New York State Aims to Retain International Entrepreneurs with Innovative Visa Program

New York State Aims to Retain International Entrepreneurs with Innovative Visa Program

Governor Kathy Hochul’s proposal aims to create new avenues for immigrant entrepreneurs to stay in New York after graduation, boosting the state’s economy and startup ecosystem.

International students in the United States often face limited options to stay and work after completing their studies, leading many to leave and utilize their skills elsewhere. Recognizing the potential loss of a skilled and entrepreneurial workforce, New York Governor Kathy Hochul has unveiled a proposal to create “new avenues for immigrant entrepreneurs” in her 2024 State of the State address. The plan includes a university-sponsored visa program that allows graduate and doctoral students to continue their research and commercialize their work without leaving the state. This initiative aims to retain international talent and bolster New York’s economy.

Addressing the Visa Challenge

International students have played a significant role in earning graduate degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields in New York. However, many of these graduates struggle to secure visas, forcing them to leave the state and start businesses abroad. Governor Hochul’s plan seeks to address this challenge by providing a university-based visa pathway for international entrepreneurs. This initiative would enable universities to sponsor immigrant entrepreneurs, allowing them to stay in New York and contribute to its economy.

Leveraging University Networks

New York boasts a high-quality and affordable public university network that trains numerous students with entrepreneurial potential. By providing more avenues for foreign-born startup founders to remain in the state after graduation, Governor Hochul’s plan aims to tap into this talent pool and foster economic growth. The initiative aligns with the research that consistently shows the foreign-born population has a higher propensity for entrepreneurship, particularly in high-tech and AI startups.

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The Global Entrepreneur in Residence (GEIR) Model

Governor Hochul’s proposal appears to mirror the Global Entrepreneur in Residence (GEIR) programs implemented in various states. These programs enable universities and research nonprofits to sponsor immigrant entrepreneurs, bypassing the limitations of the H-1B visa system. Unlike the H-1B visa, which is subject to an annual cap and random allocation, universities are exempt from this cap and can take on foreign entrepreneurs as employees. While only a few universities have adopted GEIR programs, early results have shown promising outcomes, including job creation and significant funding raised.

The Potential Benefits and Challenges

Implementing Governor Hochul’s plan may face challenges, such as the effectiveness of Empire State Development in distributing economic development funds. However, the overall concept of opening avenues for universities to sponsor international entrepreneurs is a positive step in addressing the shortcomings of the high-skilled immigration system. By leveraging the existing talent force within universities, New York can tap into the potential for growth and attract future entrepreneurs. While caution is advised in evaluating job creation and fundraising numbers, the long-term impact of retaining international entrepreneurs can be substantial.


New York State’s proposal to create new avenues for immigrant entrepreneurs through a university-sponsored visa program demonstrates a proactive approach to retaining international talent and bolstering the state’s economy. By capitalizing on the existing entrepreneurial potential within its universities, New York aims to create a thriving startup ecosystem and attract further investment and talent. While challenges may arise during implementation, the overall vision aligns with the need for state-centric immigration policies that drive innovation and economic growth.

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