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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We just raised a $20 million Series A, and we need to hire more engineers to fully develop our product.
In addition, we’d like to bring our overseas PEO contractors to the States to join us more locally and in-timezone.
We’re excited about being decentralized — which immigration options are best for us?
— Elated Entrepreneur
Congrats on your latest funding milestone! Your funding comes at an opportune time: The recent spate of layoffs and hiring freezes at many tech companies presents a great opportunity for you to scoop up top global engineering talent. Plus, I’m not surprised you raised even in this “environment” — we’re seeing a lot of that going on despite much of the news!
A few suggestions
Before I dive into your question, let me make a few suggestions: Consult both a corporate attorney and an immigration attorney.
A corporate attorney can help you set up a distributed work policy if your company doesn’t already have one. Corporate, employment and privacy laws differ in each state, so given that you are looking to expand your distributed workforce, you should know what your company can — and can’t — do in each state. You should also discuss whether to transfer the individuals you want to bring to the U.S. from your PEO (professional employer organization) to your company, particularly if you are only using the PEO for the individuals abroad. The specific immigration options you’re considering can be a factor in this as well.
When you consult your immigration attorney, you’ll want to discuss visa sponsorship for any individuals you want to bring to the U.S. who are currently on your global PEO’s payroll, as well as options for folks you haven’t started working with yet, whether they are already in the States or abroad. If your PEO has only a minimal employment relationship with those individuals and cannot hire and fire them, the PEO would probably not qualify as an employer for many types of visa sponsorship processes in the U.S., but there are ways to work with this.
You should also discuss whether to set up an immigration policy that spells out:
- When your company will sponsor an individual for a green card.
- Immigration strategies based on your company’s hiring goals and timing.
- Options for specific individuals based on their situation and qualifications.
Different startups choose to go different ways with whether to have these policies at all and if so, what they should include. I always recommend being strategic and deliberate about offering immigration as a benefit to recruit and retain international talent whether they are in the United States or abroad. Offering green card sponsorship after a year or two is a tremendous benefit! This also helps shape your company culture, demonstrating that you value diversity, inclusion and the well-being of your team.