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Changes in Immigration Policy Should Include Provisions for Foreign-Born Entrepreneurs

Although politicians are eager to institute reforms in immigration policy that will generate good will in the form of votes from immigrant communities, some policy changes should also be aimed at stimulating the economy. As an immigration attorney in Texas, I am often asked by local students on limited visas why the U.S. government places what seem to be significant limitations for them to establish new companies in the United States. These new companies are the backbone of innovation in a variety of industries and would create a large number of new jobs.

A recent article by two MIT professors, Bill Aulet and Matt Marx address this issue. As teachers at the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, they encounter dozens of students each year from foreign countries. Many of these students are eager to found new companies in the U.S. that would expand or innovate existing technologies and positively impact American industries, but the present immigration policy does not allow them to engage in entrepreneurial activity.

For students on a student visa, the only options after graduation are to go abroad and find opportunities to establish companies in more welcoming countries like Canada, Singapore or Australia, or to remain in the United States on a H-1B visa which allows them to become an employee at an existing company.

This perceived, unwelcoming attitude from the federal government is based on the government’s clamping down on all avenues of ingress into the country. This is, of course, a response to the horrifying attacks on the World Trade Center and there are legitimate security concerns in limiting wholesale immigration into the country. Unfortunately, this has led to many potential immigrants feeling like they are being interrogated for past or potential crimes through the immigration process.

There are some consequences to the economy that cannot be ignored. Global competition for talented professionals with the resources to create successful companies is intense and America’s restrictive immigration policies are driving these highly desirable entrepreneurs to other countries. This is stifling economic growth at a time when job creation is sorely needed. Almost 25 percent of the highest growth U.S. companies were initially begun by an immigrant.

The federal government and President Obama have recognized the need to retain and attract foreign-born entrepreneurs. Recently, the Entrepreneur Pathways program was announced by Alejandro Mayorkas, Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. This program provides visa options and the necessary procedures to obtain them to prospective entrepreneurs. The White House is also asking immigration experts to collaborate with Congressional and business leaders to develop immigration proposals that would improve processes for foreign-born entrepreneurial activity.

As an experienced immigration attorney, I am excited to see the United States government take positive steps towards welcoming the best and brightest from other countries. With the recent elections suggesting that immigrant communities will continue to play important roles in American society, it is not a surprise that economic considerations should also provide stimulus for immigration reform.

If you or someone you know would like to discuss how to establish a business in America, I would be happy to provide the legal advice and services necessary to facilitate that and achieve your immigration goals. To set up a private consultation, please call my office at (512) 215-5225.

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