System is ‘broken,’ Bay Area immigration attorney tells real estate professionals

System is ‘broken,’ Bay Area immigration attorney tells real estate professionals

At “Understanding Silicon Valley Immigration,” a program hosted by the Global Business Council of the Silicon Valley Association of Realtors, Realtors listened intently as immigration attorney Sophie Alcorn explained today’s intricate immigration process and how it is affecting foreigners seeking entry to the U.S.

Alcorn, whose firm Alcorn Immigration Law in Mountain View has been recognized as the fastest growing law firm in Silicon Valley with a nearly 100 percent success rate, said immigration is a socio-political issue affecting a large number of people, especially in Silicon Valley, which is the home of many start-ups created by foreign-born entrepreneurs.

Alcorn described current trends regarding immigration, like extreme vetting, more difficulty in obtaining H-1B visas, workplace audits, travel bans, family separation, an end to Temporary Protected Status (TPS), more options to stay in the U.S. disappearing, vigilante officers, employment interviews, the uncertainty of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), difficulties experienced by those seeking asylum at the border, children in custody, longer waits and deliberate delays. Also, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is now issuing more Notices to Appear (NTA), which signals removal proceedings of a person or family.

“The whole system is broken and in chaos, but there’s hope,” said Alcorn. She indicated there are still many options. Some options work for some applicants, but not for everybody.

The immigration lawyer defined immigration terms and statuses, such as the difference between a temporary visa and temporary status, between a green card and permanent residence which can be arbitrary, change of status or adjusting status. She explained the different visas which allow foreigners to stay in the U.S. either for a limited time or permanently.

Alcorn walked Realtors through the general paths to citizenship, including obtaining a green card through marriage. She explained the business green card pathways, which are sought by foreign investors, professional employees, skilled non-professional employees, multinational managers and executives. This path typically involves obtaining an H-1B visa or EB-5 visa, which have categories and quotas per country. A study shows Chinese EB-5 investors can have up to a 20-year wait; H-1B applicants from India have a 150-year wait. It is why many from India are switching from an H-1B visa application to an EB-5 application.

Immigration interviews are not a friendly experience, said Alcorn. While interviews are intended to be conducted in a professional manner, there are officers that tend to be overzealous and intimidating. Some officers even try to trick the applicant in providing a wrong answer. This is why Alcorn makes sure she or someone from her firm always accompanies a client to the interview.

Alcorn shared examples of cases she has handled in Silicon Valley, some which had a happy ending, others not. She noted planning immigration is important and it can take time and money with government filing fees, legal fees, requests for evidence, education evaluations and translations.

While anyone can own property in the U.S. regardless of status, Alcorn advised Realtors to ask their clients the following questions which will help them help their clients: What country were you born in? What country are you a citizen of? When did you come to the U.S.? What are your goals for living and working in the U.S.? What is your current status here? What have you done for your immigration status?

SILVAR GBC chair Joanne Fraser said the program was very helpful for Realtors. “It’s a topic that is an important part of our life in Silicon Valley,” said Fraser.



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