A New Front Door for Immigrant Entrepreneurs

Felicia Escobar and Doug Rand
November 29, 2012
02:20 PM EST

Yesterday marked the launch of Entrepreneur Pathways, an online resource center that gives immigrant entrepreneurs an intuitive way to navigate opportunities to start and grow a business in the United States. This new resource was announced during a visit to MIT’s entrepreneurship center by Alejandro Mayorkas, Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the Federal agency responsible for administering visa programs.

Immigrant entrepreneurs have always made extraordinary contributions to our Nation’s economic growth and competitiveness, creating jobs and new businesses all across the country. Immigrants started 25 percent of the highest-growth companies in America, including iconic success stories like Intel, Google, Yahoo, and eBay, which together employ an estimated 220,000 people within the United States.

President Obama is committed to attracting the world’s best and brightest entrepreneurs to start the next great companies here in the United States, and Entrepreneur Pathways is an important and concrete next step to facilitating that. For example, imagine that an entrepreneur from another country participates in a startup mentorship program in the United States, raises a first round of funding from investors, and wants to stay here to grow the company and hire more people.  Entrepreneur Pathways explains, in plain English, which existing visa categories might be available to that entrepreneur under current law, and what evidence would be necessary to demonstrate eligibility.

This is the first public-facing deliverable produced by the USCIS Entrepreneurs in Residence (EIR) team, which has already done important work within the agency to ensure that entrepreneurs’ visa petitions receive a fair and informed adjudication. For example, the team developed and deployed a training workshop for USCIS immigration officers focusing on the business realities of early-stage companies, trained a team of specialized immigration officers to handle entrepreneur and startup cases, and ensured that the adjudication process incorporates new types of evidence relevant to startup enterprises.

As part of the White House Startup America initiative, the Entrepreneurs in Residence team brings together startup experts from the private sector with immigration experts from within USCIS, and hit the ground running earlier this spring. This model for government innovation has since grown into the new Presidential Innovation Fellows initiative, which brings together top innovators for focused “tours of duty” to deliver game-changing solutions for the American people.

President Obama supports Congressional action to create a “startup visa” designed specifically for immigrant entrepreneurs, as part of his vision for a 21st century immigration system.  In the meantime, the USCIS EIR team will continue its work to streamline existing visa pathways for immigrant entrepreneurs interested in coming to the United States to create jobs. 

To learn more, see this interview with Entrepreneur in Residence Luis Arbulu, an immigrant from Peru, who was a Google executive before founding a startup incubator:

Felicia Escobar is Senior Policy Director for Immigration at the Domestic Policy Council and Doug Rand is a Senior Policy Advisor at the Office of Science and Technology Policy.      

Article can be found here.