KC Currents
11:20 am
Mon August 20, 2012

Professors Propose Reforms For Foreign Student Entrepreneurs

What do companies like Yahoo, eBay, Intel and Google have in common? They were all founded in part by foreign investors.

But many U.S. immigration and education policies discourage or even prohibit foreign students from starting new businesses, according to a team of UMKC professors. The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation just published a paper by Tony Luppino, John Norton and Malika Simmons which outlines ways foreign students might be allowed to created businesses and new jobs in the U.S.

Their proposals include changes to university practices and immigration policies, like the HB-1 visa, which allows temporary employment of foreign workers. Susan spoke with Luppino and Norton. They explained that the project began when John Norton investigated creating a master’s degree for global entrepreneurs. Norton says this opened his eyes to just how difficult things are for foreign students looking to start businesses.  

Interview highlights

[On current policies for foreign student workers] “They could finish their studies and be hired by a company that would sponsor them and take a job,” says John Norton. “But they couldn’t start a company and create jobs. We found that kind of puzzling in one sense and unfortunate in another, because we think job creation is a pretty important matter.”

[On student F-1 visas]: “Generally, they’re issued for education with an intent of returning to your country,” says Tony Luppino. “And so it does take some change in the law to also respect the possibility that it might make sense for our economy to keep the students starting businesses here longer. Those are the kinds of issues we were starting to look at in the paper, and that’s what our reforms were bred out of.”

“We would like people to understand,” explains Luppino, “That when John and my colleague at the law school, Malika Simmons, and myself got together to do this, one of the major themes was to develop more jobs in the United States for anybody here legally so that these ventures can serve as the engine for jobs for US citizens, permanent legal residents and other foreign visitors who are here on valid visas. It’s really, we think, a potential boost to the economy that just makes sense.”

“One of the great strengths we have here is a phenomenal post-secondary education system in this country. All over this country. We have a lot of great universities. We train a lot of people. […] We teach them how to do things. We instill in them the entrepreneurial mindset, if they don’t already have it. And they want to act on that knowledge and that mindset. And we say to them, ‘No, we’d rather you didn’t. We’d rather you went somewhere else and grew their economy. I think that’s short sighted.”

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