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Strengthening Immigrant Pathways for Job-Creating Entrepreneurs

Felicia Escobar, Senior Policy Advisor in the White House Domestic Policy Council and Doug Rand, Senior Policy Advisor in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy discuss the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) launch of the Entrepreneurs in Residence (EIR) initiative.

Our nation has always attracted individuals with great drive and entrepreneurial spirit.  To continue being a great global leader, we must continue to attract and retain the next generation of immigrant entrepreneurs who will start new businesses and create new jobs here in America.  Taking action on this front, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) kicked off its Entrepreneurs in Residence (EIR) initiative last week with a stakeholder summit in Silicon Valley.  The host location was fitting, as NASA Ames Research Center Director Simon Worden pointed out, since NASA programs have historically benefited from breakthroughs by foreign-born scientists and engineers.

Vivek Wadhwa, the academic, researcher, writer, and entrepreneur, (far right) speaks on the “How Immigration Helps America Attract Entrepreneurial Talent Today” panel at the USCIS Entrepreneurs in Residence summit in Silicon Valley. He was joined by Ping Fu, President & CEO, Geomagic, Michael Moritz, Partner, Sequoia Capital, and Shervin Pishevar, Managing Director, Menlo Ventures (from left to right).(Photo Courtesy of USCIS)

The stakeholder summit began with a special naturalization ceremony for over 20 people hailing from 13 countries who took the oath of citizenship.  In addition, five extraordinarily successful entrepreneurs and investors received the Outstanding American by Choice recognition, and shared their own personal stories of coming to America: Christopher Che, President and CEO of the Che International Group; Ping Fu, President and CEO of Geomagic; Michael Moritz, Partner at Sequoia Capital; Shervin Pishevar, Managing Director of Menlo Ventures; and Vivek Wadhwa, the academic, researcher, writer, and entrepreneur.

USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas presents an Outstanding American by Choice recognition to Christopher Che, President & CEO of Che International Group, LLC. (Photo courtesy of USCIS)

In his Washington Post column, Mr. Wadhwa shared what this special recognition meant to him:

“When I received the call from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director, Alejandro Mayorkas, I had tears in my eyes. He told me that the government appreciated all of my efforts to make the country more competitive and that my criticisms of his department had motived his team to work harder to improve the system. This is the greatness of America and why this country leads the world: Disagreement and debate are cherished. Challenging the norms, thinking outside the box, and questioning those in power is encouraged and celebrated.”

Thinking outside the box is exactly what the new EIR initiative is all about.  Over a period of 90 days, a tactical team made up of both USCIS staff and startup experts will identify ways to enhance existing policies, practices, and training across a range of existing visa categories used by entrepreneurs.  The goal is to ensure that immigration pathways are clear and consistent, and reflect the business realities of entrepreneurs interested in coming to the U.S. to create jobs.

Last week’s stakeholder summit was an excellent start, bringing together a diverse group of 150 entrepreneurs, attorneys, and other thought leaders from across the country, all providing their expertise on the best ways to optimize existing visa categories used by entrepreneurs seeking to launch their companies in the U.S.

President Obama supports legislation to create a visa designed specifically for startup founders, as part of his vision for a 21st century immigration system.  But we don’t have to wait for Congress to improve our immigration system and boost job growth.  As part of the White House Startup America initiative, the Administration has taken action to keep more talented science and math graduates in the country longer, make it easier to start a company in the U.S., and attract highly skilled immigrants, all under existing authority.

As they take up their 90-day mission, we look forward to the EIR team delivering concrete results for immigrant entrepreneurs and the U.S. economy.

Felicia Escobar is a Senior Policy Advisor in the White House Domestic Policy Council and Doug Rand is a Senior Policy Advisor in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy