New York State Paves the Way for Immigrant Entrepreneurs

New York State Paves the Way for Immigrant Entrepreneurs

Governor Hochul’s plan aims to retain international talent and boost economic growth

International students in the United States often face limited options to stay in the country after graduation, despite their desire to contribute their skills to the American workforce. Many end up leaving, taking their training and entrepreneurial potential elsewhere. However, New York state is taking steps to address this issue. Governor Kathy Hochul recently announced a series of policy proposals, including creating new avenues for immigrant entrepreneurs. The plan aims to allow certain graduate and doctoral students to obtain university-sponsored visas, enabling them to continue their research and commercialize their work within the state.

Retaining International Talent in New York

According to recent data, international students earned over 44% of graduate degrees in STEM fields awarded by the State University of New York (SUNY) in the 2020-2021 academic year. However, many of these graduates face challenges in securing visas, forcing them to leave New York and start companies abroad. Governor Hochul’s plan seeks to address this issue by establishing a university-based visa pathway for international students, allowing them to stay in the state and contribute to its economy.

Boosting Economic Growth and Innovation

To further support immigrant entrepreneurs, Hochul’s plan involves Empire State Development, a state economic development agency, offering competitive grants to research universities and colleges. These grants aim to retain international entrepreneurs who would otherwise be unable to launch start-ups in New York. By capitalizing on the efforts and energy of immigrants, the state can potentially revitalize its post-pandemic economic dynamism and foster a thriving start-up ecosystem.

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The Role of Universities in Supporting Immigrant Entrepreneurs

Governor Hochul’s plan aligns with the Global Entrepreneur in Residence (GEIR) programs implemented across the country. These programs allow universities and research nonprofits to sponsor immigrant entrepreneurs, bypassing the limitations of the H-1B visa system. Unlike the annual cap of 85,000 H-1B visas, universities are exempt from this restriction, making them ideal sponsors for foreign entrepreneurs. While only a few universities have adopted GEIR programs, they have already demonstrated positive outcomes. For example, foreign entrepreneurs sponsored by the University of Massachusetts Amherst have started companies employing nearly 1,700 people and have raised over $1 billion in funding.

The Potential of Immigrant Entrepreneurs

Research consistently shows that immigrants not only have a higher propensity for entrepreneurship but are also overrepresented in high-tech startups, venture-backed companies, and AI startups. By creating avenues for international entrepreneurs to stay in New York after graduation, the state can tap into this talent pool and foster further growth. Clusters of highly skilled technical individuals and entrepreneurs have a self-reinforcing effect, attracting more investment and talent to the region.


Governor Hochul’s plan to create new avenues for immigrant entrepreneurs in New York state has the potential to address the challenges faced by international students seeking to stay in the United States after graduation. By allowing universities to sponsor foreign entrepreneurs, the state can retain valuable talent and foster economic growth. While the implementation of the plan may face challenges, such as effective grant allocation, the overall goal of leveraging existing talent and promoting entrepreneurship is a step in the right direction. Other localities can learn from New York’s approach and explore ways to connect universities, entrepreneurs, and startup ecosystems to drive innovation and economic prosperity.

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