Dear Sophie: Startup visa news, H-1B and STEM OPT queries

Dear Sophie: Startup visa news, H-1B and STEM OPT queries


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 by this contributor
Dear Sophie: How can early-stage startups compete for talent?
Dear Sophie: When is the H-1B lottery and what can I do if my STEM OPT runs out in June?

​​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.”

TechCrunch+ members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.

Dear Sophie,

My STEM OPT expires in February 2023. My company has a policy that they won’t register me for the H-1B lottery since I have more than one year of OPT left.

What options do I have now?

—Distressed in Dublin

Dear Distressed,

I’m so sorry to hear that your employer won’t register you in the upcoming H-1B lottery in March, which is the last chance your employer has to enter you in the lottery. We’re often seeing that most tech companies will take every chance to register all OPT employees every year until they get selected.

Given that your F-1 STEM OPT expires in February 2023, you should start looking at other visa or green card options now with an experienced immigration attorney who can make suggestions based on your unique situation, experience and goals. It is likely too late to find an employer willing to register you for this year’s H-1B lottery. However, you could look for a company that would be willing to pursue a cap-exempt H-1B, which does not involve a lottery and can be applied for at any time during the year.

A composite image of immigration law attorney Sophie Alcorn in front of a background with a TechCrunch logo.

Image Credits: Joanna Buniak / Sophie Alcorn (opens in a new window)

Work visas like the H-1B require a company to sponsor you, so you should look for other positions at companies that have a culture of diversity and inclusion and are willing to sponsor you. The current high demand for STEM talent means you should have several job options available to you.

Moreover, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently made several policy changes designed to retain international STEM students in the United States, such as recognizing some doctoral dissertation awards and Ph.D. scholarships as meeting the criteria for a national or internationally recognized award for excellence for the O-1A extraordinary ability visa.

Stay the course — where there’s a will, there’s a way!

—Sophie

Dear Sophie,

There’s been a lot of talk over the years about a startup visa.

Do you think this is the year that one will actually be created?

—Exceptional Entrepreneur

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