How can early-stage startups increase their chances of getting H-1Bs? • australiabusinessblog.com

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 dissemination of knowledge that empowers people around the world to rise above limits and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in the People-Ops, 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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Dear Sophie,

We have an early stage stealth biotech startup. Are we eligible to petition a STEM OPT co-founder for an H-1B in the lottery? Is it worth it or are there better alternatives?

— Nascent Biotech

Dear Buddy,

It is absolutely possible for a biotech (or tech) startup in stealth mode to successfully petition a founder or founder of an H-1B in the lottery or even an H-1B transfer. Here’s how, starting with some background on how the H-1B lottery works for startups.

In recent years, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has leveled the playing field for startups entering an employee or prospective employee into the H-1B lottery by creating an electronic lottery registration system. Because the demand for H-1B visas far exceeds the annual supply of 85,000 (of which 20,000 are reserved for individuals with a master’s or higher degree), USCIS uses the random lottery process to select companies that qualify to apply for a visa. apply for specific beneficiaries.

Prior to 2020, companies were required to submit a completed paper-based H-1B petition pack to USCIS for every employee and prospective employee they wished to enroll in the annual raffle. USCIS reviewed the H-1B applications selected in the lottery and literally sent the unselected paper applications back to the attorneys. The time, energy, and legal costs of filing an H-1B application made lottery entry under this system quite onerous, especially for startups, as you had to commit to paying for a full H-1B before knowing whether your candidate a chance.

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

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

That all changed in 2020, when USCIS instituted an electronic lottery registration process. Now sponsoring companies only have to pay $10 to register an employee or prospective employee in the lottery, which significantly lowered the barrier to entry for all companies, including startups. That means you can nominate as many candidates that you wish to sponsor the lottery in good faith.

If people quit after they’ve been selected and before you’ve submitted a dossier, you don’t have to go through with a full H-1B. If your budget doesn’t currently allow you to sponsor your entire international team remotely, but you still want to give everyone a chance, you can.

Can early-stage biotech startups get H-1Bs?

Yes, most certainly! The biggest problems early stage startups face when trying to obtain an H-1B visa for their founder or co-founders are:


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