The United States Association of Small Business and Entrepreneurship (USASBE) recently awarded the University of Missouri-Kansas City the “Best Workshop” award at the 2013 national conference in January.
The workshop, titled “Reforming Immigration Law to Allow More Foreign Student Entrepreneurs to Launch Job-Creating Ventures in the United States,” was presented by Tony Luppino and Malika Simmons, professor of law and visiting assistant professor of law (respectively) at the UMKC School of Law, and John Norton, managing director of UMKC’s Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Henry W. Bloch School of Management.
The workshop grew out of a research paper coauthored by Luppino, Norton and Simmons that was published as a Kauffman Paper by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The research sets forth the argument that “improved immigration laws would help foreign student entrepreneurs launch U.S. companies, create U.S. jobs.”
In developing curriculum for a Master of Science in Global Entrepreneurship, a degree program slated for launch at the Bloch School in 2014, Norton discovered legal issues that make it difficult or impossible for foreign students to launch and run businesses in the U.S.
“My vision of the program was to pair foreign and American students together, who would create enterprises that would be positioned to take advantage of markets and resources in multiple countries,” Norton said. “I also thought that most of those enterprises would be headquartered in the U.S.”
“Most foreign students come here to study under an F-1 visa, and are generally not permitted to work without being granted authority. Self-employment is considered employment and not permitted,” Luppino explained. “After graduating, a foreign student may opt to obtain an H-1B visa (a temporary worker visa). This is not really a solution, due to the limited number available and because it’s intended for highly qualified employees, not business owners.”
Norton said that the net effect of current immigration law is that foreign entrepreneurs face such hurdles that they give up or return home to launch their ventures. “We spend taxpayer money and resources to educate these students and prepare them to be competitive, then ask them to leave,” Norton said. “And then we may end up competing with them.”
In the workshop, Norton, Luppino and Simmons explained to entrepreneurship faculty from across the country pitfalls of the current law, describe some proposed solutions under consideration and suggested additional regulatory and legislative changes.
According to USASBE, workshops are selected for consideration on the basis of the proposals and are evaluated by three judges, typically professors at other universities.
One of the judges noted, “The workshop was very informative and really brought to light a topic that is a potential issue for most universities, but I assume most universities are unaware of. I applaud the panel for their dedication in trying to actually get the current regulations changed to allow international students to start their own businesses here in the U.S.”
“It is only recently that people have begun thinking about a university as a place to go to start a business. The Bloch School is one of the schools at the forefront of such thought, and that came about because of the vision of civic and academic leaders here in Kansas City and at UMKC,” Norton said.
“We teach people to create, deliver and capture value, and we need to support them or they won’t be able to do what we have taught them. That means collaborating with legislators and their advisors, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and others around the country to engage people in discussion and drive awareness of the need for legislation that enables foreign student entrepreneurs to create jobs in this community and this country.”