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Dear Sophie: Should we sponsor international hires for H-1B transfers and green cards? 

By Ram Iyer
Sophie Alcorn Contributor
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.

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.”

Extra Crunch 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 startup is desperately recruiting, and we see a lot of engineering candidates on H-1Bs. They’re looking for H-1B transfers and green cards. What should we do?

— Baffled in the Bay Area

Dear Baffled,

Yes, you should absolutely sponsor international talent for green cards! Listen to my podcast in which I discuss how to hire international professionals who are already in the United States by transferring their H-1B visa and using green cards as a benefit to attract and retain them.

The severe shortage of tech talent currently in the U.S. is prompting professionals to negotiate better compensation packages, and companies are increasingly using green card sponsorship as a benefit to attract and retain international talent.

Green card sponsorship as a benefit

Companies need to offer green card sponsorship to remain competitive. In fact, Envoy’s 2021 Immigration Trends Report found that 74% of employers said they have sponsored an individual for permanent residence (a green card), which is the highest percentage in the six years Envoy has asked this question in its annual survey. Rather than waiting until the last possible moment to sponsor an H-1B visa holder for a green card, 58% of employers say they are starting the process with the employee’s first year at the company on an H-1B visa. Most employers — 96% — said that sourcing international talent is important to their company’s talent acquisition strategy.

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)

Sponsoring international talent for a green card is a way for companies to show they invest in and prioritize their employees and are willing to make a long-term commitment to a prospective employee. Employers can further distinguish themselves by offering to cover expenses for green card applications for a spouse and children, as well as a work permit application for a spouse.

Employers should also consider paying for an employee’s marriage-based green card as a third-party payor, particularly since marriage-based green cards take about one-third of the time and one-third of the investment compared to employment-based green cards. What’s more, most marriage-based green cards are not subject to annual quotas.

H-1B transfers are most common right now

Because most U.S. embassies and consulates abroad remain closed for routine visa processing due to COVID-19, most employers are hiring international talent who are already in the United States on an H-1B sponsored by another employer. In these situations, an employer must file for an H-1B transfer for the prospective employee. Take a look at a previous Dear Sophie column for more details on the H-1B transfer process.

The questions that employers ask me most often about the H-1B transfer process include:

If you love voice messaging, you’ll love Squad

By Amanda Silberling

Squad used to be an app that connected people with similar interests for in-person meetups. Then the coronavirus pandemic hit. While most social apps thrived under these conditions — people craved digital connection more than ever — Squad couldn’t operate.

Founder Isa Watson didn’t know how long the world would be in shutdown. Instead of waiting for a return to normalcy, she shifted the scope of the app entirely.  

Today, Squad relaunches as an audio-based social app that aims to help users deepen their relationship with their existing circle of close friends. Squad is an audio-only app, but don’t worry — it’s not another Clubhouse wannabe. Instead, it functions as a news feed of voice message updates from your closest friends, which expire after 24 hours.

You can add up to 12 friends to your “squad,” and once you post an update, your squad members can emoji react or send a private voice message in response — these also expire after a day, encouraging users to be more open about what they share. Soon, Squad will support phone calls, but there currently isn’t functionality for group calls or group audio messaging. But, users might be incentivized to talk on the phone via Squad rather than a typical call, since you can add a title to your call. That way, your squad member knows why you’re calling before they pick up. 

Image Credits: Squad

“There’s a big gap in the social landscape, because most of the tools are discovery platforms, broadcast platforms and personal branding platforms,” Watson said. “There’s a huge opportunity for us to come in and help people maintain stronger connections with the people that they enjoy the most.”

Posting a voice update feels more genuine than a curated Instagram shot or a crafted Facebook status update (and Facebook is decidedly uncool among Gen Z and millennials). As the popularity of apps like Dispo show, young people are responding well to ephemeral, authentic social media experiences. But the audio-only medium could be a hard sell for people who aren’t already sending voice messages on WhatsApp or iMessage. However, while Squad’s initial rollout will be domestic, there’s great potential for an app like this outside of the U.S., where voice messaging is more popular

“A lot of the conversations that would happen on text message are now happening in an asynchronous audio type of way,” Watson added. “So we expect that to continue to penetrate further into our habits.” 

Watson raised a $3.5 million seed round in 2019, and she was featured on TechCrunch with advice on raising venture capital as a woman of color in Silicon Valley. Despite changing the direction of her app, her investors — which include Michael Dearing (Harrison Metal), Aaron Levie (Box), Katrina Lake (Stich Fix), Jen Rubio (Away) and Stewart Butterfield (Slack) — remain supportive. Watson secured another million dollars of funding after the seed round, bringing Squad’s funding to a total of $4.5 million to date. 

“One thing [the investors] said to me was, ‘Isa, you’ve been talking about this shift in social for years now, and people told you you were crazy, that social was all figured out and there was nothing that was going to happen,’ ” Watson said. “Now, people are buying into that change.”

Image Credits: Squad

Even though Squad isn’t a Clubhouse competitor, the rise of audio-only media is a good sign for the app’s ability to crack a saturated social market (so many social apps are trying to compete with Clubhouse, it’s a miracle we don’t yet have audio-only Tinder speed dating). In Squad’s beta test, 87.5% of users completed the onboarding process. Still, Squad falls victim to the same accessibility issues that plague Clubhouse and many of its clones. As of yet, Squad doesn’t support captioning, though Watson says this is something the company has discussed and hopes to implement down the road. Not only could captioning broaden Squad’s audience, but it could also further differentiate the app from messaging giants like iMessage and WhatsApp. 

Still, if you’re someone who loves to send voice messages in your group chats, you might want to get your friends on Squad. Currently, the app is invite-only with a waitlist. Once you’re off the waitlist, you get three invites. If you post for five days straight, you get three more invites, and if someone you invited signs up, you get two more invites as well. This continues until you round out your 12-member squad.

Dear Sophie: Is it possible to expand our startup in the US?

By Annie Siebert
Sophie Alcorn Contributor
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.

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.”

Extra Crunch 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 co-founders and I launched a software startup in Iran a few years ago, and I’m happy to say it’s now thriving. We’d like to expand our company in California.

Now that President Joe Biden has eliminated the Muslim ban, is it possible to do that? Is the pandemic still standing in the way? Do you have any suggestions?

— Talented in Tehran

Dear Talented,

Yes, it’s possible! Unfortunately, yes, the COVID-19 pandemic is still making the immigration process a bit challenging, but remember, where there’s a will, there’s most often, in immigration law, a way.

On his first day in office in January, Biden rescinded the ban on visas for many majority-Muslim countries, including Iran. The ban had been in place since 2017 and nearly 42,000 visa applications were denied, according to the U.S. Department of State.

Biden also allowed the bans on the issuance of H-1B, L-1, and J-1 visas and green cards at U.S. embassies and consulates that the previous administration put in place last year to lapse.

That means international startup founders like you and other international talent living outside the United States can start thinking about obtaining these visas and green cards without necessarily requiring exceptions to do so. In a recent podcast episode, I talked about these and other immigration-related changes, as well as those promised by the Biden administration. Take a listen to find out more!

As you probably know, most travelers from Iran are currently not allowed entry into the U.S. because of the COVID-19 travel ban, and most U.S. embassies and consulates are not open for routine visa and green card application processing. Because the United States has not had an embassy or consulate in Iran since the Iran hostage crisis of 1979, you and your co-founders should find out which U.S. embassies or consulates are currently processing routine visa and green card applications — and are in countries that are not on the suspended entry list — and apply there. We’re still waiting for detailed information from the State Department on the equivalent of reparations for individuals who were affected by the Muslim ban.

In addition, I recommend that you consult with an experienced immigration attorney who can help you devise an immigration strategy for yourself, your co-founders and your families based on your personal and professional goals. Now, here are a few options for you to consider.

L-1A visa to open a U.S. office for your startup

A new video platform offering classes about skilled trades begins to build momentum

By Connie Loizos

Trade schools are nothing new, but a new startup called Copeland thinks it can build a big business by bringing education about plumbing, drywall, how to build cabinetry and more to the masses through high-quality classes that feature industry pros and professional educators.

If it sounds like a kind of MasterClass for all things construction, that’s not an accident. Copeland was born from the mind of renowned investor Michael Dearing, who wrote the first check to MasterClass (now reportedly valued at $2.5 billion) and spied an opportunity in pairing underemployed Americans with homebuilders who can’t find enough people to hire. Meanwhile, its cofounder and CEO, Gabe Jewell, previously spent nearly four years as a creative producer with the San Francisco-based company.

Of course, in addition to trade schools, Copeland is competing with an endless, and free, number of YouTube videos about how to both build and dismantle all kinds. Still, the year-old, six-person, Bay Area-based company, which has produced nine distinct pieces of content so far, has investors excited about its prospects. Indeed, in addition to early backing from Dearing, the company just raised $5 million in seed funding from Defy.vc and Collaborative Fund in a round that brings its total funding to date to $7 million.

This afternoon, we talked with Jewell to learn more about what Copeland — named after an educator — is assembling, and whether homeowners, as well as aspiring tradespeople, are target customers, too. Some of that conversation follows, below:

TC: You’re trying to educate trade workers and those aspiring to work in construction — an industry that’s in the midst of a years-long labor shortage and needs people with know-how. Do you envision awarding credentials so employers know your customers have gone through training?

GJ: That’s on the table — proof of aptitude or certificates of completion after you’ve successfully passed an assessment. On the licensing side, that would be complicated because [general contractor] licenses are offered regionally, and you need to be a licensed electrical contractor so you don’t burn someone’s house down, and that’s a four-year process typically. So we’re right now focused more on general education and support rather than [anything more tangible than that].

TC: Out of curiosity, how would you test users, given this is a one-to-many platform?

GJ: Some of it could involve testing construction math — putting you through an assessment to ensure you know how to calculate angles and area and so forth. Other tests cold be more around general knowledge. We can’t, with an online test, ensure that you’ll build a great cabinet, but it’s easy to imagine [other testing] opportunities.

TC: MasterClass relies on celebrities and stars in their respective fields. To generate more buzz, might you pull in celebrity homebuilders and tradespeople from do-it-yourself-type shows as teachers?

GJ: We’re talking about that, too. There’s a healthy online community of professional builders who share what they do and they’ve given us a warm welcome. What’s most important to us is ensuring that the quality of instruction is really high really.

TC: I spent part of yesterday watching videos about how to dismantle a brick wall; it makes me wonder whether there will be content on your platform that’s accessible to, and even targeting, homeowners.

GJ: We are hopefully going to see a DIY halo audience for this stuff. For example, deck building is an employable skill and one that we’ll teach you such that you can learn to do it as a professional would. At the same time, if you’re serious about building your own deck, who else would you rather learn it from than pros who know how to teach it?

We’re also thinking of ways to bring those audiences together. You could learn how to dismantle that wall, but you could also come to Copeland to find a professional remodeler who you come to see as a trusted resource.

TC: How long does it take to create each piece of programming for the site?

GJ: It takes us a couple of months to put the courses together, which mostly fall right now between an hour and two hours, though well see more variability in that down the road.

TC: Do you have partnerships with homebuilders or commercial real estate developers that are desperate right now for help?

GJ: We are establishing partnerships with real estate builders. A few are [coming together now] and we’re really excited about the growing that side of the business as we develop and film more stuff and add to our current library.

TC: Will subscriptions be part of the picture as you build out that content?

GJ: Yes, right now we charge $75 per course, and you have access to it forever, or a business can purchase a number or seats. As we grow the library, though, you’ll see see flexibility regarding the pricing structure.

TC: What type of content is coming?

GJ: Right now, we’re really focused on residential construction, both hands-on trade skills, like carpentry and cabinet making, but also blueprint reading, and we’ll continue to grow that by adding in plumbing, and drywall and general contractor skills, like reading contracts and risk management. But we’re also building a commercial construction management library that’s taught by university professors largely centered around skills between the field and the office. Maybe you’re an experienced craftsman and you need to learn skills like estimating or leadership, or you come to construction from retail and you’re working in an office capacity and need to learn how to connect the dots.

Dear Sophie: Any unique immigration strategies for quick hiring?

By Annie Siebert
Sophie Alcorn Contributor
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.

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.”

Extra Crunch 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,

I do recruitment for tech startups. With a surge of VC investing, many startups are urgently hiring.

Which visas offer the quickest options for international talent? Are there any unique strategies that you would recommend we explore?

— Maverick in Milpitas

Dear Maverick,

Thanks for reaching out with your questions! We’re seeing the same urgent hiring demand from startups. In my columns, you’ll find a lot of materials to support you regarding the most common options. However, in a recent podcast episode, I discussed a handful of very specialized — and rarely used — temporary work visas that in most situations offer an expedited way to bring international talent to the United States to live and work. The eligibility requirements for these work visas are very specific, but if any prospective candidates qualify, these visas are great, quick options for the startups you work with.

The quickest option for employers is to hire international talent already in the U.S. because many consulates still remain closed to routine visa processing due to the pandemic. What’s more, travel restrictions have been imposed on India and remain in place for Brazil, the U.K., Ireland, 26 other countries in Europe, China and Iran. However, there are some exceptions in the national interest. As always, I recommend consulting with an experienced immigration attorney.

Here are a few uncommon visas and strategies that can offer quick options for startups to recruit international talent:

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