NYC Attracting Foreign National Entrepreneurs with Groundbreaking New H1B Program

The United States has long benefited from foreign national entrepreneurs who start businesses in this country that create jobs for U.S. workers, not to mention tax revenues for the government. But, obtaining work authorization as an entrepreneur in the U.S. can be quite a challenge. A new program developed by the New York City Economic Development Corporation is designed to address this gap in U.S. immigration law by hiring entrepreneurs in H1B positions to work with college students and professors, while allowing them to develop their respective startups. The program, called IN2NYC, is the first of its kind in the nation.

IN2NYC has partnered with the City University of New York to employ 80 entrepreneurs in part-time H1B positions at seven college campuses across New York City. These positions will be exempt from the standard H1B cap, because the employer will be a nonprofit institution of higher education. The H1B workers will have to base their startups in a partnering school’s incubator and each entrepreneur must “commit to support the mission of the partner school by contributing to academic research, developing curricula, providing students with internship and employment opportunities, or serving as mentors.” In exchange, the foreign national entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to grow their respective businesses. Within three years, the program is expected to create jobs for more than 700 New Yorkers. [See Borough Colleges to Play Role in IN2NYC Program for International Entrepreneurs, by Forum staff, The Forum Newsgroup, 26.Feb.2016.)

Maria Torres-Springer, president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, told the New York Times that the program was developed in the spirit of the city’s history of being a welcoming place for immigrants. Immigrant workers, she says, account for “… innovation hubs really beginning to blossom all over the city. The program builds on the momentum, in a way where immigrant workers who want to relocate in the city now have a pathway to do that, as opposed to navigating what is currently a complex system.” Torres-Springer and other proponents of the program are hopeful that even just one of the entrepreneurs could be the next Elon Musk, the renowned immigrant from South Africa who founded SpaceX, or Sergey Brin, a Russian immigrant who co-founded Google. A successful new tech company based in New York City potentially could employ hundreds of workers and generate millions of dollars in tax revenue, as well as precipitate a reexamination of what many consider t a draconian and outdated H1B visa cap policy. [See CUNY Schools to Lure Foreign Entrepreneurs with New Visa Program, by Liz Robbins, New York Times, 17.Feb.2016.]

The United States stands to benefit greatly by encouraging more foreign nationals to invest time and treasure to develop U.S.-based startups. U.S. immigration law, however, does not always make it easy for such entrepreneurial ventures to get off the ground. In addition to highlighting the need for the federal government to create a true startup visa, the hope is that this innovative program succeeds and serves as a model for other cities and states to follow.


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