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From Denial to Approval: An Immigrant Entrepeneur’s Story

Amit Aharoni, an Israeli national and graduate of Stanford Business School, is an immigrant entrepreneur who recently made big headlines after being featured on various media outlets, including ABC News “World News” on November 2, 2011. Aharoni, along with two co-founders, had obtained $1.65 million in venture capital funding for a start-up called CruiseWise.com, an online cruise booking company. In the last year, the company has already hired 9 Americans and is being touted as one of the “20 Hot Silicon Valley Startups You Need to Watch.” Aharoni, however, was recently denied a visa by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and had no choice but to depart the U.S. and relocate to Canada where he’s been running his company remotely.

USCIS’ denial of Aharoni’s visa has been met with much criticism as many question a U.S. immigration policy that keeps out smart and talented immigrant entrepreneurs like Aharoni who want to invest in the U.S. and have the potential to create hundreds of jobs for Americans. This sentiment was shared by President Obama earlier this summer:

“What I want to do is make sure that talented people who come to this country to study, to get degrees, and are willing and interested in starting up businesses can do so, as opposed to going back home and starting those businesses over there to compete against the United States and take away U.S. jobs,” he said.

Many fear that the current U.S. immigration policy is placing the country at an economic disadvantage. Other countries around the world, including the United Kingdom, Singapore, and Chile, are making efforts to encourage immigration of entrepreneurs by extending special visas and funding. For example, Chile even provides $40,000 in seed funding. Additionally, statistics shows that immigrants have historically benefitted the U.S. in stimulating the economy. Statistics from Partnership for a New American Economy show that 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children.

Meanwhile, USCIS has acknowledged that it needs to “streamline” the visa process for immigrant entrepreneurs and has issued the following statement:

“U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is working to streamline the visa issuance processes to realize the full potential of our nation’s immigration laws and enable immigrants to invest capital, create new jobs for American workers, and further dedicate their talent to the growth of our nation’s economy,” stated USCIS spokeswoman Edna Ruano.

Following all this media attention, Aharoni on November 3, 2011 received an email from USCIS stating that his petition has been approved after reconsideration. Aharoni is thrilled and is looking forward to obtaining his visa and returning to the U.S. For more information on ABC’s World News Story of Aharoni, see http://abcnews.go.com/WN/Economy/immigrant-entrepreneur-visa-world-news-story/story?id=14867513#.TrIbIVY0L40.