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New York City H-1B Visa Program for Entrepreneurs

  • By: Immigration Attorney Osas Iyamu
  • Published: March 29, 2016

On February 18, 2016, The New York City Economic Development Corporation in partnership with City University of New York launched a Program called the International Innovators Initiative (IN2NYC) designed to help international entrepreneurs obtain H-1B visas in the United States to enable them remain in the country legally to grow their businesses.

The City University of New York-CUNY is an integrated system of colleges, graduate and professional schools, research centers, institutes etc which provides the city with graduates trained for positions in the sciences, technology, mathematics, teaching, nursing etc.

New York City Economic Development Corporation-NYCEDC is the City’s primary vehicle for promoting economic growth through expansion and redevelopment programs that encourages investments.

Eighty entrepreneurs are projected to obtain H-1B visas through this program with high prospects of job creation for New Yorkers.

The program is open to international entrepreneurs who have started businesses abroad and would like to relocate or expand to NYC, as well as international students graduating from U.S. universities who have founded their own businesses while on student visas. The International Innovators Initiative Program will partner Selected entrepreneurs with one of the seven participating colleges.

The participating colleges include:

  1. Baruch College.
  2. LaGuardia Community College.
  3. City College of New York.
  4. Medgar Evers College.
  5. Queens College.
  6. Lehman College and
  7. The College of Staten Island.

Eligible entrepreneurs will be required to build and establish their businesses in their participating colleges’ incubator and be willing to support the participating partner college by contributing towards academic research, providing students with internship and mentoring as well as employment opportunities.

The program is designed to retain international talent that has been educated locally in the United States as well as attract talented entrepreneurs from abroad Who will benefit Students and educators in the participating colleges. The program will also enable New York City to remain a magnet for the world talent and enhance the city’s ability to compete globally.

Supporters of the program have applauded the program, alleging it will:

  1. Encourage entrepreneurship.
  2. Build and strengthen New York City’s international partnerships.
  3. Directly benefits CUNY students by training them on how to launch their own businesses.
  4. Create jobs, mentorship for students in the participating partner’s Colleges.
  5. Provides vital pathways to success for many future New Yorkers.
  6. Offer Immigrants an opportunity to invest in the community.
  7. Keep U.S. trained talent within the U.S.

The current federal immigration system makes it difficult for many foreign-born entrepreneurs to start or grow businesses within the U.S. Many of these entrepreneurs are faced with the challenges of demonstrating eligibility for an H-1B visa which requires an employer employee relationship and provides a limited number of H-1B visas annually.
The new program IN2NYC will create ways to bypass some of the H-1B challenges by allowing international entrepreneurs to form an independent board of directors, which establishes an employer-employee relationship between the company and the entrepreneur so that the company can sponsor an H-1B petition on behalf of the entrepreneur.

Partnering with the participating Colleges will create an affiliation with educational institutions for H-1B visa purpose. These Colleges are H-1B Exempt and hence applicants will not be subject to the H-1B cap or lottery process. Applicants will be able to apply for a cap-exempt H-1B visa at any time.
The Program seeks to specifically identify foreign nationals who can provide direct contributions to the United States through their work on behalf of institutions of higher education.
The NYCEDU Will begin taking applications for the program beginning Spring 2016 and expect to have the first set of entrepreneurs in the fall of 2016. For more information, visit the program website.

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