Obama Immigration Address Reflects Efforts by Startup Visa Proponents

on Tuesday, Jan. 29th

President Obama’s address today focused on broad immigration reform, but his platform on legal immigration was shaped by Silicon Valley notables who’ve focused on the status of foreign-born tech workers and entrepreneurs.

A group of high power investors here has been pushing for an increase in the number of visas given to foreign entrepreneurs who can raised $100k from American investors. The “Startup Visa” legislation would also increase the number of H-1b visas (mostly leveraged to hire immigrant engineers and computer scientists) awarded to immigrant entreprenuers and foreign-born graduates of American universities who can raised $20k for their ventures from Americans. That bill’s been languishing in Congressional committees.

Shervin Pishevar of Menlo Ventures told me that given all the jobs created by foreign entrepreneurs, the Startup Visa group is eager for an immigration overhaul that it expects will be an engine for business growth. “We have all these students from abroad who are getting their PhDs or masters,” he said, “and instead of educating them and having them go back to China or some other country,  let’s staple a visa to their diploma and have them stay and build value here and create jobs here.”

Pishevar’s testified before Congress on this issue, and apparently the White House has been listening, since this section of its immigration fact sheet sounds awfully similar to his comments:

The proposal encourages foreign graduate students educated in the United States to stay here and contribute to our economy by “stapling” a green card to the diplomas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) PhD and Master’s Degree graduates from qualified U.S. universities who have found employment in the United States.  It also requires employers to pay a fee that will support education and training to grow the next generation of American workers in STEM careers.

Meanwhile, the Canadian government has announced that come April 1, it will give permanent residency to immigrant entreprenuers with Canadian financial backing.

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