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Dear Sophie: Can founders get visas in 2021 through DACA or other means?



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.”

Extra Crunch members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.

Dear Sophie:

Does the United States have a startup visa? If not, what are the best visas for startup founders?

If my friend is a Dreamer in the U.S. who is undocumented but wants to found a startup, is it possible?

—Cheerful in Chile

Hello Cheerful!

Much to be cheerful about for your friend today as DACA is back! DACA is “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” and it provides work permits for people who were brought to the U.S. as children. Some of the basics to see if your friend might qualify for DACA are if they were under the age of 31 on June 15, 2012; if they came to the U.S. before they turned 16; and if they have lived in the U.S. since June 15, 2007. USCIS announced that it is accepting first-time DACA applications, renewals and advance parole documents to travel in two-year increments. This is great news for many folks for whom the U.S. is truly home, who have been educated here or served in the armed forces, and who want to further contribute to the tech ecosystem and economy.

Besides DACA, what other options are there for founders to move to the U.S. in 2021?

To be clear: The U.S. does not currently have a startup visa (you can read more about it in my op-ed in the Times of San Diego). According to the National Foundation for American Policy, if the U.S. had established a startup visa in 2016, it would have created 1 million to 3.2 million jobs over 10 years. I’m doing all I personally can to contribute to the creation of the U.S. Startup Visa or possibly the resurrection of International Entrepreneur Parole as we look ahead to the Biden/Harris administration.

That being said, we have solutions, advanced information and creative options, some of which I can share here with you. Check out 7 of the Most Startup-Friendly Visas Explained. Coming out of COVID in 2021, here are the most common visas and green cards that work for many founders. As immigration law is very nuanced, often people contact me to find specific alternative strategies that better suit their long-term goals.

B-1 visa for business visitors

The B-1 is a nonimmigrant (temporary) visa that enables entrepreneurs to explore the U.S. market. Under a B-1 visa, a founder or entrepreneur cannot be employed in the U.S., but can come for a business trip. This means you should not do any paid or unpaid work for a U.S. entity on your trip. However, some activities for founders are OK, such as meeting with investors, negotiating contracts, interviewing and hiring staff, and establishing an office. A B-1 visa typically allows for a maximum stay of one year — six months under the initial application and a six-month extension. It’s usually best to spend less than half the time in the U.S. on B status to ease future entries.

Founders who are citizens of designated countries, including Chile, can qualify for the ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) visa waiver program, allowing them to travel to the U.S. for business for 90 days or less without first obtaining a visa. ESTA cannot typically be extended or changed once you are in the United States.

L-1A visa for intracompany transferee managers and executives

Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.

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Elon Musk says Tesla Semi is ready for production, but limited by battery cell output



Tesla CEO Elon Musk said on the company’s 2020 Q4 earnings call that all engineering work is now complete on the Tesla Semi, the freight-hauling semi truck that the company is building with an all-electric powertrain. The company expects to begin deliveries of Tesla Semi this year, the company said in its Q4 earnings release, and Musk said the only thing limiting their ability to produce them now is the availability of battery cells.

“The main reason we have not accelerated new products – like for example Tesla Semi – is that we simply don’t have enough cells for it,” Musk said. “If we were to make the Semi right now, and we could easily go into production with the Semi right now, but we would not have enough cells for it.”

Musk added that the company does expect to have sufficient cell volume to meet its needs once it goes into production on its 4680 battery pack, which is a new custom cell design it created with a so-called ‘tables’ design that allows for greater energy density and therefore range.

“A Semi would use typically five times the number of cells that a car would use, but it would not sell for five times what a car would sell for, so it kind of would not make sense for us to do the Semi right now,” Musk said. “But it will absolutely make sense for us to do it as soon as we can address the cell production constraint.”

That constraint points to the same conclusion for the possibility of Tesla developing a van, Musk added, and the lifting of the constraint will likewise make it possible for Tesla to pursue the development of that category of vehicle, he said.

Tesla has big plans for “exponentially” ramping cell production, with a goal of having production capacity infrastructure in place for a Toal of 200 gigawatt hours per year by 2022, and a target of being able to actually produce around 40% of that by that year (with future process improvements generating additional gigawatt hours of cell capacity  in gradual improvements thereafter).

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Pro-Trump Twitter figure arrested for spreading vote-by-text disinformation in 2016



The man behind a once-influential pro-Trump account is facing charges of election interference for allegedly disseminating voting disinformation on Twitter in 2016.

Federal prosecutors allege that Douglass Mackey, who used the name “Ricky Vaughn” on Twitter, encouraged people to cast their ballot via text or on social media, effectively tricking others into throwing away those votes.

According to the Justice Department, 4,900 unique phone numbers texted a phone number Mackey promoted in order to “vote by text.” BuzzFeed reported the vote-by-text scam at the time, noting that many of the images were photoshopped to look like official graphics from Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Some of those images appeared to specifically target Black and Spanish-speaking Clinton supporters, a motive that tracks with the account’s track record of white supremacist and anti-Semitic content. The account was suspended in November 2016.

At the time, the mysterious account quickly gained traction in the political disinformation ecosystem. HuffPost revealed that the account was run by Mackey, the son of a lobbyist, two years later.

“… His talent for blending far-right propaganda with conservative messages on Twitter made him a key disseminator of extremist views to Republican voters and a central figure in the alt-right’ white supremacist movement that attached itself to Trump’s coattails,” HuffPost’s Luke O’Brien reported.

Mackey, a West Palm Beach resident, was taken into custody Wednesday in Florida.

“There is no place in public discourse for lies and misinformation to defraud citizens of their right to vote,” Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Seth D. DuCharme said.

“With Mackey’s arrest, we serve notice that those who would subvert the democratic process in this manner cannot rely on the cloak of Internet anonymity to evade responsibility for their crimes.”

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Tesla is willing to license Autopilot and has already had “preliminary discussions” about it with other automakers



Tesla is open to licensing its software, including its Autopilot highly-automated driving technology, and the neural network training it has built to improve its autonomous driving technology. Tesla CEO Elon Musk revealed those considerations on the company’s Q4 earnings call on Wednesday, adding that the company has in fact already “had some preliminary discussions about licensing Autopilot to other OEMs.”

The company began rolling out its beta version of the so-called ‘full self-driving’ or FSD version of Autopilot late last year. The standard Autopilot features available in general release provide advanced driver assistance (ADAS) which provide essentially advanced cruise control capabilities designed primarily for use in highway commutes. Musk said on the call that he expects the company will seek to prove out its FSD capabilities before entering into any licensing agreements, if it does end up pursuing that path.

Musk noted that Tesla’s “philosophy is definitely not to create walled gardens” overall, and pointed out that the company is planning to allow other automakers to use its Supercharger networks, as well as its autonomy software. He characterized Tesla as “more than happy to license” those autonomous technologies to “other car companies,” in fact.

One key technical hurdle required to get to a point where Tesla’s technology is able to demonstrate true reliability far surpassing that of a standard human driver is transition the neural networks operating in the cars and providing them with the analysis that powers their perception engines is to transition those to video. That’s a full-stack transition across the system away from basing it around neural nets trained on single cameras and single frames.

To this end, the company has developed video labelling software that has had “a huge effect on the efficiency of labeling,” with the ultimate aim being enabling automatic labeling. Musk (who isn’t known for modesty around his company’s achievements, it should be said) noted that Tesla believes “it may be the best neural net training computer in the world by possibly an order of magnitude,” adding that it’s also “something we can offer potentially as a service.”

Training huge quantities of video data will help Tesla push the reliability of its software from 100% that of a human driver, to 200% and eventually to “2,000% better than the average human,” Musk said, while again suggesting that it won’t be a technological achievement the company is interested into keeping to themselves.

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