Visa Laws Inhibit Foreign Entrepreneurs

Immigrants to the United States account for a large portion of startups nationwide and have proven to be an important part of our economy.  According to a study published by the Kauffman foundation, they have founded approximately one quarter of technology and engineering companies in America since 2006.  However, rather than embrace this source of innovation and entrepreneurship, current U.S. visa policies work against immigrants who want to start their own companies.

There is currently no visa set aside for foreign entrepreneurs intending to found their own company.  Instead, they must apply for either an H-1B visa, or one of the EB (employment based) visas.  However, the H-1B visa is not startup friendly.  In order to qualify, the applicant must prove that the company has control of their employment, including the ability to fire them.  In the case of company founders however, the H-1B applicant qualifies as both the employer and the employee, and therefore cannot fire him or herself, disqualifying them from receiving the visa.  Those hoping for EB visas face their own problems.  The primary issue is that there are not enough EB type visas available, and with over half a million skilled workers in waiting, it can take decades for sponsored workers to receive their green card.

This issue is relevant to the Champaign-Urbana community because of the high population of international students attending the University of Illinois.  Eventually, international students become some of the most innovative immigrants, with over half of the immigrant founders of American companies being graduates from American universities.  At the University of Illinois, we have over 8000 international students that are being hindered by current visa laws.  If the current policies are changed, Champaign will be in a good position to benefit from this source of innovation.


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