Dear Sophie: How can I improve our startup’s international recruiting?

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:

We’ve been having a tough time filling vacant engineering and other positions at our company and are planning to make a more concerted effort to recruit internationally.

Do you have suggestions for attracting workers from abroad?

— Proactive in Pacifica

Dear Proactive,

Yes, I have many suggestions on what you can do to support international talent interested in moving to the United States. Immigration is a great benefit for attracting the best and the brightest team members from around the globe. And providing immigration security through visa practices and green card programs supports retaining these valued individuals. Consider sponsoring international students and other qualified candidates in the upcoming H-1B lottery in March.

As it now stands, the H-1B lottery will be random this year, not pay-to-play. We anticipate the electronic lottery process will follow these dates:

  • March 9 at 9 a.m. PST: H-1B registration process opens.
  • March 25 at 9 a.m. PDT: H-1B registration process closes.
  • March 31: You’ll know if your H-1B beneficiaries were selected electronically in this initial round of the lottery.
  • April 1: First date to file H-1Bs selected in the lottery to request a 10/1/2021 or later start date.
  • June 30: Last anticipated day to complete filing of selected H-1B petitions in this initial round of the lottery.
  • After June 30: Possibility of a second lottery for registrations submitted in March.
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)

Through the H-1B and other proactive immigration-support measures you can take, your international team members will enjoy a greater sense of immigration security. This allows them to focus on their job rather than worrying about their immigration status. Here are my recommendations for drawing international talent from abroad and fostering productivity and loyalty.

Establish your company’s immigration policy

I recommend working with an experienced immigration attorney who can help your company develop an immigration policy based on your company’s core values, recruiting and immigration budget, and growth plan. Think of immigration as a benefit and a way to differentiate your company from others when recruiting top talent. Providing immigration benefits and immigration security goes a long way toward building team member loyalty and longevity.

For some companies, the best policy may be to have no policy, but it’s important to be deliberate about it and how that will affect your ability to make decisions and budget. For other companies, they implement a limited immigration policy to, for example, hire 40 engineers as soon as possible. Even with a decentralized workforce, a new recruit may be happy to move from Ukraine to Idaho even if your company is not based there.

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