney is someone with whom you can easily communicate. You want someone compassionate and with whom you can cultivate a long-term relationship.
2. Do Not Hide Your Past
Owning up to your past is much better than hiding it and trying to explain why you hid it when the truth comes out. And the truth usually does come out.
We’ve had clients who have claimed they forgot they had been arrested. Or they didn’t think getting married in another country counts as being married in the U.S. Or forgot to mention that they’ve had trouble entering the U.S. before. The questions you were asked and the answers you gave to Customs and Border Protection officers were all encoded in some database. It’s important you don’t say or do anything contradictory. Communicate everything—the good, the bad, and the ugly—to your immigration attorney, so that your attorney can present the strongest case on your behalf.
3. Don’t Get Caught Unawares
With immigration matters, missing deadlines often have critical and sometimes even irreparable consequences. With a detailed, comprehensive strategy, backup options, and an immigration attorney at your side, you reduce your risk of derailing your plan.
4. Avoid Timing Confusion
Getting permission to live and work in the U.S. can take months, years or even decades. The timing will depend on your qualifications, where you were born, and what visa or green card option you pursue. If you’re a brilliant India-born scientist born, you face a 150-year wait for an EB-2 green card.
You need to have an end goal and a plan for getting there. How long do you want to stay in the U.S.? Six months? A year? Until your U.S. office opens, you get VC funding or your product launches? Will your family join you? Will your spouse need to work? Even if you intend to come to the U.S. for just one year, you should have a backup plan if you need to extend your stay. All of these considerations require different immigration options and processes and timelines. Have a plan and make sure your immigration timeline will fit that plan.
5. Do Not Plead Ignorance
Ignorance of the law is no excuse. If you break the law—even if it was a mistake—you don’t get a free pass. Understand the processes, steps, and timing ahead of time.
6. Avoid Filing Mistakes
This sounds like an obvious recommendation, but you’d be surprised how many silly and simple mistakes are made. These small mistakes can lead to big consequences. They can delay or even derail a case. All details matter. Many immigration forms and processes are undigitized. Immigration remains primarily an archaic paper-based process. That means you need to:
- Make sure to use the most recent edition of the forms.
- Sign the correct pages.
- Keep your signature inside the box so it can be scanned.
- Use blue or black ink.
- Make sure you’re paying the correct filing fee amounts.
- Send your paperwork to the correct address and make sure you can track it.
Avoid these mistakes by having a great legal team on your side that pays attention to the details, creates a plan and executes the plan, and supports you to put your best foot forward.
We can help. Whatever your dream is, it’s possible.
About Alcorn Immigration Law
I founded Alcorn Immigration Law in 2015. I’m proud to say that we are the fastest-growing immigration law firm in Silicon Valley. Global Law Experts named us the “Law Firm of the Year in California for Entrepreneur Immigration Services” last year. Last month, the Women’s Business Enterprise-West awarded us its “Excellence in Growth Award” as one of the fastest-growing certified women-owned companies in the Pacific Region.
Our mission is to empower early-stage founders and startups to find legal and correct ways to be able to live and work wherever you want in the United States to build your startup. We can determine the best and find the most creative strategies to help you, your family or your employees come to or remain in the U.S. Reach out to us for a consultation.