On the website of Cruisewise.com, its founder Amit Aharoni is described as “powered by Red Bull & enthusiasm, nothing can stop him.”
But he hadn’t reckoned with US Immigration.
Despite creating jobs and attracting venture capital for his start up firm, an innovative online cruise booking company, he was denied a visa. He was told that his job as CEO did not require someone with his high-level degree, even though he created the company, and he had to immediately leave.
But straight after ABC News aired his story, he received an email from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (UCSIS) saying they had changed their mind.
Aharoni spent 10 years in the Israeli Defense Forces’ elite software units and recieved an MBA from Stanford University. His company has created nine new jobs in the United States within a year after being featured on Techcrunch and receiving £1.65m in start-up capital.
But on October 4, he was notified that he had to leave the US, so Aharoni moved to Canada, where he continued to run his company via Skype from a friend’s living room.
According to American Immigration Lawyers Association, immigration laws do need reform to better help entrepeneurs but “USCIS has spent the last few years re-interpreting the current laws to block the ability of job creators to develop those jobs in America.”
“Those of us in the trenches, filing cases on behalf of immigrant entrepreneurs like Aharoni, know that his story is not a fluke nor an exception, but is rather typical of a clear anti-business—and particularly anti-small business—trend in USCIS decision-making.”
“Agency adjudicators do not understand, perhaps do not even care, that immigrant entrepreneurs like Aharoni create jobs for Americans. And it is the continued investment and hard work of such immigrants that will get America out of the economic doldrums and sharpen its competitive edge in the global economy. But a radical and –given the economy—swift shift is necessary in order for adjudicators to view their decision-making tasks as efforts that directly impact our economic health.
“How many entrepreneurs have left the U.S. and not returned, taking American jobs with them to places like Bangalore, Shanghai, and Vancouver?”
San Diego immigration lawyer Jacob Sapochnick says:
“We have been reporting on the increase in unjust H1B [visa] denials for weeks. In many cases applicants and their lawyers are left with the option to appeal or refile. But when the media gets involved, USCIS are forced to change course.”
“Experts say America’s immigration policy is putting it at a competitive disadvantage. There are other countries that are eager to have entrepreneurs, enticing them with special visas and funding. According to Partnership for a New American Economy, an organization that advocates “the economic benefits of sensible immigration reform,” countries including the United Kingdom, Singapore and Chile have visas for entrepreneurs. Chile even has a program that offers $40,000 in seed funding.”
“It is a problem politicians in America acknowledge, but have not solved.”
“According to statistics from Partnership for a New American Economy, 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children.”
“If we fail to give such gifted immigrants the foundation to innovate, we will be the the first ones to loose.”
Photo from Morning Calm News via flickr