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David Ware: USCIS' Entrepreneur Portal Just 'Window Dressing'

December 02, 2012 (2 min read)

David A.M. Ware writes: "I must take issue with Cyrus Mehta’s quote that the new USCIS portal, Entrepreneur Pathways, is “quite good”.  While the site does neatly summarize the nonimmigrant and immigrant options open to a limited class of well financed business persons, it provides no new routes or interesting ideas for most of the promising young minds the US should be striving mightily to keep.

I deal extensively with recent graduates of top U.S. universities, probably the most fertile source of entrepreneurial talent in the world, to whom the site offers little succor.  With regard to H’s, Pathways reiterates CIS’ point of view, derived from the Neufeld Memo of 2010, that entrepreneurs seeking H visas must do so in the context of a company or other separate legal entity that has the power to discipline and fire them.  Presumably CIS has in mind here an entity in which the entrepreneur holds a minority stake, and bylaws give an independent board the right to buy him or her out and terminate their relationship.  What entrepreneur in his or her right mind is going to invest blood, sweat and tears, not to mention money, in an entity holding this power?  The other possibilities mentioned on the site simply do not help the recent college graduate, with a brilliant idea but a shoestring budget.  O is out, since most have not had time to develop sufficient acclaim to qualify.  Most have no legal entity abroad which would qualify them for an L, and even if they did, the “culture of no” would likely squash their visa status at the first extension request.  Finally, I should mention that we have no treaty of friendship, commerce and navigation, nor any sort of multilateral trade agreement, which would permit E status for citizens of any of the BRIC countries, nor many other important sources of entrepreneurial spirit, creating an additional barrier to fertile minds and prodigious talent.

In short, the whole “entrepreneur” schtick seems to be “job creation” window dressing on the part of this Administration.  In the last few weeks, I have spoken at Yale and Vanderbilt,  as well as many other top flight schools from Alaska to Florida, all bubbling with entrepreneurial ideas and grit.  Unfortunately, I had to share the dispiriting (and frankly unbelievable) news that despite the furious rearranging of deck chairs at USCIS on entrepreneurial issues, the US is still an unwelcoming home for innovation and new business ideas from the top international students and researchers at our top universities.  Indeed, I was forced to encourage them to explore Canada’s much more rational points system and investor program.  This is a crying shame.  The President, Secretary Napolitano, and of course, Congress, need to do much more to stem this incredible loss of talent and drive.  Just creating a website ain’t gonna cut it."