Ask Sophie: I work at OpenAI on an H-1B. How do I explore immigration freedom?

Sophie Alcorn, lawyerauthor and promoter of Alcorn Immigration Law in Silicon Valley, California, is an award-winning Certified Specialist Attorney in Immigration and Nationality Law by the State Bar Board of Legal Specialization. Sophie is passionate about transcending borders, expanding opportunity, and connecting the world by practicing passionate, visionary, and expert immigration law. Talk to Sophie on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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


Dear Sophie,

I signed the OpenAI letter threatened to leave unless the board resigned. I am an AI engineer on H-1B. I went through PERM and got my EB-3 I-140 approved. However, my priority date is not yet. If Altman can’t come back, how can I stay in the US and start exploring new opportunities in AI startups?

– Passionate Employee


Editor’s note: This situation will likely be resolved with the return of Sam Altman as CEO of OpenAI. But the column reflects the reality of foreign workers throughout Silicon Valley and the United States, and thus, we feel that the advice of the article is worth publishing. Read Sophie Alcorn’s previous columns here.


Dear Emboldened,

I admire your courage to stand up for your true worth in signing this letter even though it puts your ability to stay in the United States at risk. Standing up for your values ​​even when they are against your own interests speaks to the strength, tenacity, and determination of immigrants and the value you add to this country. Especially this Thanksgiving week, I thank you!

Rest assured, I have your back! The good news is that the Biden administration has signaled its desire and commitment to attract and retain talented AI engineers like you here in the U.S. What’s more, talented AI engineers are in high demand across the board. -his across the board, from an early stage of initiation. of the largest technology companies. See the Executive Order that was released by President Biden in October and this Ask Sophie column.

Let’s dive in to discuss ways to stay in the US and start exploring new opportunities for AI startups.

As an AI engineer, you have many options! You can stay with OpenAI for now and find a part-time job at an AI startup on the side. Before you take that step, review the fine print of your employment contract with an intellectual property attorney to make sure it’s an option. You can leave OpenAI and find a new position at an AI startup, but remember that you have a 60-day grace period or you have to get a B-1 business visitor visa. Last year during the era of technology removal, USCIS clarified that the 60-day grace period may apply even if you leave your job, and that you may seek a new role while in B-1/B-2 status.

There is plenty of early-stage pre-seed money available for generative AI startups if you want to start your own company, even as an immigrant. More than $40 billion in VC funding poured into AI startups in the first six months of 2023, according to PitchBook. In addition, AI companies received more than a quarter of the total investment of all US startups this year, more than double compared to last year, according to Crunchbase.

Remember that since you are sponsored by OpenAI for H-1B specialty occupation visa, you can only work at OpenAI. If you want to work for another startup—or create your own—that startup must transfer your H-1B or sponsor you for another visa. Many people see a concurrent H-1B as a source of removal insurance if they qualify.

Leave a comment