A team of law and entrepreneurship experts from the University of Missouri-Kansas City is proposing changes in U.S. immigration policy that would allow foreign students to stay in this country if they launch profitable businesses.
By DIANE STAFFORD
The Kansas City Star
In a paper published this week by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the UMKC group suggests at least four immigration law reforms that would correct the problem of expiring student visas that force budding entrepreneurs to leave.
Allowing them to stay and start their businesses would ultimately result in jobs to bolster the U.S. economy, the paper says.
“We know that student entrepreneurial activity is a rapidly growing area and that immigrant entrepreneurs account for a disproportionate share of job creation,” said Dane Stangler, Kauffman director of research and policy.
“We could likely give a huge boost to entrepreneurship, and thus the economy, by allowing international student innovators studying in all disciplines at all levels of higher education to launch and grow their companies in the United States.”
U.S. universities are giving international students the knowledge that can be translated into commercial ventures, said Anthony Luppino, a UMKC School of Law professor and paper co-author. But immigration restrictions prevent many of them from doing that.
“We’ve found this problem on our campus, and we understand that others have it across the country, so we’d like to do something about it,” Luppino said.
The UMKC team applied for and received a grant from the Kauffman Foundation to pursue its research and write its proposals.
Malika Simmons, also from the UMKC law school, and John Norton, from the UMKC Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, collaborated with Luppino on the paper.
One of their criticisms of current immigration regulations is that foreign students are allowed to work as employees or interns with companies in their field of study, but they’re usually not allowed the same work permission if they’re self-employed in their own business venture.
Similarly, it’s difficult to obtain H-1B visa work permission for self-employed entrepreneurs after graduation.
The suggested reforms would build on Startup Act 2.0, bills that have been introduced in the U.S. Senate and House. In the paper, the authors proposed these reforms:
• A Qualifying Startup Student Venture designation that would allow international students to be an employee or owner in a business that a university certifies has the potential to generate a profit and add at least two U.S. (citizen) employees within two years.
• Expansion of the existing 17-month Optional Practical Training extension that currently applies only to science, technology, engineering and math disciplines to include students with other kinds of entrepreneurship involvement.
• A streamlined H-1B visa process for owners or principals in a startup business.
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