Teri Simmons from Arnall, Golden, and Gregory led a great session on immigration issues for startups today. She talked about quotas, green cards, Hs, and Os. If you need to hire a non-American worker for your company, here are a few things I learned.
H visas are visas for college degree or equivalent workers. The H visa allows someone to work in America for 3 years and they are eligible for some extensions. It will cost about $3-4K for fees and attorneys. You must pay them a fair rate – so you can’t hire cheap overseas labor and bring them here and pay them the same cheap rate. There is a quota on how many the US will allow each year and that quota was exceeded on the first official day of filing! So basically, no more will be available to be issued until October 08. This is a big issue that is stirring up the technology industry. Even Bill Gates is getting involved.
For startups, there is the extra challenge of proving to the immigration office that you have the funding to pay the employee during their 3 year visa period. But today I learned about a new class of visa. The O visa. It is reserved for extraordinary people that are highly specialized, have PhDs, have won awards or are heavily published. There are no quotas on these visas, but you must prove to the immigration office that their specialty is hard to find.
Green Cards are for permanent immigrant visas. There is a lengthy process of proving that you are unable to hire an equivalent American worker before they will allow you to file for one. There are also limited quotas for these each year. This costs about $10K for all the fees, attorneys, etc.
My overall thoughts are that it is a lengthy and confusing process, the government is working on reform, and you need a good attorney to help you figure it out. You don’t want to make a mistake because there could be negative effects on your employee and their family.
Teri and I will be working on a 2-page overview of "Immigration Issues for Startups" and we will post it when it is complete.