Retaining Entrepreneurial Foreign Graduates

What Cities, States, and Universities Can Do

+ Brandon Fuller

Forbes recently published an oped that I wrote with Matthew La Corte of the Niskanen Center. We focus on the entrepreneur-in-residence programs that cities, states, and universities are using to retain entrepreneurial foreign graduates — allowing them to build their businesses and create jobs in the United States. An excerpt:

Each year, the United States’ institutions of higher learning draw students from around the world, eager to obtain the superior education offered by American universities and the entrepreneurial spirit that they foster. Among these students may very well be the minds that spearhead the creation of groundbreaking businesses and technologies that will change the way we experience the world.

But will Americans be able benefit from the fruits of these students’ creativity, drive, and education? Chances are that they will not, given current immigration policy that makes it very difficult for foreign graduates—even those with advanced degrees—to remain in America.

Take the story of Abhinav Sureka. Abhinav is an Indian student and entrepreneur with a master’s degree from Babson College in Massachusetts, and is currently in a limbo as he waits to see if he wins the H-1B lottery and be able to stay in the U.S. His company has raised so far $73,000. Given the success he has already demonstrated, Abhinav should be given the opportunity to further build his company in Massachusetts.

The United States should be instituting policies that facilitate retention of these high-value students, rather than forcing them to take their skills and talent elsewhere. Luckily there is a solution: schools, cities, and states can launch global entrepreneur-in-residence (EIR) programs, which offer students the ability to stay in the U.S. and continue to incubate their ideas here. This ensures that the innovations and business plans they develop in school stay close to campus and create jobs for locals and spur local economies.

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