US Visa Limitations May Affect Startup Talent Acquisition

Foreign-born PhDs, engineers, and technicians are likely to face serious problems to obtain the required documentation to work within the country. Since startups hire many of the most talented individuals with these qualifications, they stand to lose to most thanks to the changed immigration laws surrounding the issuing of work permits. These results come from a study conducted jointly by the University of California, San Diego, and Cornell University. Out of a sample size of more than 2400 respondents, it was found that a large number of foreign PhDs showed interest in startups but that most of them preferred not to apply for startup jobs because of visa concerns.

A Problem with Cost and Guarantee

Without an angel investor behind them, many startups operate on a very tight budget, and the fees associated with applying for a US H-1B visa can run into the tens of thousands. A lawyer usually does this paperwork, and the time between filing and granting of the permit can take several months. There is no guarantee for the applying candidate that they will be awarded the visa either. Most professionals prefer to avoid this problem altogether and instead of working for a startup, hire on with an established company that can guarantee their usefulness and pays the fees for them to obtain a work visa.

Student Visas Don’t Translate

Within the STEM fields, especially, students that come from other nations to study in the US usually graduate and have to leave once their student visas expire. In many areas, the people at the very top of the field aren’t Americans. For startups, competing for workers alongside larger companies puts them at a distinct advantage. The study demonstrates how few foreign nationals would consider working for a startup even if they were interested in the field.

American immigration law has moved forward in some ways, but it has also taken several steps backward. In the current business environment, companies and universities need to have access to the cream of the crop when it comes to graduates within a field. The draconian visa stipulations for professionals legitimately seeking work hamstring academia and industry to choose the best the area has to offer, simply because of an administrative issue.