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I’m Peter Roberts, immigration attorney who does work for YC and startups. AMA
213 points by proberts on Sept 6, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 247 comments
It's 9 months since the last thread, so time for another. Previous threads we've done: https://news.ycombinator.com/submitted?id=proberts.

I'll be here for the next 2.5 hours and then again at around 11:30 am for another 2.5 hours. As usual, there are countless possible immigration-related topics and I'll be guided by whatever you're concerned with. Please remember that I can't provide legal advice on specific cases for obvious liability reasons because I won't have access to all the facts. Please stick to a factual discussion in your questions and comments and I'll try to do the same in my answers!

Edit: I will be signing off now but checking in throughout the weekend for questions and comments I might have missed as well as new questions and comments. As always, it's been a pleasure and great learning experience for me. Thank you.

Just wanted to vouch: Peter has helped me successfully obtain 3 complex visas over the years and has been equally successful getting visas for numerous friends.

Cannot recommend highly enough.

His advice has always proven solid as well.

Thank you!

A slightly frivolous question but I'd like to hear your opinion.

If you were to design an immigration system from the ground up, how would you do it? How would you decide who gets work visas etc?

I deal with immigration to Japan a fair amount and while I feel the system is relatively favourable for workers it can be extremely capricious and opaque.

I'm curious what problems you've seen with the Japanese immigration system. Every time I've had to do anything it's been literally a rubber stamp type affair. I admit to not having to deal with any grey areas, though. I've always obviously fit the criteria for the visa.

Here's an example I ran into - the Highly Skilled Professional visa has a hidden requirement of being eligible for one of the other visas, first. This requirement is only expressed (as far as I know) in internal memos given to the immigration offices and not posted anywhere in the English language internet. So, if you don't have a degree, you can be eligible at first glance for an HSP visa (due to a combination of age and countable years worked) but ineligible to actually get it, due to not having 10 years of countable experience.

Edit: It's also not clear at first glance what counts as "work experience" - if you have first and last paycheck + contract it's easy, but if you don't it's fuzzy. Open source or hobby programming is no good.

In general I think the system is rather good. If you have a job lined up getting into the country is pretty smooth and renewals are mostly straightforward.

Probably the most common source of problems I see is the rule that you must have a longer than 1-year residence status to apply for permanent residence. The max I've seen is 11 one year renewals in a row. It really does seem random. One situation featured a couple were both employed by the same company doing the same job, came to Japan together (same entry date), were living together (same home address) and yet got different lengths of residency.

I think it's clear that an opaque system is a feature not a bug as far as the immigration office is concerned, but that does little to put the minds of people stuck in the system at ease.

What should founders of VC-funded startups with no previous exposure to the immigration system know about sponsorships and associated costs while hiring?

First, make sure to ask the right questions during the hiring process so that you know, without crossing any discrimination lines, whether a candidate requires "sponsorship" and second, establish a relationship with an immigration attorney so that you can bring good candidates to his or her attention to determine whether sponsorship is possible and worthwhile.

Is it generally ok to ask if a person has work rights in the USA?

The permissible questions are as follows: Will you now or in the future requirement immigration/visa sponsorship to work for us? If the candidate answers yes, then you can ask about his or her immigration status. If the candidate answers no, then you can't.

Hi Peter, thanks for doing another AMA! I've been on an O-1A visa for over 6 years (from the UK), I currently half way through a 2 year extension and starting work on by EB-1 now. Have you noticed a significant change in adjudication, processing times or anything else of note in the area? What parts of the petition do you find get most scrutiny / are most important?

Hi Peter — thanks for doing this!

I'm from the UK, working on a startup with a friend in the US (who is a UK citizen also, but immigrated to the US via their spouse).

Based on my research I'm considering applying for a B1 visa as a low friction way to have easy access to the states for months at a time, to collaborate on the startup in person. I have a few questions:

- Based on this information, is that a path you would recommend? We haven't incorporated yet, but will likely incorporate in the UK first, however any input is welcome.

- Thinking medium-long term, do you know if it's looked down upon by border agents to continually re-enter on a B1 visa? (e.g. multiple 2-3 month trips a year)

- While doing this, I'd may continue to do some work for a UK company to keep my personal cashflow rolling. That would be as a UK based employee, with UK based payroll etc. Would you imagine that to impact a successful B1 application?

Finally, is this a type of application you'd consider taking on? Thanks again!

While the B-1 would allow you to engage in certain business activities, such as setting up the business, meeting with potential investors and clients, etc., it wouldn't allow you to do "productive" work in the U.S. And yes, frequent travel to the U.S. as a B-1 visitor can raise questions with CBP about what you are doing (whether you are you working without authorization in the U.S.) and where you are living (whether you are residing in the U.S.) and cause significant problems. And yes, we handle these types of matters all the time. At a minimum, we could give you a lay of the land.

I have a similar situation. So can you elaborate, please?

> whether you are you working without authorization in the U.S.

What is the proper definition of "working"?

If I do stuff for my own business and my business has a revenue, what's wrong with that from a CBP perspective?

Every time I cross the board I'm getting strong recommendations to get E2 or L1-A but they both have some limitations which I don't know how to overcome (I need to travel regularly back and forth and my country does not have mulity entry E2 visas)

Essentially, the definition is providing a service/benefit to an entity or person in the U.S. while in the U.S. and receiving something of value in return. So, broadly speaking, this appears to encompass what you describe. What exactly are you doing when you are in the U.S.?

To be more precise I'm a founder and CEO of the entity in the USA, and I'm do all the business only as an entity.

What do I do:

Usually, I have rounds of meetings with companies who are looking for the software development team in East European countries. Each deal takes 3-4 months to make and basically thats why I need to travel back and forth (there are might be some problems with a client in the USA or with engineers abroad)

Sales, what you just described, is a pretty clear cut case of exchanging value.

Yeap, And that's what business visa is for - exchanging some information.

Hi Peter, thank you for doing this.

Have you read about the recent pushback to the reduction from 5 years to 15 months for the duration of E-2 visas delivered to French citizens? (revision of reciprocity schedule: https://fr.usembassy.gov/visas/nonimmigrant-visas/treaty-tra...)

In your opinion, is this reduction going to be confirmed ? If so, will it also impact the duration of E-2 renewals ?

Thank you

It's already done and will impact E-2 renewals as well.

I'm currently on the H1B visa but would love to start my own company at some point and given that I'm an Indian national, I'm probably never getting a GC through the EB2/EB3 category. What are some of the visa options for someone like me who wants to start a business?

The approach is going to be very fact-specific so it's hard to say in general (and probably requires a phone call) but the options that many entrepreneurs/founders pursue are a concurrent part-time H-1B through their own company or an O-1 through their own company, although both of these come with their own issues and challenges.

@proberts could you share some resources on visa/immigration (and related gotchas) that would be helpful for folks on H1B planning to start their own startup.

Thank you so much!

Thank you very much for doing this. Throw away account for obvious reason. In the US now; Originally from Taiwan/ROC. 40 years old. Basically Dreamer category but not young enough to qualify for DACA. Missed 245i as I was young and didn't paid attention. Didn't finished college. Other than my status(can't leave the country, can't fly easily in late 2020) doing pretty well in tech. Talked to many lawyers and doesn't sounded there is anything I can do right now. EB-5/E2 could be possible but not guarantee(risk vs reward). Anything else I should be looking into?

Sorry if this question is inappropriate. I emphasize with your situation as someone with a family history from a similar region.

How can you work in the US without residency? I'm in Australia, and it would be impossible to open a bank account or get employed without proof of legal residency. I might be naive, but I expected the US to be even stricter on this front based on their international image.

When did you initially enter the U.S. and in what status?

Have maintain physical presence since ~1990.

There are no record of my crossing to the best of my knowledge.

It's cathartic to just write it out...

Do you have family in the U.S.? What's their immigration status?

Thank you sir!

My uncle/aunt (us citizen) claim guardianship but that "status" end when I turn 18?

I don't have any status since.

Still have us citizen aunt/uncle but no immediate relative with status.

Then there doesn't appear to be anything that you can do right now unfortunately.

Thank you Peter for your time.

Hi Peter

I have been checking for this thread for almost weeks now. Glad you are back :)

My father is a naturalized US citizen. He got naturalized in October 2018 but he had filed for my Green Card in November 2017 itself. He told me I should get my GC by mid-2022, if everything goes right.

Based on current wait times, do you think I would get my GC by mid 2022? I would like to know your estimate.

Can you think of any political scenario that might affect my application?

Thanks a lot for this thread and effort.

Have you all notified USCIS that your father is a US citizen now?

Yes, he's hired an attorney and I think that might be done. He had this pledge of allegiance ceremony in October 2018, so most probably the USCIS knows as well.

I ask him to ask the attorney if any changes needs to be done to my application after he became a US citizen. The attorney replied no.

PS - I am born and brought up in India. 30 years of age. Never been to US. Postponed my marriage plans since father said I would get GC in 2022 if I stay unmarried, it may fall to 2027 if I get married (He's insisting me to get married now, BTW)

I still would have your attorney make sure that USCIS knows that you are now being sponsored as the son of a US citizen.

Thanks for pointing this out, Peter.

I am going to spur my father and the attorney into action next week.

But I am still interested to hear your estimate.

GC filed when father was GC holder -> Nov 2017

Father becomes naturalized US citizen -> October 2018

Approximately when would I get my Green Card, do you think?

Also, can you picture any political scenario affecting my GC, either for worse or for better?

Thanks a lot. Appreciate this.

WhatsApped father if USCIS knows he's a US citizen. He replied 5 min ago - "USCIS gave me citizenship and one of their officers gave me oath."(sic)

That's different from notifying the adjudicating arm of USCIS.

I got the point now. Updated the correct question to my father. I will make sure he gets in touch with attorney next week over this.

However, would you please advise on how long it would take for me to get my GC, in your fair estimate? An approximation would do. Also, any political change that might affect my application?

I am born and brought up in India. 30 years of age. Bachelors of Engineering degree with 3 years of work ex in IT. Unmarried yet for GC.


Million thanks for this, Peter :)

Did you check online. They have a estimated wait time for different category of visa based on relationship, citizenship etc. Also visajourney.com is a chat board where other people in similar situation track their progress so you can look up the trend there.

Thanks for this brilliant info. Is there an official government website to check wait times?

The visa bulletin shows wait times and is updated on a monthly basis. https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/legal/visa-law0/v...

And here is general information on the how to figure out your priority dates. https://www.uscis.gov/greencard/visa-availability-priority-d...

I'd suggest you also scope out visajourney.com though it is not official. https://www.visajourney.com/content/times/

But if you have a lawyer then they should be able to look this all up.

Thanks a lot, mate :) Much appreciated

I'll see if I can still find the official links.

USCIS has quite a bit of information here: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/immigrat...

I'm at a very early stage startup and am preparing to make my first hire in the next couple months. To me, it would be ideal if I could consider people who aren't US citizens or permanent residents. But, given how often I see small-mid sized startups saying, "sorry but we can only hire US citizens/green card holders", it seems there are a variety of reasons (that I don't fully understand) that this may not be feasible.

Could you share some thoughts on what particular challenges there are in hiring people who do need visas, and if it's possible or reasonable for a very early startup with limited time and resources to overcome those challenges?

It's absolutely possible from an immigration standpoint (really no different from a large company) so I would definitely not shy away from hiring foreign nationals at all. However, depending on the visa type, there could be wage requirements and sometimes those can be a challenge for new companies.

What do you think of the "country of origin" segregation vs. citizenship.

I was born in India and raised in Canada. I'm never going to get permanent residency in the US based on employment.

Is the best bet just to get married to an American?

Yes, that is fastest way since there are no quotas but I'd also recommend looking at the EB1 category because even though it is significantly backed up for Indian nationals, it's still a lot faster than the EB2 and EB3 categories and oftentimes within reach of talented professionals.

Wouldn't one need a PhD or a similar degree for EB1?

Hi Peter, thank you so much for doing this.

I'm a Mexican currently going through the Green Card process, In the part where Form I-140 has been approved and form I-485 will be filled in October according to the company I work for lawyers.

Over the past 3 years, there have been layoffs in my department around October (start of Fiscal Year), last year the company let go key people that otherwise nobody ever suspected they would be laid off. I'm concerned this year I may get laid off, if that were to happen, how would my green card process be affected, considering I'm still holding a valid H-1B visa?

Is this a company-sponsored green card application? If it is, then protections won't kick in until you have filed your I-485 application.

May I ask what happens if its a family sponsored application?

It is company sponsored, thanks for your reply!

Hi Peter, I'm a UK citizen who has held a E26 Green Card for 1yr 9 months. My partner (US citizen, we are not married) and I both have remote jobs and we are switching between working 2 or 3 months remotely in Europe then 2 or 3 back working remotely from locations in the USA. Do I need to worry about this pattern of movements?

So approximately 50:50 split between US and Europe, but not more than 3 months at a time outside US, usually more like 2. We do not own property anywhere, nor do we currently have permanent rented property. She has family in the US, I have family in the UK.

You should be able to do this and keep your green card but you definitely should consult with an attorney.

Mr. Roberts, I appreciate your time.

My wife is a US citizen and I only have a US tourist visa. We want to move stateside. As her earnings for the last 3 years do not qualify her as a single sponsor, we wanted to use cash assets. How do we show proof of cash, and what are the stipulations? Is it a bank statement from my bank in my home country, do we have to deposit it in a bank in the US? Is there a time stipulation of how long the account has to be opened prior? I understand that my salary doesn't count, although it would meet the requirements.

Your salary can be used to meet the financial support requirement (but definitely consult with an attorney before applying because there are other issues that you need to be aware of as well since you are here in visitor status).

We want to move stateside, and should we move the money to the US should have been clear Can you please answer this? How do you show strictly cash assets if you need to on a visa application if you don't live or work in the US.

Hi Peter,

I'm a Canadian permanent resident (Australian citizen/passport) I have a valid B1/B2 visa which allows me into the US for 6 months at a time, but obviously no work permitted. I have questions about what constitutes "work" and I don't want to break the rules.

1. I have published some books, and have hard copies of them I bought. Am I allowed to physically sell those (for profit) while I'm in the US?

2. If I give talks in public venues (community halls, etc.), can I charge admission for porfit? What about "admission by donation?"

Thanks very much!

1.) Really no but someone else on your behalf could. 2.) You can't charge admission but people could make donations to a third-party non-profit.

Surprised to see someone exactly like me. I am Australian citizen with a Canadian PR and US B1.

Pretty sure, I am not allowed to make any kind of money or get any government benefits on B1.

You could sell those books from Canada into US (either cross border shipping or amazon or 3pl)

Hi Peter,

I was brought to the US as a child in 2001, my parents applied for permanent residence, were declined, but stayed anyway. I was then deported in 2008 after being arrested for petty shoplifting then reported to ICE. Was also arrested for a couple of other things around this same time (shoplifting, fighting) but never convicted of anything serious (I was a problematic teenager). Upon deportation I was initially given a 3 year bar, since I was deported about 8 months after my 18th birthday.

Since then, I have lived in my homeland in Europe, and am now almost 30 years old, and have had a clean record the past 11 years, except for one stupid incident in 2016 where I got in a street fight and got a common assault conviction (no jail time, just a few hours community service).

My dad is still in the USA (undocumented). I have worked in technology for the past 11 years, CTO of my own startup. My question is, what are the odds of receiving a US visa to visit, given my transgressions as a teenager (and very stupid mistake 3 years ago)? It seems I am not ineligible under the crimes of moral turpitude clause, and my bar for overstay was up years ago, but I can't imagine my varous misdeeds make for the best impression.

Unofficially if I were to apply for something like an E-1 (which, I understand would require investing significant money in the USA) would that increase my odds?

Are there any steps I can take to make it likely in the future that I can receive a visitor visa?

Thanks for your time.

Hi Peter,

my wife is a foreign citizen currently on an OPT F-1 extension who travels a lot for research and conferences as she's a historian who works on other parts of the world.

We've been told that traveling during a green card application without urgent family circumstances basically voids the process. Is that true? Is there a safe way for her to be able to continue research travel while a green card application is in process or will it require her giving up archive trips for an unspecified amount of time?

It only voids the process if she travels after she has filed an I-485 application and has not received an advance parole travel document before traveling. But traveling on an F-1 visa after an I-140 has been filed, while it doesn't result in cancellation of the I-140 petition, is also risky. Definitely, consult with someone before you or she commence the green card process.

Is there any country you think is doing a better job than the US in terms of skilled migration policy?

edit: typo

Canada has a new program since last year which can get a tech worker in in a matter of weeks: https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/campa...

In general, imagine the opposite of US: you have a system where you can apply online for your permanent residence, without the need of a lawyer (I didn't use one), the time to finalize is 6 months to 1 year and during all the process you have a good idea of how long every step is going to take. And a score system where the more skilled you are the faster you get in.

All documentation is put online by the government in very clear writing.

> Is there any country you think is doing a better job than the US in terms of skilled migration policy?

The EU Blue Card (university degree, job offer with at least ~55k€ salary) is usually processed within a month, sometime in a couple of weeks.

That's a great question. I really don't know but I'd be interested to hear back from others. I know that early on in the current administration, Canada seemed to go out of its way to attract talent and investments.

I've been tracking the Australian and Canadian systems for the last ~10 years, and it seems they keep learning from each other and making adjusts accordingly.

Both countries use a points-based immigration system[0], so there's much more flexibility in adjusting for specific skill shortages or regional areas.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Points-based_immigration_syste...

I'm Canadian and my friend got PR within 3 months because of the points system (Masters, fluent English ability etc.)

In comparison when I sponsored my wife for PR in Canada it took about 13 months.

I'm now going through the Green card process in the US employer sponsored and it looks like it will take 2 years.

It's funny you say that. I'm Canadian and my wife is Japanese. She wanted to live in an English speaking country to help with learning English. It was much, much easier for me to get an Ancestry Entry Permit in the UK (my gradfather was English) and sponsor my wife (immediately, with the right to work and with NHS health coverage almost immediately) than to sponsor my wife to Canada. Absolutely crazy. I've heard it's slowly getting easier, but it's really shockingly bad. When I got my spousal visa to Japan, I applied and received it (for free!) 1 week later.

Hi Peter - Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions! I've got some UK related questions... I hope they are factual discussion-related enough :-)

In order to sponsor people in the UK, a company must designate an Authorising Officer (AO) (https://www.gov.uk/uk-visa-sponsorship-employers/sponsorship...). I'm under the impression that this person is mostly a figurehead that signs off on things because the UK needs someone at the company to hold responsible, but that an immigration law firm handles pretty much everything immigration related as Key Contact and Level 1 User. What are your thoughts on how much it matters who the AO is? Eg must they be a manager?

Secondly, there's ambiguity about whether the AO has to be a UK citizen. After reading a good bit online and speaking with an immigration law firm, I don't think this is the case. Do you know?

Next, there are transparency concerns about designating someone as an AO. From what I understand, they would be able to see salaries of other people in the UK and some company financials (but nothing major that's not already shared with the UK and available on websites). Do you know what concerning info is shared with an AO?

Lastly, I know Brexit in theory complicates getting things setup to sponsor people in the UK, but should that prevent a company from working through the process over the past 12 months and for the upcoming 12 months? I doubt things are at a screeching hault at the UK "Home Office".

Any thoughts are appreciated, thanks!

The AO does not have to be a UK citizen, no. If such a requirement were in place, it would be made clear. They do need to be based in the UK, though, as well as meet all other criteria outlined by UKVI.

The AO should be the most senior person involved in all recruitment of migrant workers. In this case, it is usually a manager, yes.

Where are the transparency concerns coming from? What information would you NOT want an AO to access?

It’s impossible to say whether Brexit would impact this. In theory, no, but if the UK leaves without a deal, EU migration would be affected. Non-EU migration would remain the same.

Let me know if you have any other questions.

Unfortunately, I don't know UK immigration law. If you need a referral, email me separately.

Hello Peter,

I am a DACA recipient working in tech for 4 years now. I was wondering what is the best route for citizenship.

Also, due to my status will I have any issues trying to start a business?

Do I need to visit the US border day-of to get a TN-1 visa as a Canadian citizen? My immigration attorney in SF said I did but I've had other people tell me they got it ahead of time.

This sounded a bit crazy to me, I'd have to pack all of my stuff in my apartment and hope I get a T1 when I arrive at Pearson airport in Toronto? And if not I'll have to find some place to stay.

Your attorney is mostly right. But we've had a number of clients apply at land-crossings, such as Peace Bridge, and explain that they're just applying now to make sure that they can get a TN before actually moving to the U.S. and the CBP officers consistently have been fine with this. You still would need to enter the U.S., however. I would recommend calling Peace Bridge and asking. You should be able to get an answer.

I'm not Peter Roberts, but I have received pre-approval on a TN-1 before.

My company's lawyers went through all the "yes this person does deserve a visa" stuff for me ahead of time. When I got to the border crossing (also at YYZ Pearson) I had paperwork that made it a much faster process. I'm comparing this to the previous TN-1 I had which required a lot of questioning, waiting around, etc. If you've got the extra time, I really recommend trying the pre-approval route.

The guys at Pearson are absolutely humourless[0], but they're just doing their job. Neither time did they play any games or use trick questions to try to deny me. (I've heard the ones at the Vancouver land crossing sometimes does).

[0] I make jokes when I'm nervous. They did not appreciate that.

There is a large fee (~$5k iirc) to apply for a TN by mail. The fee for applying at the border is around ~$100.

As someone who has gone through this exact scenario, I know the stress/anxiety it can cause.

My own anecdote is I tried to go through the border before officially moving and get the TN and it was a disaster. I got pulled into a long interrogation with a surly border agent. He told me right from the start that he would refuse to officially process my application but would review it for my benefit. He then spent about an hour going over it while I waited then came back with some faults he found in it. He told me I was lucky he didn't process it since I would have ended up with a hard-rejection on my official record.

I got in contact with the companies lawyer who had prepared my application and she told me that the agent was likely inexperienced and wasn't sure how to process TN correctly. I was ready to call it all off and then they offered to have a priority process pre-approval through DHS in Virginia. I don't think they still offer this but at the time you could send your TN application to the DHS head office and in 1 week they would give a determination on eligibility for TN. It cost a few thousand to do it. You get a form as a result (not an actual visa or even a guarantee of entry on TN) which you take to the border along with your application. It attests to your compliance with all necessary pre-requisites for TN entry.

When I went to the airport (YVR in my case) they have agents specially trained in TN processing. My anxiety was still extremely high since now my apartment was gone and all of my stuff in a truck. I showed him my application along with the pre-approval form and he smiled, stamped something and said "Welcome to the USA". Took less than 5 minutes.

Since then I've gone through the process 3 or 4 times, each subsequent time without the pre-approval. Each time it has been thankfully painless. My advice: go to borders that have optimized processing and make sure your flight aligns with their times of operation (see https://www.cbp.gov/travel/canadian-and-mexican-citizens/tra...). Have a very professional looking application. Each time the company I worked for prepared a multiple page application with everything extremely professional looking and I presented it in a plastic cover. As soon as the agent sees you have come prepared they always seem to go through it quickly and they usually are very happy. Make their job easy and they will make your entry easy.

Watch out for sly questioning. They often drop in questions like "Where do you live?" (correct answer: in Canada), "What is your job?" (correct answer: Exact job title on your TN application). Make sure you bring originals - I think they have training to look out for copies of e.g. diploma, proof of job history, letter of job offer. One document I had was signed in black ink and they looked very close to make sure it wasn't a printed version.

Despite how careful I was, I always had anxiety/stress going through the border while I was on an TN. Any agent at any time can just decide to revoke your access and then you are stuck. This can happen even when you travel during an already approved TN stay. The company I most recently worked for started sending warnings to people going through the border on any kind of visa since the current administration is leading to higher rates of refusal of entry. For this reason I avoided leaving the US while I was there.

Do you think the Vancouver airport is the best for TN entries? My partner has had the exact issue you described where she already has an approved TN but has had border agents deny her entry and she has to try again the next day. Normally Toronto is very tough, not sure if Vancouver is easier?

Of all the pre-flight inspection offices at airports in Canada, Vancouver and Calgary are the best.

I've successfully gone through YVR, Trudeau International and once I did it upon arrival at JFK. Both of those Canadian airports were quick and painless, JFK was a bit longer, a lot more questions and closer inspection of my application but ultimately a fine experience. The time I got denied (well, not denied, but refusal to process which I guess is better) was at a smaller land border outside of Vancouver.

IMO, luck in getting the right agent plays a role. I was often very luck (after my first disastrous encounter), getting someone who was clearly in a good mood or had positive sentiments about the company I was going to. I was also lucky with my timing, as in there weren't long lines of people before or after me. These kind of uncontrollable aspects to the process are part of what makes it so stress inducing.

Hi Peter,

Thanks for doing this!

During my second to last semester of undergrad, I unknowingly violated my F1 status. After graduation, I applied for my post-completion OPT. My school then found out about my violation and terminated my SEVIS record. They said I can work with an attorney and complete the I-765 form while my SEVIS record is terminated. I want to know if it’s possible to get my EAD card if I do this?

Thank you

Hi, Peter.

- is it possible to get a work permit (and what kind of visa) for a non-graduate person, but with a 20 years of experience? (IT)

- if it is, what kind of confirmations should i provide along with my application?

- as far as i know, even if i get a visa, i couldn't get a green card without at least a masters degree. Is it right?

1 & 2) Yes. This depends on the type of visa but for an H-1B, where a degree is required, you could get your experience evaluated as the equivalent of a bachelor's degree and that would be sufficient. 3.) That's not correct. It depends in part on the green card category but we get green cards for people without any tertiary education all the time.

Thanks a lot.

Hey Peter,

I have a startup project (c-corp via stripe atlas) and I have a developer interested in working with me.

Developer is a citizen of Mexico and currently works for FANG company in Washington State on TN Visa.

What would be the most ideal approach to having this person work with me on the startup project (equity-only 1099 contractor)?

I have learned that one can get a 2nd TN Visa, but we're unsure if the primary employer would be notified? Since it's on nights/weekends, it shouldn't be employer #1's business, but at the same time I don't want this person to risk their immigration status.

Additionally I'm unsure how a 1099 for a c-corp, equity compensation only, qualifies?

Would it be easier to just work in quiet for the time being until working on the project full-time is a reality?


>Since it's on nights/weekends, it shouldn't be employer #1's business

I agree that it shouldn't be their business, but I would be careful with making a broad assumption like that. That applies to everyone regardless of their immigration/citizenship status.

As discussed in another thread yesterday [0], at least one of the FANG companies (Google) owns all the code you write while employed by them, even if it is written completely on your own time using your own resources and doesn't bring any revenue. It's a bit more complex than that, but, that's the gist.

0. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15592968

> at least one of the FANG companies (Google) owns all the code you write while employed by them

this is absolutely insane and shouldn't be legal.

Fully agreed. Too bad that the recent antitrust action against Google that has pretty much all the states in on it (minus 2) + DC + Puerto Rico excludes CA specifically [0]. Tells a lot about how much CA actually cares about fairness and "fighting for the little man", as opposed to just straight up virtue signaling.

0. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20920731

His or her current employer wouldn't be notified but equity as the form of compensation doesn't qualify.

Could you clarify what you mean by "equity as the form of compensation doesn't qualify"?

Do you mean:

- He/she would not be able to get a second TN because equity does not count, and they would require a cash compensation in order to qualify for a TN


- Equity does not qualify as compensation, therefore the developer is not compensated, and therefore he/she does not _require_ a second TN in order to work with the individual in question

The former.

Does the cash compensation amount matter? E.g. can I pay them $1 while keeping the equity agreement etc?

Awesome, thank you.

Hi Peter, hopefully a simple one: if an employee on a valid L1A work visa had to resign, is there a grace period after the last working day of employment to wrap up affairs in the US, or would they be expected to leave on or before that date? Thanks in advance

There's a 60-day grace period.

Thanks for the quick reply, much appreciated - just to check, that grace period would have no effect on future applications / imply unlawful presence?

That's right, no impact.

Can you comment on this question - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17175857 ? Basically, how to immigrate to USA being aerospace entrepreneur?

That's tough because of ITAR. Essentially, the company/investors would need to be okay with limiting his access while he applies for a green card but the green card process is very slow now even for EB1s so it could be a couple of years before he has a green card.

Thank you. Now where to find such investors is another story...

Most large aerospace firms have experince with this and are willing to wait out the process for the right person. That said, the bar for the 'right person' is much higher generally, even if it should not be. The bigger the company, generally more 'fair' the hiring. Ymmv.

I asked you this once before (and thank you kindly for the reply) - has there been any recent tightening around TN that you've noticed? Has anything changed in the process in the past few months as the new frameworks still isn't adopted?

Actually, in my experience, the TN process seems to have settled down again and we really haven't had many issues in a while.

Hi Peter,

I aim to apply for YC. I'm German. I have some questions regarding visas:

1) What kind of visa would I need for the three month program time? And how early in advance do I have to apply for it (i.e. do I have to apply before I know if I get accepted at all)?

2) What kind of visa would I need if I wanted to stay after the program (or if I don't get accepted, to start the company in the US)? From what I read an O-1 visa might be the best option, is that correct (I submitted my PhD thesis and have relevant publications, but won't get the official degree until mid next year)? How long in advance do I have to apply? Do I have to found the company first?

3) How much (approximately) will that cost?


Regarding 1), there is no one visa that applies to all but information will be provided about this during the process. Regarding 2), an O-1 is often the visa of choice for founders and most of those with PhDs (or near completion of their PhD) can make a good case for O-1. An E-2 also can be a good option. Regarding 3), please email me and I can give you the range that attorneys charge for O-1s.

Peter, Thanks for the AMA! Some of my friends have been denied work visa at the time of their interview even though their joining offers were from the big four. Given your experience, what are some of the things which have changed in the visa approval process since 2017? I am specifically referring to H1-B and L1 visas. I hate to believe that the process would simply increase the number rejects on baseless grounds just to limit the number of visas granted; yes, it may be true that USCIS are giving details like job duties a closer look to ensure if the applicant qualifies for a visa or not.

Are you familiar with immigration to countries other than the US? I have been working in this country as a web developer for the past 2 1/2 years now; I have American and Hong Kong citizenship. (I would be willing to renounce one of them). I was thinking of eventually working in New Zealand or Japan and possibly settling down there as well. I was wondering how difficult it would be to secure employment in my field there and to get a work visa and/or citizenship eventually. Do you know of any other countries where this process would be easier than average?

I have obtained permanent residency in Australia, close to obtaining one in Canada and now a GC in US. I know friends in NZ. Aus, Canada, NZ are great countries for skilled immigration. They generally have a fair and open process. Cana da is the most impressive. Honestly if US didn't pay so much more than Canada & Aus, I'd have stayed there.

I can give you some info on working in Japan. I'm not a lawyer and I also haven't done any of this (I live in Japan on a spousal visa). However, I'm relatively familiar with the rules. I have a consulting company and at one point I was considering bringing in someone -- in the end I decided it was too risky financially and gave up.

One thing I will say up front, though: you need a bachelor's degree from a recognised university to have any chance of working in Japan normally. If you don't have one, that will have to be your first stop. This will help for getting visas in practically any country.

Anyway, here's what I learned at the time. If you have a university degree in an "engineering" field and can get a job offer for an IT job, you can fairly easily get sponsored by a company. There are some big companies, especially in Tokyo and Osaka that regularly hire foreigners (Rakuten is probably the biggest, but there are others). There are also a lot of US companies that do development in Japan. If you get a job for one of those US companies and work for them for at least a year, you can get an inter-branch transfer visa (I forget the Japanese) to work in Japan. Since you have American citizenship, that's a relatively easy way to get into the country -- you just need to join large companies that do development in Japan. There are also some big Japanese companies that have offices around the world: Hitachi is a big one, but for example, I have a friend who used to work for Square-Enix doing IT work in the UK.

Finally there is a points based system. If you are hoping to live in Japan long term (without a family member who is a citizen), this is by far the best route to go. http://www.immi-moj.go.jp/newimmiact_3/en/pdf/171110_point_c... You need 70 points to qualify, which is fairly difficult, depending on your age and accomplishments (best return of points for time invested is probably a Master's degree, which will give you 20 points... If you apply yourself, you can probably pass JLPT N1 language test in 2-3 years which will give you 15 points -- after that, you need to make sure to get a high salary). The main advantage to this system is that it's gives you a fast track into permanent residency for you and also allows you to sponsor family members.

Finally, for citizenship, it's really just a matter of time. If you stay continuously in Japan for 10 years, you can appy. You would have to renounce all of your other citizenships, though, so it's a big deal. You also need to show that you can fit in well in Japanese society. This is through a series of interviews as well as a written essay that you have to do. There is a lot of hoop jumping, but if you are unhappy jumping through hoops, then you are not Japanese :-)

This is _extremely_ helpful. Thank you!

Do you know what would count as a recognised university? I do have a bachelor's, but at a UC that is not UCLA, and in an area of study that has nothing to do with my current work. I have been thinking about getting a master's in physics or mathematics -- would either count as an "engineering" degree?

I'm currently full-time contracting for a subsidiary of a Japanese company; however, I'm in their motion pictures division, which I'm pretty sure is solely based in the US unfortunately. I don't know if it would be possible to get a transfer to another subsidiary with locations in Japan or how I would even try without stepping on someone else's toes. I'm also hesitant to ask my immediate supervisor for transfer information as a contractor and I'm not optimistic this will turn into a direct hire offer, as it seems like a lot of my coworkers are contractors who have been there for a while.

Do you recommend any cheap resources specifically for the JLPT N1 test? I have some conversational fluency in Japanese due to traveling (and knowing Chinese helps with writing) but nothing academic. I've looked up private Japanese teachers in my area, but they're all really pricey :/

Sorry for the slow reply. I'm pretty sure UC would qualify. It's a state university. Some technical colleges would not. I don't believe physics or math would qualify, but it's hard to say. I've been told that my Comp Sci degree would be OK, even though it is a science degree. If you are doing it with an aim to try for skilled transfer, it would be best to call up the embassy to get advice.

In terms of transfers, being a contractor doesn't count. You need to be a regular employee and you need to have worked for the company for at least 1 year as a regular employee (your contractor time doesn't count for anything).

Honestly, as a contractor, I wouldn't feel bad at all about being clear that you are looking to get work with the Japanese parent company. But it depends on your relationships. Make sure you've been working there for a fair amount of time (either until your contract is almost up -- or at least 18 months) so that they don't think of themselves as just a stepping stone. But it's completely normal for a contractor to be looking for new work. That's why your are a contractor!

Here's how it works in Japan. If you aren't hired out of school, you can only get a job as a contractor. These contracts are year long affairs (and always start on April 1st). Around about the beginning of March the next year, you hear if they are going to keep you for another year. For most jobs, it's pretty clear earlier, but it's never official until sometime in March.

If you've been working with the company for several years and are doing a very good job, you may be made an employee (shokunin). The company has huge responsibilities for shokunin, so this is not a light decision. Also, this is usually one of those "jobs for life", so it's important that you take it seriously too. If you take a shokunin position and leave it (for any reason), you almost certainly will never be offered another shokunin position again -- anywhere. You might even have trouble getting contract work, so like I say, it's a huge deal.

If you want to get a transfer with a Japanese company, then you need to be a shokunin. There is no other way. They can't transfer contractors. If you decide that you like the company and are willing to devote your working career to them, then I think it's OK to discretely let them know. You can say, "I'm looking to work for the main company and maybe someday maybe even be an employee".

I should say, though, that employees of Japanese companies rarely get much say in where they are being transferred. If you manage to get a shokunin position and you Japanese is good enough, there is a good chance they will send you Japan for a few years to learn the business. However, they might just send you right back to the US or China since you have the special skill of being comfortable in those cultures. In fact, it is likely that this will be your big selling point if they go that far. So.... It's maybe not the best option :-)

Trying to find a US company that can transfer you there may be better.

However, by far the easiest way to get to Japan to do engineering work is to get an engineering degree and get a job offer at Rakuten or Line or one of the many other large companies that hire foreigners. Quite a lot of the development in Tokyo and Osaka is done in English, even.

If you just want to live in Japan and don't mind being poor, then you can always get a job teaching English. You need a bachelor's degree of any type (which you have) and you have to be fluent in English (best if you are a native English speaker). Having Chinese speaking ability is probably a massive plus in larger centers because teaching Chinese is getting more and more popular. The main problem is that you only make between $20K and $30K a year.

Finally, for JLPT... Sigh... I have to admit that I've never actually taken it. However, every single person I know (except 1) who passed N1 did it through self study alone. You can find guides in the bookstore. All of them are good for studying for JLPT.

For learning in general, I advocate free reading. Start with manga because it is pure conversational. Best if you can read stuff that is "slice of life" over fantasy. Once you can read manga fairly easily, switch to children's books (like Momotarou, etc) -- the grammar and vocabulary in children's books are more literary and not how people talk, but it's a good gateway into novels. Look up 昔話 on google and you should be able to find lots of free resources. Finally move on to novels for young children (I read 若おかみは小学生! mainly because a friend recommended it -- very easy to read and there are lots of books). Then work your way up to more difficult novels and non-fiction books and magazines.

There is a listening test in JLPT but no speaking test. If you read some manga or young-kids books and then watch the anime, that will probably be enough to get the listening skills you need.

Use anki (SRS software) to memorize vocabulary. You can also use it to memorise exemplars of grammar -- just grammar examples. Tae Kim's grammar guide (google it) is the only thing you need for normal conversation in Japan. Start with that. Once you have acquired everything in that guide, then start working through the grammar lists in the JLPT guides.

Since you can read Chinese, I would skip studying kanji at all. The only thing you should do is to set up an Anki deck to memorise all of the vocabulary from the kanji -> reading only (and a different deck for memorizing from English -> Japanese reading/kanji). This should give you more than enough familiarity with the numerous Japanese readings for kanji. The other thing you should probably do is to memorise kanji -> reading for lists of common Japanese names and place names. I can easily pass the kanji requirement for N1 and I've never studied Kanji readings in my life -- I've just read a lot of kanji ;-)

2 years is possible. My one friend who took a course did it at some academy in California (I can't remember the name... It's some animal name and "Academy") They offered a 2 year course to pass JLPT 1 (this is before the N-1 was offered, but it's similar). The cost was $60K IIRC :-) But it worked (at least for my friend) -- he went from nothing to JLPT 1 in the 2 years.

The main key is to learn language through context. Try to find example sentences for every piece of vocabulary you need to memorise. Learn those sentences instead. The other main key is that you need to study frequently, but not necessarily for a long time. 3 times a week, no matter how long you study, will result in hitting a ceiling. Best is to study 10-15 minutes every couple of hours, 7 times a week. If it's constant like that, you'll learn very quickly. It's tiring, though.

Anyway, good luck!

Hi, Peter - thank you for doing this!

I'm one of the lucky ones - my I-485 was approved for LPR on the last week of July (EB2, RoW). I've got the I-797 to prove it! :-)

The funny thing is that I'm STILL waiting for the actual green card - USCIS has been adamant that "60-120 days between approval and card issuance".

I've been told twice, on the phone, that under no circumstances will they even allow me to schedule an InfoPass appointment for an I-551 stamp until the 60 days have passed.

My question is simple: is this normal? Both the delay between approval and card issuance, and the refusal to issue I-551 stamps...?


That's not normal. I would reach out to your local Congressional office and ask it to make an inquiry. This is done all the time.

This is a perfect example of unseen/unknown/inaccessible backdoors for most (non-)immigrants in the U.S. The (apparent) complete opacity of USCIS when it comes to delays like this can be devastating. I know several people who had job offers rescinded in late 2018 because their H-1B RFEs or approvals arrived way past October and they had been waiting nearly a year or more for adjudication after making it through the lottery.

Thank you for sharing this tip, still it's so infuriating.

I agree 100% (but oftentimes this inquiry by a Congressional office really helps).

Congressional inquiry sent - thank you!

What happens to a GC application that's waiting for priority date if I leave the country for a few years?

Similarly, what happens to the H1B that's based on the GC petition. Would that still be valid/renewable?

The facts matter here but it's possible for a green card application to continue under these circumstances and for an H-1B to remain valid under these circumstances.

Thanks Peter.

Hi Peter,

I've been applying for a simple tourist visa for the US (I am European but dont qualify for ESTA due to a previous trip to Iran) and my visa has been in process for 15 months now without an answer. What can I do?

Best, David

You may want to specify which country's US embassy you've applied through.

Friend who is a Singapore national is trying to figure out if he can do an online bachelors at Capella University in the US, specifically the Bachelor of Science in Information Technology have it be used to get an H1B or H1B1.

The sticking point is that he plans to complete it in a year- (he knows how to program and its a self paced program) will it satisfy USCIS requirements which say a foreign national must complete 4 years of post secondary study- is it specifically the years that matter or is it fine that its a 4 year degree done more quickly?

It's the course credits that matter. He should make sure that the school is an accredited institution of higher education of course but I'd also have him run this degree program by an education evaluation service.

Thanks so much for the reply!

Just a brief followup- whats the reason for the education eval service? For context the school is US based, accredited, online and for-profit.

Just to make sure that the degree is truly considered a valid U.S. bachelor's degree.

I'm not sure the issues people have with this school but there is also a fully accredited online/self paced school at Western Governors University, just so you know.

Just enquire if the course is recognized by World Education Services

Capella University has a very low reputation / is for profit. My understanding is it is no better than ITT or University of Phoenix, which have a very bad and infamous reputation in the United States.

Curious what you think (though given your profession I expect a somewhat biased response) - is there really a skills shortage in the US or do you think companies are trying to get cheaper workers?

The skills we’re missing could be easily trained for. People would happily do the training for free even if it lasted months (say through online portals that were self paced) just for a chance at getting a job / a guaranteed in-person interview at least.

There is a skills shortage again yes, but it is remarkably easy to remediate a significant portion of it, particularly in an industry with such profits.

I think though also Peter Thiel is right in his criticisms of colleges. They have dropped the ball significantly, especially compared to India’a colleges, which almost overnight rapidly shifted to an IT/Healthcare focus in the 1980’s.

In my experience, I really do see a shortage of skilled workers and incredible competition for these workers.

Those are all good points and I'm not an expert in hiring. I just know that our clients - which is a narrow view of course - are simply looking to hire the best person for the job, regardless of immigration issues, and sometimes the best or just available person is a foreign national.

As a green card holder, I’d like to live and work abroad for several years, then return to the US. Is this feasible and how strictly enforced are the re-entry permit requirements in practice?

Yes, definitely and reentry permits are easy to prepare and generally issued without issue. You just need to be physically present in the U.S. when you file and again when you renew (if you renew) and also you need to get fingerprinted in the U.S. after you file (usually within a few weeks of filing).

Let's say I'm living in Canada and am employed by the Canadian subsidiary of an american startup, and I fly down for a week to have some meetings meet up with co-workers for some face time.

Saying I'm heading down "for meetings, no productive work" seems to be a fast route for a B-1 visa from the customs agent I meet at the airport.

If I actually want to do "productive work" while i'm down there, what's the best way to do that, ideally without needing to pay US taxes on earnings?

I can't comment on the tax aspect but even if just for a day, you would need work authorization and the TN still is pretty easy for Canadians to get.

Thank you kindly!

Does it make sense to try to switch from L-1B to H-1B? In particular, are there any downsides?

The way I see it: the H-1B would allow 1 year more (6 vs 5), increase flexibility (employer + position) and if it fails one can just continue with the L-1B. Do I have that right?

(Background: My L1-B expires end of 2020; I would renew it if H-1B is not granted first. Also we're working on EB2 via advanced degree, but are just restarting the PERM labor certification due to layoffs.)


My wife is here on DACA after being brought here illegally when she was eight years old. Due to her illegal entry, we aren't allowed to apply for a green card until she has a legal entry, which is prohibited for 10 years.

We currently are working with an attorney that is trying to get her through on a hardship petition (claiming (probably rightly so) that her being deported would be damaging to me (a citizen)). Is this this best path forward?

Without knowing all the facts of course, that appears to the best other option.

Ok; we have some friends who claimed that since they were brought in by a citizen, and they were just "waved through" as kids in the backseat of the car, that constituted as a "legal entry".

I'm not an attorney but that didn't really seem like it would hold up since it seems like anyone could claim that.

These are really fact-specific matters so it's really tough for me to comment.

Alright, thank you for your time!

This might be an off topic question.

Do you think startups shouldn't be bearing the burden of sponsoring an H1B? The reason I ask is, there's great talent going to big tech because Startups are not in a position to sponsor H1B. Otherwise I myself would love working for a YC startup.

Do you think YC and potentially VCs should handle this part for startups just so they can attract good talent?

Or are there any other alternatives you'd suggest to help this case?

There might be a misunderstanding. Startups can and do sponsor foreign nationals for H-1Bs successfully all the time. There's a prevailing wage requirement but really other than that there's no difference between H-1B sponsorship by large and new/small companies.

Hi Peter,

Would you happen to know anything about the H1B1 visa for Singaporean nationals? In particular, if I'm Singaporean (and hence qualify for the H1B1), would that still count as 'needing sponsorship" when applying for jobs? I'm currently finishing up a non-STEM PhD, and will be eligible for the 1-year OPT; I plan to apply for both academic and non-academic jobs.

Thanks in advance for your time!!

Hi Peter, thanks for doing this!

Using a throwaway here. I am an Indian citizen about to file for a marriage-based green card with my US citizen wife. I currently live in the US and we are a very vanilla case, in my opinion.

Have you encountered any new challenges over the past two years, owing to the current immigration climate? I see that the overall process is significantly longer than even just a couple of years ago.

No. The process is really the same and still pretty easy (when there are no issues like in your case), just slow.

Can you point us to official U.S. policy that leads to differentiated outcomes of immigration processing speed between nationalities?

An explanation is provided by the State Department in its monthly "Visa Bulletin" at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/legal/visa-law0/v....

An interesting read and resource going forward, thank you.

Hi Peter, I have filed my O1 Visa in late April 2019, and I received the notification with the case number. I have checked online for my case and got an error from the USCIS system, that the case is not listed. How would you recommend to proceed? Are these delays normal? Also, I have been advising not to do anything, and wait for them to notify anything.

The system error isn't uncommon. I would have the petitioning company or the petitioning company's lawyer - not you - call USCIS to check on the status. But that's a long time not to have heard back on an O-1.

Thanks, Peter. I appreciate your advice and goodwill. Very much needed for immigrant founders.

Are businesses founded as co-ops a valid / common path to immigration? And if so, what are the differences in requirements?

Thanks for your time!

Can you give me some specifics? Generally the corporate structure has no bearing on processing or requirements.

Hi Peter,

I recently came into the US in the E2 Employee category. The visa is valid for just 3 months.

- When traveling abroad, are there options to reduce the paperwork required to return back to the US, since my status allows me to stay in the US for 2 years?

- As far as I know, H1B holders can change jobs if they find another employer willing to sponsor them. Is there a similar procedure an E2 can follow?


Unfortunately, as you know, citizens of certain countries get very limited duration visas and there's nothing that can be done other than to apply for a new visa each time that you need to travel. And further, the "portability" available to those in H-1B status is not available to those in E-2 status.

If you can comment on London, UK... If I found a startup in London, how hard is it for Americans to come work for the company?

Unfortunately, I don't know UK immigration law.


I will take a brief break now and be back in about 30 minutes. Thanks again for your great questions and comments.

Hey Peter, I am currently in US on an H1B visa. My employer has applied greencard and I fall under E2 category. I am also a cofounder in a company which is based out in India and my other co founder is currently taking care of running this.

Is it possible to apply for E1B with my past/now co-founder experience.



Just curious -

With respect to your work and the types of cases you handle.

What are your biggest challenges? Where do you struggle the most?

Just the irrationality and pre-determined nature of some of the decision-making. The process can feel like a shell game at times. That being said, I think that we understand now what USCIS wants now and are able to provide this and still get approvals even if we have to battle frequent and rough requests for evidence along the way.

If it were simple nobody would need you to unravel it.

my husband is an amercian, i'm canadian, we've been separated for a while and we've been living in our respective countries, but still married. i want to move to the US, and he's willing to sponsor me as a spouse. a lot of our relationship difficulties have been resolved and we could definitely tolerate each other enough to live together for several years, and all of our close family and friends know that we love each other. do you think that if i lived in the us with him for a year and then applied for the gc that it would make sense to immigration? i don't think i could apply right away after moving because i want to justly portray our relationship as a strong one

I'm not a lawyer and I don't know much about US immigration law. However, I've moved around the world a fair amount and had to get lots of visas. One of the things that's super important with a visa is to make sure that you qualify for that visa. For the US, I believe that it's actually illegal to apply for a visa knowing that you don't intend to follow its rules. For example, you might be able to get visa A easily, but you really want visa B. You apply for visa A with the intent of finding a way to get visa B. Most of the time that's not allowed and if you do it knowingly you may get in big trouble.

From that perspective, a spousal visa usually exists for the sole purpose that you can live with your spouse. It's not a visa whose intent is to give you access to the country for other reasons. So if you go into the process with the knowledge that you do not want to live with your spouse, you are almost certainly going to be going against the terms of the visa -- you almost certainly must intend to live with your spouse indefinitely. You can't go into the situation with the idea that you are going to live with your spouse until you can get a different visa/residency status. Doing so could probably land you in a lot of hot water if it came out (How could it come out? Usual route: Have an argument late at night with your spouse. Really pissy neighbours get miffed and want to get rid out you. They call the immigration people. You may find it hard to believe, but I know more than one person deported from a country that way!)

Anyway, if your intent is to patch up your relationship with your spouse then my (not legal!) advise is to just concentrate on that. Inter-personal relationships are hard and if you aren't going all-in then it's unlikely to work out well. Similarly, I would not rely on a spouse that wasn't invested in rebuilding the relationship but is only doing you a favour so that you can get a visa. That puts a big burden on your spouse because they may want to get on with their life and your visa status will be holding them back. It's an incredibly dicey situation and very, very unlikely to turn out well.

Sorry to disagree but what you said is simply not true. If she stays long enough in the US with her spouse, and she gets a green card or citizenship then you are not obligated by any means to stay forever with that person. Tricking the system might be immoral but it is by no means illegal, pretty much the same way tax lawyers find loopholes in the law to help corporations pay less taxes.

What you say is completely true, but not actually at odds with what I said. You intention is important when applying for a visa. If you are only staying with your spouse in order to get residence status, I believe you are in violation of your visa. However, it's important to get an immigration lawyer to help.

Peter, I'm currently on H1B and my I-140 was just approved this week. When can I technically change jobs and keep my priority date?

Is it true that my current company can withdraw the I-140 petition within 6 months of approval and have you seen cases where it has happened?

The priority date is yours now and your current employer can do nothing to take it away.

Hi Peter,

I have BSc in Chemical Engg(2013), MSc in Environmental Engg(2014) and MSc in Software Engineering(2018) and 4 years work experience in IT industry as Data Engineer. My H1B has been denied this week, what I can do now? MTR or Litigation will be any helpful?

Is this a cap-subject H-1B or an H-1B transfer?

this is a cap-subject H-1B

The best chance of a relatively quick and positive outcome is federal litigation. But you this is costly.

Hi Peter, thanks for taking the time to do this.

1. How hard is it for a company to enroll as a J-1 sponsor? Are there specific deadlines or other requirements?

2. Can any private company sponsor a student J-1 (with a 51%+ scholarship), or are there additional requirements that must be met?


Really pretty easy. There are certain minimal requirements. I'd recommend reaching out to one. They're usually pretty responsive. Email me and I can give you a good list.

I am an American citizen. My co-founder is German. What do the steps look like to get him eligible to work out of the US (say, if we're accepted to YC) and how does the company need to be structured to make it as easy as possible?

Thanks in advance!

I am a european that just got married to an American citizen. We live in Europe now.

Is it true that if I apply for the green card, then I have to "use" it, meaning I need to actually move to the US? That is what I have heard.

We are planning to hire someone on h1b with priority date for green card as 12/22/2009. Do you think this person should be able to get green card with next 2-3 years ? Thanks for taking the question.

Yes (although it's truly impossible to say) I think that it's likely.

I've heard that being successful in an O-1 visa application can be very location dependent. So you can be better off applying somewhere far away, rather than a convenient office.

Is this something your office sees much of?

I really don't see that. All the service centers have their issues and quirks but we're still able to get approvals with all of them and taking largely the same approach with all of them.

Interesting, thanks!

Hi Peter, thanks for taking the time to answer our questions.

Is there a minimum time in US requirement or a minimum time on payroll requirement before applying for a Green Card for L1 visa holders (inter-company transfers)?

No. A green card application can be filed immediately.

If I want to move to the Bay Area under my own money and not work while in the US, but instead build software while trying to fund raise money, am I allowed to do this under a B visa? If so which one?

There is an exception of sorts within the B-1 that allows those who will be applying for an E-2 investor visa to establish a business and seek investments for that business. There are limits however and gray where permissible preliminary steps become unauthorized employment.

Do you see a lot of companies starting up operations in other countries to house their international employees, given the uncertainty in US?

Would you recommend funded startups to have such backup offsite locations?

Yes, I see some of that but surprisingly I really haven't seen any let up in our practice with companies seeking to establish operations in the U.S. Some companies bifurcate their operations, with development work being done in their home country and marketing and sales and client support work being done in the U.S.

Thank you!

Canadian citizen, working and living full time in USA on TN visa - is it permitted to concurrently do remote freelance for companies in my country of citizenship (Canada) while living in US?

US immigration law has still not come to terms with remote/digital employment so there is some gray here but the short answer is no.

I am currently on STEM OPT and work for local County government. AFAIK my employer is not affiliated with any institutions of higher education. Will I qualify for cap exempt H-1B visa?

It doesn't sound like it unfortunately. The entity needs to be more than just a non-profit.

Hi Peter, thanks for doing this AMA!

Do you have any insights on whether getting an L1-A got more difficult with the current administration, and if/how the kind of documents/evidence needed for it changed recently?

I'm asking because I just got my L1-A renewal rejected (after having it successfully renewed 2 years ago), on the grounds of insufficient proof of my position being managerial. My I-94 expired and I don't have another visa, so I had to leave the US – and it's awful for my startup! Timing couldn't be worse.

I'm applying for a new L1-A, so any insights on my question above, or any advice on how to maximize my chance of getting it as quickly as possible, would be super welcome!

Non-blanket L-1s are just really tough and probably the "best" example of irrational and unfair decision-making by USCIS. In short, extensive documentation of the structure/organization of the U.S. and foreign companies and of the employees managed and to be managed needs to be provided along with DETAILED descriptions of current and future managerial job duties. But L-1s are just tough and were tough even under the prior administration.

Thanks a lot for advice! How does L1-As compare with L1-Bs or O-1s on terms of being tough? Those two are my other options I'm considering.

An L-1A - if you can show management of people now and in the U.S. - is much easier than an L-1B - unless the L-1B involves advanced scientific research and development.

I had an L1-B extension request inside the US and they came back with a request for more information. Honestly it looked like they were about to refuse my visa extension. I told the immigration lawyers that I'd be back in London over Christmas and they changed their tune. Applying through London, albeit with an L1 company blanket doc, took all of 30 minutes starting with review of the application and finishing with an interview where the person interviewing me obviously knew very little about my industry.

There appear to be wide discrepancies within the system that can be arbitraged.

The issue is really only with L-1 petitions filed with USCIS not with blanket L-1 visa applications filed with Consulates.

Can I work from another country under a H1B1 visa? Example: I get the visa but then I work remotely from my country, or for example I renew it but I never go back to the US.

Without knowing all the facts, as a general matter yes but why would you since you don't need a work visa to work for a US company if you are working while outside the US?

You are right that it seems weird, but a friend did it for many years!

- In his case the company wanted it to make it easier administratively for them.

- It might make it easier to go back to the US.

- Might make it easier to take advantage of 401k matching and other benefits.

Not sure if you can answer this. My priority date is Feb 2011 for EB3 India. The current date of filing for 485 is April 2010. How long might it take to become Feb 2011.

I wish I could answer. When the new numbers come out for the new fiscal year, we should have a better idea since there's usually a big jump.

What are the best GC options for current H-1B holders without a PhD or founder status? It seems like the EB-1 is very much equivalent to the O-1 in terms of evidence.

Most end up having to go the employment-based PERM labor certification application route but sometimes a national interest waiver (NIW)-based green card application is a very good - and better - option and this does not have to be tied to a company.

Hi Peter, is it possible for someone on OPT STEM extension to be self employed either by forming a company or operating as an independent contractor?

Sort of. You should check with your school because in the end, it's really the school and not the government that makes this determination. But there's really no self-employment under STEM OPT. If the employment is through your own company, then there needs to be a structure in place where you are supervised by someone and don't control your own employment.

Ok great, thanks for the help Peter, your contributions to the HN community are amazing!

I am a PHD in Microbiology and currenlty working in biotech startup on H4 EAD. Can my company apply for my GC in EB1-B category while I am on H4 EAD?


Is it possible to do business from a corporation registered in the USA when I am living in another country (in my case the UK)?

From an immigration standpoint, yes.

I moved to Canada after 3 years into my H1B. I don't have I-140.

If I want to go back and work in US, will I be subjected to the quota ?

Hi Peter, thanks for the kind AMA!

Is it possible to ask my employer to sponsor greencard (probably EB2) for me while I'm on TN?

This is possible only if you're reasonably certain that you'll be able to apply for AOS (I-485) AND get EAD before your TN expires. Otherwise, you'll run into issue renewing your TN as submission of I-140 proves that you have intent to remain in the US permanently.

Ah great thank you!

What do you think the chances are that HR 1044/S 386 will pass this year?

Very low given how difficult it is to make major changes in US immigration law at any time and particularly during a presidential season.

Will vouch for Peter! Wouldn't have started a company without his help.

Do you have recommendations for immigration advice experts in the Bay Area?

There are a lot of good providers the Bay Area. Do you want an in-person consultation or is a phone consultation sufficient?

I just have one question my brother got deported 2017 he has been in this country for 20 years came here as refugee but ran into some criminal charges violent felony landed him in prison in 2010 he has 2 kids here is there anyway he can return?

How long does it takes to get a O-1 Visa?

Once an O-1 petition is filed with USCIS, as little as 2 weeks to get an approval but then of course one would need to get an O-1 visa at a US Consulate outside the US and that timing will depend primarily on appointment availability. The preparation time is hard to say because so many factors go into this but on average about 2 months.



Your H1B is your work authorization. You can keep your place in the green card line if you switch after your i140 is approved. If yo switch before that you apply for PERM and i140 again.

Just to be clear, if you switch after your I-140 is approved but before your I-485 is filed, you will keep your priority date and your place in line but a new PERM will need to be filed.

Yes true.


Hey Peter, thank you for doing this AMA, here is my question:

I really want to live in the US permanently and bring my family over with me, what are the best ways to do that in terms of speed and/or cost?

What's your educational and professional background or country of citizenship?

The truth is the US was never welcoming to foreign-born entrepreneurs, and matters have only gone worse in recent times. If you are from a country like India, your only real chance is somehow to get a VC funding.

Hi, US citizen with non-citizen (unmarried, Mexican national) partner here. How can we most effectively push back against the policies of this administration?

Paperwork that used to be quickly processed has become slow, adding huge hassles and time sinks. People have to find housing in their origin countries while waiting, often with little understanding of when those waits end. Do we have grounds for suing for the added cost of this malicious degradation in service?

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