The nation’s immigration policy challenges are causing leaders across the country to devise increasingly creative methods to find the solutions they need. One such initiative was announced just weeks ago when the CEOs of some of the country’s largest technology companies banded together to press for a restructuring of the nation’s H1-B visa program. Now, a political leader leader, Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, is also proposing his own immigration stopgap measure.
In mid-April Governor Patrick announced his Global Entrepreneur in Residence (GER) Program. Under the program foreign born students who attended any of Massachusetts’ colleges or universities, will be able to apply to enroll in the GER program, which will be run by the Massachusetts Tech Collaborative. The collaborative, which is an independent state agency for the development of technology in Massachusetts, will help such students obtain employment at participating state and private colleges and universities, which will essentially sponsor them their as employer.
The program’s goal is to assist those who would otherwise have a very difficult time obtaining a visa to stay in the country after graduating with their college degree. In that respect, Governor Patrick’s proposal is likely to target the same individuals who were the subject of the push among technology leaders mentioned earlier. But this proposal goes further. Because the H1-B visa program is limited in the number of people who will be accepted every year, companies which have the best trained legal teams generally have a better chance of securing the high-tech talents that the need. But, those who would rather work as entrepreneurs or in a startup, both of which are being less likely to have the legal resources to reliably petition under the H1-B program, have thus far been at a disadvantage. The announced GER program in Massachusetts will help to level the playing field.
But, the Massachusetts GER program still faces a number of hurdles. One of the most significant challenges is whether or not the country’s immigration processing arm, the USCIS, agrees that part time employment fulfills the requirement that an applicant for an H1-B visa cap exception be affiliated with a college or university. Officials within the state of Massachusetts certainly seem to think so. For example, vice provost of research at UMass’s Lowell campus, Julie Chen, says that the graduates will help the university by spreading entrepreneurship expertise on campus.
Governor Patrick’s GER program could be a model for programs to be implemented by other states in the coming years, if it works. Regardless of its success, it will only be one step in the larger march toward true immigration reform. We at the Lyttle Law Firm continue to fight for our immigration clients in and around Austin, Texas. Give us a call today at 512-215-5225.