The StartupVisa, Green card acceleration and Congress… aaarggh!

Christian and I recently submitted this post to the editors at Omaha World-Herald and the Des Moines Register in support of various bills pending in congress.  I am a strong believer in immigration reform that accelerates the entry of highly skilled, technical resources to our shores and is imperative to our growth.

These initiatives have been reported on recently by Silicon Prairie News, discussed in a fair amount of detail on a recent Prairiecast and are supported, tracked and documented by the StartupVisa website.

America’s technology industry is hungry for talent to feed our entrepreneurial spirit to drive our leadership.  Our universities remain a target for students worldwide to receive higher education.  Our companies continue to need qualified engineers and developers.  Yet, we graduate thousands of developers and give them no path to employment here in the United States.  We choose to pave a way for them to go back to their native countries when we should be stapling a green card to the very valuable diplomas we hand over.  We also have several hundred-thousand skilled technology workers who arrived here on a myriad of temporary visas but are beholden to their sponsoring employers, unable to create companies – the true engines of growth – due largely to bureaucracies and delays in immigration policy.

Congress has solutions on the docket but lacks the wherewithal to act.  A bill that passed the house by a vote of 389-15 (H.R. 3012) languishes in Senate as it awaits Iowa Senator Grassley’s approval before moving to the Senate floor for a vote.  If approved, it stands to accelerate approvals of green card applications to over 500,000 H1b visa holders.  These green cards will enable many individuals to create more high-tech companies that hire an exponentially large number of people.  These startups create intellectual property so eagerly sought worldwide.  It will incentivize many to stay in the US and productively contribute further to our economy rather than returning to their home countries where they can be equally accretive to job creation.

We continue to graduate students from our institutions of higher education with valuable bachelors, masters and doctorate degrees yet provide the same graduates with little to no ability to work in the country.  These highly trained, motivated individuals consequently return to their home countries or countries like Canada with more relaxed immigration policy.  We should incent these graduates with accelerated ability to stay in the US and create companies.  Companies like Microsoft, Facebook and Google weren’t created by seasoned businessmen – they were created by skilled and hungry college students with an ability to execute on their dreams.  We need thousands more such students unleashing the power of our economy.

Talented individuals still eye America’s global dominance in technology.  Many would love an opportunity to create businesses in this country and hire Americans, buy and build real estate, invest in communities and become accelerators in our communities.  The StartupVisa (H.R. 1114 and S 565) propose to deliver on this promise and needs Congressional support.  The really good news is that this enables foreign students and workers who are already in the U.S. to qualify for a visa. The requirements for them are very reasonable—they must show that they have enough in savings not to be a burden to American taxpayers, and get a qualified investor or a government entity such as the Small Business Administration to validate their ideas by making a modest investment.

Yes, there is a risk for holders of this visa that, if their venture fails or doesn’t go anywhere, they must start again or leave the U.S. Precisely!  The Startup Visa is for risk takers who are willing to build companies that rival the largest, most successful ventures and hire the brightest talent to develop products sold globally.

These initiatives in Congress are supported by many senior representatives and senators.  Several in the technology industry, venture capital, education and government support these initiatives.  We need support in Congress and the constituencies to recognize and deliver on these initiatives to maintain and grow our economic and technical leadership.