Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.
“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”
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Our startup was just accepted into the winter batch of a top accelerator!
My co-founder with an H-1B just got laid off from big tech, but he’s OK because his immigration lawyer is filing a change of status to B-1 within the 60-day grace period. I’m nervous though, because I’m outside the U.S. and I don’t yet have a B-1/B-2 visitor visa.
How can I ace the visa interview? What type of questions will I be asked? How should I prepare?
— Tenacious in Tobago
Thanks so much for reaching out! Before I dive into your questions, let me provide some context and general recommendations for preparing for a consular interview.
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An interview with any immigration official is a high-stakes undertaking. Immigration officials have the discretion to decide whether or not to grant you a non-immigrant visa or an immigrant visa (green card) that will enable you to enter the United States. And how well — or poorly — you do during the interview will have implications for your future visa and green card applications.
According to Mandy Feuerbacher, who was a consular officer at the U.S. Department of State, officials take notes about whether they think an interviewee is responsible, credible, and qualified, and that record will be available for all consular officers to see even if a person applies for another visa category or at another U.S. embassy or consulate.
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Unfortunately, you cannot bring an immigration attorney with you to a consular interview — the State Department stopped allowing that more than 25 years ago. In contrast, you are allowed to bring an attorney with you to a green card interview with a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officer inside the U.S.
Immigration officers are human, too!
This sounds obvious, but reminding yourself of that may help alleviate your anxiety. Like everyone else, consular officers have families, good and bad days, hopes and dreams, and personalities and world views shaped by their unique experiences. They are simply trying to do their job to the very best of their ability.
As an aside, the H-1B specialty occupation visa and the L-1 visa for intracompany transferees are dual-intent, and allow you to intend to remain in the U.S. by filing for a green card. The O-1 extraordinary ability visa has some flexibility as well.