Legalpad co-founder and COO, Sara Itucas, talks with Stilt founder and CEO, Rohit Mittal, about recent visa extension rules on H1B, F1, OPT, H-4 and other recommendations for those on these visa categories.
Stilt is a fintech company that focuses on providing credit to immigrants and the underserved. They build products to improve financial inclusion and democratize access to the credit. Stilt is headquartered in San Francisco.
Rohit Mittal: Hi everyone, I'm Rohit. I'm the co-founder and CEO of Stilt and today we have Sara with us again from Legalpad. Hey Sara.
Sara Itucas: Hi everyone.
Rohit: Legalpad makes it easier and faster for startup founders and teams to get us work visas so that's what the company does and Sara is the co-founder and COO of Legalpad. Moving on to the the next question which is along the similar lines and I think you've already partially answered it. In this case, this person is currently in India and they have the visa extension letter. So their visa extension – I'm assuming it has been approved – but it is not stamped can they get the visa stamped in India.
Sara: So the consulates aren't open. So like right off the bat can't get a visa stamping in India if you're currently undergoing a visa transfer to a new company. Once that gets approved and you have a valid visa stamp in your passport, probably from your previous company for example, because they put the company that's sponsoring you on the visa. You can still use that previous visa sticker to come into the U.S., but you'll need to bring that approval notice for the new company with you when you're re-entering.
Rohit: This is applicable to all types of visas, even though we are largely thinking about H-1B but that same thing applies to J-1 and L-1 and so on and so forth.
Sara: That's right, but let's also remember that there are visas that aren't impacted by the proclamation at all. So the O-1 for example, the extraordinary ability visa, it's not impacted for that.
Rohit: Any other professional work visa that people use that isn't impacted?
Sara: Yeah so it's like people outside the US who have a valid visa sticker or advanced parole and Canadian citizens the proclamation does not impact you. USCIS is still taking filings so if you're already in the U.S. it doesn't even really impact you then because you can for most visa types you can basically do an extension while you're in the us it's just generally strongly recommended that you don't travel during this time. And then J-1s other than interns, trainees, teachers, and camp counselors, au pairs, or summer work travel participants. It affects those people, but the people who are you know J-1 scholars for example, it does not affect them.
Rohit: Oh okay so even within J-1 it doesn't impact scholars but it impacts --
Sara: interns, trainees, teachers, camp counselors, au pairs, and summer work travel participants
Rohit: Got it. Is that like specific within J-1… do scholars get a specific visa and then all the other ones get a different?
Sara: Yes I believe so. So I think you still need to seek as a J-1 student if you're a J-1 student for example you must seek a national interest waiver at a U.S. consulate. There's an argument to be made for getting an emergency appointment but beyond that that's kind of on a case-by-case basis and it's difficult to really communicate that on a general level. It doesn't affect other non-immigrant categories, so the E-3 for Australian nationals, doesn't affect TN for canadian citizens that are coming in on a TN, it doesn't affect O-1 like i mentioned and it also doesn't affect F-1 students. So that's something that we'll be discussing IN a different episode. I guess where we go over all of this student information people with students as well. But if you have a valid F-1 visa this does not impact you.
Rohit: Got it so international students can still sort of come into the US and things that are fine for them aside from the ban that we'll talk about separately. Cool moving on to the the next question. This person says I'm currently in the U.S. and plan to travel to India. I'm currently undergoing visa transfer to a new company. Does the ban impact H-1B visa transfers currently in progress?
Sara: No, government is still taking on H-1B so USCIS which is who you reply your visa to when you're already in the us they're still taking cases it's business as usual as far as we know right now got it so but you also strongly recommend to not travel outside the us that's it's usually best to stay in the us because we don't know what COVID what kind of like travel measures are
gonna be in place or anything like that. So if you are planning on if you want to stay in the us it's probably best to stay and avoid any travel the force for the rest of the year so far.
Rohit: Got it. So if you're in the U.S. going under visa transfer just preferably don't travel. Next question, this is an international student currently on F-1 visa and got selected in the H-1B lottery and has applied for consular processing. Is there any impact because of this ban on their application and i'm adding corollary to this, what if someone is an OPT in a similar scenario?
Sara: Yeah perfect. So if you're currently on F-1 you were selected for the lottery you applied for consular processing. It's still going to be processed as consular processing which means that in order to start your H-1B, you'll need to go to the console, get the visa sticker. You need to go abroad, go to a consulate, get a visa sticker, and then come back into the us and that's how you get your H-1B status. This differs from another method which is called what we “call change of status” where if you're on F-1 you file using a change of status and you check that checkbox on the form then you automatically transition into H-1B status on October 1st if your H-1B has been approved. So this person filed for consular processing which means that they won't transition directly into H-1B status if they stay in the US at that point. So what can happen is if you have time left on OPT, you can still use that. So hopefully there is some leeway on that up to the end of the year if you have time left on OPT. If you applied for CAP gap, I believe your OPT status will automatically expire on September 30th. That's always kind of been the rule and then at which point you may want to talk to an attorney to kind of figure out what your options are on that. Once you find out that your H-1B visa has been approved, your company can actually reapply for a change of status knowing that your H-1B has been approved already, but you know, this isn't just like general advice to people. I would strongly suggest that you speak to an immigration attorney to figure out if that's a good option for you.
Rohit: Okay best case scenario your OPT is still valid, you're not on CAP gap, so you should be right and if you're in the U.S. preferably don't travel outside the U.S. Moving on to the next question, so this person says i'm currently here and my H-1B visa is expiring on August 2nd 2020. My employer is working on filing my extension in the next 15 days. Does this executive order restrict the filing of H-1B extensions for the people who are already in the US?
Sara: Right so I think the best thing to just keep in mind is if your employer submits your extension before the expiration date of August 2nd, you have a grace period to be in the U.S. while your application is pending, so you should be fine. And again, recommendation is don't travel, only because it just complicates things for you and for your employer. Also you know, the executive order doesn't restrict the filing of H-1B extensions because USCIS is still taking applications. So that part it's still business as usual again.
Rohit: Got it, and this is for H-1B across any country right? So it's not just it's the same across the world or you mentioned briefly about Canada?
Sara: So if you're a Canadian on an H-1B, you're not impacted by this ban we have a special relationship with Canada. That should be fine. There is one thing that I do want to mention briefly, that's slightly unrelated like it's a different executive proclamation. So the president recently announced that the special relationship that the U.S. has with Hong Kong has come to an end from an immigration from the immigration perspective. Right so basically what this means is that Hong Kong nationals who previously were kind of recognized differently from nationals from Mainland China so the People's Republic of China (PRC). You're now subject to the same kind of rules and requirements as people from the PRC, which means that there are certain validity dates that have been truncated. That's the biggest change that we're kind of seeing right now. For example, H-1B and H-4 visa (H-4 for dependents) will be reduced the visa sticker will be reduced from 60 months to 12 months.
Rohit: Visa holders from PRC get H-1B for 12 months at a time so now Hong Kong nationals will be the same.
Sara: And also H-1B visa stickers so just want to make sure that we're clear. And also there are other parts of it too so like O-1 visa stickers will be reduced from 60 months to three months maximum to re-enter the U.S., and again, this really becomes a problem when you're traveling and you're trying to come back in the U.S. because your visa sticker like has a shorter validity period now. And then F-1 and J visas (so for students really in particular) it'll be unchanged for the time being. So if you're a student like you can breathe a little bit. It's nice to at least know that.