Here’s another edition of “Ask 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.”
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My startup is hiring and many excellent engineers need H-1B transfers, but I haven’t done one yet.
Approximately how much time and money will we need to set aside for the process? Are there alternatives?
— Careful Co-Founder
Congrats on making it to the next stage: hiring!
Working with an experienced immigration attorney can help you save time and money in the process so you can onboard your new hires rapidly and continue to build. It’s important that your attorney understands your startup’s vision and goals.
Transferring an H-1B
To start, it’s important to take the required steps to qualify your startup for sponsoring the H-1B visa before proceeding with the transfer. If you’re transferring the H-1B of an individual who was recently laid off and is still in the U.S., it’s important to take these steps quickly since that person’s 60-day grace period has already started counting down.
Your attorney will help you determine the best strategy and assist your company with petitioning for the new hire.
Most immigration attorneys charge flat fees for their services, but those fees can vary substantially, so consider your options. According to a National Foundation for American Policy report issued a few years ago, the government filing fees and attorney legal fees for preparing and filing an H-1B transfer range in the market from $5,000 to $30,000 (rare but apparently possible!).
An H-1B specialty occupation visa transfer for a startup can typically be accomplished in a month or so, and usually for less than $10,000 all in — often much less than a recruiter. Check out this podcast episode on how to save money in the immigration process.
How the process works
For a brand-new startup, your attorney will first get your startup’s Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) verified by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Foreign Labor Certification, which takes about a week.
Next, your attorney needs to file a Labor Condition Application (LCA) with the Labor Department to basically verify your startup will pay the H-1B transfer candidate the prevailing wage based on the job and geographical location of the job and that no qualified American worker is available to fill it.
The LCA has a dual purpose of protecting both American and foreign workers. There are posting requirements of various documents which can be accomplished digitally and/or physically depending on if you have a remote or physical office. The Labor Department normally processes LCAs in less than two weeks.