Last Wednesday, February 22, the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) hosted the first of several summits dedicated to generating ideas and strategies on how U.S. immigration law can better enable foreign innovators and entrepreneurs to come to the U.S. lawfully to start and grow businesses that will benefit the economy. These informational summits are part of the USCIS’s new initiative, termed Entrepreneurs in Residence, which is aimed toward creating an easier path for foreigners to contribute to small business growth in the U.S.

This initiative is in part a response to a long-standing complaint by many American-born entrepreneurs, tech executives, and venture capitalists that the U.S.’s visa rules in fact hinder the launch of business start-ups by aspiring entrepreneurs who happen to have been born outside the U.S. Many believe that the current laws effectively turn highly skilled immigrants away, sending them to China or India to start companies instead. Current regulations make the process of coming to the U.S. as an entrepreneur very difficult, often falsely identifying young tech companies with lots of potential as fraudulent and even prohibiting start-ups from sponsoring visas for their founders. Through this initiative, the USCIS hopes to define ways in which the visa process can be streamlined so that the system offers realistic opportunities for high-growth companies looking to launch in the U.S.

From these informational summits, the Entrepreneurs in Residence program plans to build a team of entrepreneurs and experts who will scope out the current start-up environment: including how they are born, what they look like, and how they function. From this, they will make key recommendations on how to develop more effective USCIS policies and practices surrounding immigrant investors, entrepreneurs, and workers with specialized skills, knowledge, or abilities. This has the potential to help the USCIS better understand what evidence might be realistic for entrepreneurs to prove eligibility for visa status and to provide the USCIS with new ideas to help encourage foreign-born entrepreneurs to come launch their businesses in the United States.


Schlenger, Kirsten. “USCIS Convenes Summit to Consider Streamlined Path for Immigrant Entrepreneurs.” Immigration Impact (American Immigration Council). 2/27/12. (2/27/12.)

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. “USCIS Hosts Entrepreneurs in Residence Information Summit.” 2/22/12. (2/27/12.)

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