President Obama Outlines Immigration Reform Proposals for Business Growth

A number of measures to help startups and support entrepreneurs have either been introduced in Congress or on their way. But if lawmakers don’t act on them by early Spring, their sponsors are doubtful they’ll come to pass this year.

Yesterday, President Obama sent Congress a new Startup America Legislative Agenda to accelerate startup and small business growth following his State of the Union Address last week. The agenda lays out his legislative vision as well as his intent to proceed with a series of administrative reforms that would be completed in the future.

Among these are several key immigration initiatives to be implemented at some future point by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State. These include:
A proposed rule enabling spouses of certain H-1B employees (those who have extended their H status beyond six years under the American Competitiveness in the Twenty First Century Act) to obtain work authorization;
Expansion of eligibility for the 17-month extension of optional practical training (OPT) for F-1 students to include students having a prior degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM), rather than only those whose most recent degree is in a STEM field;
Allowance of outstanding professors and researchers to present a broader scope of evidence of academic achievement;
Harmonization of rules to allow E-3 visa holders from Australia and H-1B1 visa holders from Singapore and Chile to continue working with their current employer for up to 240 days while their petitions for extension of status are pending;
Launch of the USCIS “Entrepreneurs in Residence” initiative, whose goal is to maximize the potential of attracting foreign entrepreneurial talent;
Allowance for additional part-time study for spouses of F-1 students; and
Extension of L-1 validity to match the reciprocity schedules, rather than the initial validity period of the petition approved by USCIS.

The Administration also endorses eliminating per-country limits on employment-based immigrant visas. A bill that would accomplish this passed the House of Representatives at the end of 2011. A companion bill is under consideration in the Senate now.

Congress needs to “capitalize on the good will and bipartisan atmosphere that surrounds this issue of startups and act now to pass a legislation that will make us all proud to be Americans!!!!