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Are US immigration laws pushing new entrepreneurs out?

With a long list of amazing universities in Pennsylvania, there are an increasing number of foreign-born students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics coming to the state each year. As these young scientists graduate from doctoral programs, many with inventions and skills that could easily create jobs in Pennsylvania, they face an uncertain future in the United States. Why? because American immigration law does not have an easy path to permanent residency or citizenship for young, independent entrepreneurs.

While many college graduates who are looking to remain in the country are able to do so under employment-based immigration visas, such as an H1-B, someone who is petitioning to remain in the U.S. in a company that he or she founded are less likely to succeed. Immigration officials are much more likely to approve the visa of someone who is working in an already established company or firm.

There are other options, however, but they are incredibly difficult to get. The EB-1 visa is for those individuals with "extraordinary ability." This may very well describe some of the graduates of The Pennsylvania State University or the University of Pennsylvania, but proving that excellence may be difficult. Generally, immigration officials are looking for those people who have been internationally recognized for their work and have won a major prize, like an Oscar. If an immigrant can't demonstrate such an award, he or she must show that his or her work has been published in some of the top scientific journals or that his or her work has made an extraordinary contribution to the field.

Even if a graduate could prove this, only 2 percent of the employment-based immigration visas are EB-1 visas.

Under the current immigration laws, making a place for brilliant entrepreneurs may be difficult, and it is one reason why it is so important to work closely with an immigration attorney following graduation from a doctoral program.

Source: The Washington Post, "Other countries court skilled immigrants frustrated by U.S. visa laws," Kevin Sullivan, Feb. 18, 2013

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