Sophie Alcorn, attorney, author and founder 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 compassionate, visionary, and expert immigration law. Connect with Sophie on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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Dear Sophie,

I wasn’t able to make TechCrunch Disrupt this year.

What were your main immigration takeaways for founders and startups?

— Faraway Friend

Dear Friend,

Appreciate your asking! Of course the conference had an incredible lineup of speakers, but my most amazing learnings were from my conversations with you — my readers — and your incredible stories, questions, and offers of mutual support.

Contributing this column has led to my own personal growth as I’ve committed to sharing my voice in the world. While this has been a fascinating but 1-to-N experience for a while now, it was wonderful to be able to draw together supporters, make new friends, and help forge relationships between my connections, IRL.

I also learned a tremendous amount from your real-life questions about things I can continue to share in this column, at the intersection of the ever-evolving landscapes of (a) immigration and (b) startups. (Those are two quickly moving fields!)

As the funding landscape is changing, many founders came to me with a similar question:“Sophie, your articles are all great and everything, but I haven’t raised money yet. We just have customers. Without VC funding, can I even qualify for a visa?!

The answer, dear reader, is yes!

Read on for my top 10 takeaways from TechCrunch Disrupt 2023!

1. You don’t need a degree to get an O-1A, EB-1A or EB-2 NIW

It’s true! It really doesn’t matter if you have a PhD, you’re a child prodigy, or you dropped out of college. The O-1A visa for extraordinary ability is often a top choice of the many options for global founders to come to the U.S. in about four to six months and build their companies. The EB-1A green card is related to the O-1A, but it takes at least a few years, as it’s for a green card and it’s becoming the penultimate stop in this journey to permanent residency for many accomplished individuals in the India and China lines, often prior to the I-485 Adjustment of Status Application. Another green card pathway called an EB-2 NIW has been preferred by global founders. It’s started to have a slight backlog, but it’s often overall easier and faster than the O-1A or EB-1A.

Check out this prior column elaborating the requirements for each, but keep in mind the bottom line: No degree? No worries, be happy! A degree is not absolutely required and you can find a myriad of other ways to qualify!

Many brilliant people who are changing the world are doing it in ways beyond formal, traditional education models. Indeed, it’s often required to be on the leading edge to help shift the world to a new mode of reality. If it can be taught, then it has been done. You’re in good company!

2. You don’t need venture funding

I chuckle at this one, because when I founded my Silicon Valley law firm eight years ago now, the challenging thing was actually getting a work visa approved for a pre-revenue, venture-backed startup!


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