Dear Sophie: Are there visas or green cards that I can get myself?

Here’s another edition on Dear Sophie, the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at tech companies.

“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that enables people around the world to rise above boundaries and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “I would like to answers to your questions in my next column.

TechCrunch+ members get access to weekly Dear Sophie columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one-year or two-year subscription at 50% off.

Dear Sophie,

I am so worried and stressed about all the layoffs! I’m safe for now, but it made me realize that I need to take control of my own destiny. Are there visas or green cards I can apply for on my own without relying on my employer?

— Strained silicon

Dear Stressed,

I applaud you for taking the first step toward determining your own immigration destiny—and gaining peace of mind.

Let me first answer your question about green cards, as recent developments affect the timing of the two green cards that people can apply for on their own: the EB-1A exceptional ability green card and the EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver ). Individuals can apply for an EB-1A or EB-2 NIW without an employer sponsor or even a job offer.

Last week, the US State Department released its Visa Newsletter December 2022which 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 US, such as India and China.

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issues 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 submission. USCIS Report for Decemberpublished last week, states that USCIS will accept I-485 adjustment of status applications based on filing dates.

Composite image of immigration attorney Sophie Alcorn in front of TechCrunch logo background.

Image Credits: Joanna Buniak / Sophie Alcorn (opens in a new window)

File for EB-1 NOW!

If you are eligible to apply for an EB-1A green card, you should file as soon as possible—and file your I-140 green card application and I-485 adjustment of status at the same time. The reason for the urgency is that although the EB-1 green card category remains current in December for all individuals regardless of where they were born, this is expected to change for individuals born in India or China.

Due to the high demand for EB-1 green cards and the reduced number of green cards available this fiscal year compared to last, the State Department plans to impose cut-off dates for individuals born in India and China. If this applies to you, talk to your immigration attorney now about moving forward quickly.

140,000 employment-based green cards are available each fiscal year, plus any unused green cards from the family 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 have long advocated increasing the cap on the number of employment-based green cards offered each year and removing the per-country cap on employment-based green cards, both of which would require action by Congress.

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