USCIS Launches Initiative to Attract Immigrant Entrepreneurs

By Julia at Legal Language
Posted on 10/24/2011
In Immigration, News

US Citizenship and Immigration Services recently announced the “Entrepreneurs in Residence” initiative, another step in attracting immigrant investors, entrepreneurs and skilled workers to the US.

The initiative consists of a series of informational meetings with industry leaders, especially from Silicon Valley, to inform USCIS about designing and implementing effective solutions to what many industry experts have criticized as a serious shortcoming of US immigration policies. USCIS will invite industry leaders to comment on strategies for improving the immigration program for foreign entrepreneurs and skilled workers. It will also enable USCIS to collaborate with industry leaders.

USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas said the initiative will create opportunities for USCIS to learn of areas critical to economic growth. “The introduction of expert views from the private and public sector will help us to ensure that our policies and processes fully realize the immigration law’s potential to create and promote American jobs,” Mayorkas said in a press release.

The Impact of Immigrant Entrepreneurs

The initiative follows USCIS’s August announcement that it will work to promote entrepreneurship and job creation. According to Mayorkas, innovative entrepreneurs and skilled workers “fuel our nation’s economy by creating jobs, and promoting new technologies and ideas,” as he put it on the USCIS blog.

Statistics seem to back up this assertion. According to a study published by the Kauffman Foundation, 25.3 percent of engineering and technology startups opened between 1995 and 2005 had a foreign-born founder. Companies founded by immigrants throughout the US produced $52 billion in sales and employed 450,000 workers in 2005.

Delays and Wait Times for Immigrants

Yet, many immigrants are unable to obtain immigrant visas to the US due to bureaucratic delays and numerical ceilings.

Entrepreneurs who wish to start a business in the US are often finishing up university programs and are forced to leave after their studies are completed. This has become a growing problem for major tech companies that wish to recruit skilled employees such as doctors, scientists, professors and engineers. Because there is an annual numerical ceiling for employment-based visas, wait times can get very long. A recent study by the National Foundation for American Policy found that Indian nationals could wait 70 years for an employment-based green card.

Other US Immigration Changes

It remains to be seen how the initiative will play out, since any major change in US immigration law must come from Congress. But USCIS has a little leeway to tweak existing immigration policy which could make a difference, such as by speeding up processing times for skilled workers.

In August, USCIS announced it would also enhance the EB-5 immigrant investor visa program. The program, capped at 10,000 annually is open to immigrant investors who promise to invest a certain amount in the US and to hire US employees. USCIS proposed to improve the program by opening communications up between applicants and the USCIS to speed up processing times.

Since August, USCIS has completed a review of the EB-5 application process after consulting with business analysts. USCIS has also launched new specialized training modules for US Citizenship and Immigration Services officers to learn about EB-2 visa classification and L-1B nonimmigrant intra-company transferees.

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