The top immigration official of the Obama administration says that he and his agency are working to try and attract and retain more high-tech entrepreneurs from overseas who are looking to start firms in the United States, in a move that he hopes will allow the country to keep its edge in what is an increasingly competitive worldwide economy.
The US Citizenship and Immigration Services “has not been especially nimble” in the past in adopting fast changes in the business landscape, admits its director, Alejandro Mayorkas, despite reacting quickly when it comes to the humanitarian landscape.
Mayorkas says that this is now changing, with new training being added for adjudicators whose job it is to evaluate business visa applications, particularly those for H-1B visas – which are temporary employment US visas used for specialty occupations. These are sponsored by start-up companies that have a profile that does not fit with that of traditional firms.
“Three years ago if we’d received a petition for a H-1B visa from an individual working in a cubicle who might have received funding from a respectable venture capital firm, adjudicators might have rejected that application,” Mayorkas admitted to investors and students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management on Wednesday. “One of the goals of the immigration system: family unity, humanitarian relief and economic prosperity. And it is the context of economic prosperity that we really are speaking today… There is no substitute for the need for legislative reforms.