There is a big problem in the United States that needs to be addressed. Highly skilled immigrants are coming to the U.S. for various types of training, but are then leaving the country to work in other locations throughout the world. However, there is at least one state doing something about it.
Recently, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has announced the Global Entrepreneur in Residence (GER) program. Here's how the program breaks down: when a foreign student, who attended college/university in Massachusetts, and is interested in staying in the state as an entrepreneur, he or she can apply for enrollment in the GER program. The program will be administered by the Massachusetts Tech Collaborative, an independent state agency focused on “developing technology in Massachusetts.”
Once the immigrant is admitted to the program, Mass Tech will place the individual at one of any public or private universities within the state. Here, the individual will work part-time and also apply for a visa that will subsequently be sponsored by the immigrant's new employer. The program will serve as just another way for the state to “accelerate [its] job and wealth creation,” Patrick said.
Greg Bialecki, the state's Secretary of Housing and Economic Development has come out as a supporter of the new program. In a statement, Bialecki was quoted as saying, “the drive behind this idea was international students who've come to Massachusetts; they've spent their school years here and want to stay here."
Although the plan seems fairly simple, it confronts a major economical issue: how do we keep “foreign-born, U.S.-educated entrepreneurs to stay in the country?” This is not an easy task under current immigration law. At this point, foreign-born students are able to attend U.S. colleges and universities with a student visa. However, problems arise when the student graduates and has only a limited time to find an employer who will sponsor a work visa for them. You can read more about work visas here.
The H-1B visa is for immigrant workers who are considered to be “highly skilled.” Unfortunately, those interested in creating a startup company usually have a tougher time than others. One reason this is true is because visa applications require applicants to make a distinction as to whether the immigrant is the employer or employee. When the organization is a start-up, one individual will often fill both roles.
Another issue associated with H-1B visas is the fact that a sponsoring employer must be able to show that he or she is paying the immigrant-employee the industry's prevailing wage. In the case of a startup, many employers/employees are not able to pay themselves that rate. Yet another issue is how quickly applications are submitted for H-1B visas and how fast the cap is met.
The GER program is looking at these issues and hopes to come up with some answers. To begin with, it is “aimed at making the visa process easier for entrepreneurs by getting around the H-1B cap through a loophole in the system.” Under current law, institutions of higher learning are exempt from the H-1B visa cap. The program would therefore give those in the GER program a better chance of obtaining a visa.
What do you think of Massachusetts' new GER program? Should this be something Arizona should look into?