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.”
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I’m so worried and stressed about all the layoffs! I’m safe for now, but it has made me realize I need to take control of my own destiny. Are there any visas or green cards that I can apply for on my own without relying on my employer?
— Silicon Stressed
I applaud you for taking the first step toward determining your own immigration destiny — and gaining peace of mind.
Let me take your question about green cards first, since recent developments impact the timing for the two green cards that individuals can apply for on their own: the EB-1A extraordinary ability green card and the EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver). Individuals can apply for either the EB-1A or the EB-2 NIW without an employer sponsor or even a job offer.
Last week, the U.S. Department of State released its Visa Bulletin for December 2022, which shows which green card applications can move forward based on the number of green cards available in each category, and the number available to individuals born in certain countries with high levels of immigration to the U.S., such as India and China.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) releases a monthly report that clarifies whether it will accept adjustment of status applications — the final step in the green card process, along with an interview — based on the State Department’s Final Action dates or the Dates for Filing. The USCIS December report, released last week, states USCIS will accept I-485 adjustment of status applications based on the Dates for Filing.
File for EB-1 NOW!
If you are eligible to apply for an EB-1A green card, you should file ASAP — and file your I-140 green card application and your I-485 adjustment of status concurrently. The reason for the urgency is that even though the EB-1 green card category remains current in December for all individuals regardless of where they were born, that’s expected to change for individuals born in India or China.
Due to high demand for EB-1 green cards and the decrease in green card numbers available this fiscal year compared to the previous one, the State Department is projecting that it will impose cut-off dates for individuals born in India and China. If that applies to you, speak to your immigration attorney now about moving forward quickly.
Each fiscal year, 140,000 employment-based green cards are available, plus any unused green cards from the family-based categories from the previous fiscal year. This fiscal year (FY 2023), USCIS estimates there will be 197,000 green cards available compared to last fiscal year (FY 2022), when there were 281,507 green cards. I’ve long advocated for increasing the cap on the number of employment-based green cards available each year and eliminating the per-country cap on employment-based green cards, both of which require action from Congress.