Here’s another edition from “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at tech companies.
“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that empowers people around the world to push beyond limits and chase their dreams,” says Sophie Acorn, a Silicon Valley immigration lawyer. “Whether you’re in people management, a founder, or looking for a job in Silicon Valley, I’d love to answer your questions in my next column.”
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We are a pre-seed startup thinking about sponsoring an early worker’s H-1B visa to stay in the US and work for us.
How does the process work?
— Looking in San Mateo
Thank you for giving your employee peace of mind by planning for H-1B sponsorship now. This move means a lot to early-career professionals, many of whom have paid full tuition for their U.S. bachelor’s and master’s degrees to get this opportunity.
Your startup can definitely enroll your employee in the H-1B lottery sometime in Q1 2023, but the government hasn’t yet said when the registration window will open. 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 application.
I highly recommend working with an experienced startup immigration attorney to aid the process, especially since USCIS tends to scrutinize companies more early on. A lawyer can help you avoid missteps and make a strong visa application while staying within your budget.
Consider the level of service you require
Most immigration attorneys charge a flat fee for their services, but the cost, level of service, responsiveness, and amount of advice and guidance can vary significantly, so find a law firm that fits your needs. It’s also important to find a lawyer you feel comfortable with.
It is never too early to start preparing
Start compiling the documents you need to submit as soon as possible. Your startup must be incorporated and receive its tax ID from the IRS to prove it is able to sponsor an individual for an H-1B. This must be done before your company submits an Application for Working Conditions (LCA), which is also sent to the Employment Service. This application cannot be submitted earlier than six months before your employee will start working on an H-1B.
An approved LCA must be submitted to USCIS along with your H-1B application. In addition to your startup’s VAT number, you will need some basic information, such as:
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