Zoom and the US Immigration System

Posted by Camilo A. Espinosa, Esq. on February 22, 2021


Technology is a key element of all of our lives. Since COVID-19 hit, our dependence on technology has gone from an emerging industry to a daily necessity. It’s how many of us do our jobs, stay in contact with loved ones, and manage personal affairs from social media to banking. One of the most relevant technology platforms of the pandemic has been Zoom a communications platform founded by a Chinese immigrant that came to the United States on a visa.


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Eric Yuan is more than a brilliant tech genius. He is a skilled digital engineer that has perseverance. That perseverance kept him motivated to apply for an H-1B US visa over and over again racking up 8 denials before finally succeeding on his 9th attempt to legally immigrate to this country.

Yuan was interested in coming to the US during the Internet boom, and he felt that being equipped with a Bachelor of Engineering at the Shandong Institute of Business and Technology and a Master of Engineering Management at China University of Mining and Technology were his tickets in. However, it wasn’t as simple as he hoped.

When he finally obtained a legal visa, after several years of applying, he worked for WebEx. When Cisco acquired the company in 2007, Yuan was appointed vice president of engineering at Cisco. In 2012, he left Cisco to start Zoom, putting together a team of 40 engineers.

Now, the software that is used globally (even by the US government to hold legal proceedings!), was a powerful idea and was a strong startup from its inception. But U.S. Immigration laws do not necessarily apply to foreign born entrepreneurs. A visa tied to a job at a US company is just that it won’t transfer over to a self-employed leader, no matter how successful. Luckily for Yuan, he has been in the US long enough and succeeded at receiving a green card allowing for permanent residence. Other entrepreneurs are not as lucky, and either have to wait, or hire a board of co-founders that could sponsor the immigrant on behalf of the company. Due to these complications, many immigrant entrepreneurs in America are almost always refugees, or family-sponsored and employer-sponsored immigrants.

Yuan is one of many brilliant minds who were able to bring their technology vision to life here in the United States. But he won’t be that last. According to the National Foundation for American Policy, “immigrants have started more than half (50 of 91, or 55%) of America’s startup companies valued at $1 billion or more and are key members of management or product development teams in more than 80% of these companies,” according to the study. Of course, Zoom was one of those companies.

H-1B visas are a core part of the American immigration system, and while there are complex laws to navigate, hiring an experienced immigration attorney is a key step towards achieving your immigration goals.

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