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President Obama Plans to Take Executive Actions on Immigration Policies for Tech Companies


As Congress is not moving on the issue of immigration reform, President Obama said that he intends to take executive actions to change the nation’s immigration policies to keep the U.S. from losing its competitive edge in the tech world. Tech investors such as Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit, has advocated for the expansion of O-1A visa category, which is given to individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. Unlike the H-1B visas which have an annual limit of 65,000, O-1A visas have no numerical limit. In 2013, the Department of State issued 12,359 O-1A visas, up from 10,590 in the previous year. The present criteria for the O-1A visa, however, make this visa availability out of reach for many tech startups. For example, a petitioning employer must show that the intended beneficiary is an individual that has risen to the very top of his field of endeavor. These individuals may be more inclined to work for more established companies rather than startups with limited capital. Ohanianhas pushed for change in the current criteria so that the O-1A visas are more readily available to small startups. For example, Ohanian said that significant contributions to open-source coding or other computing projects could be seen as a form of original research. Ohanian said that allocating any amount of the O-1 visas for tech startups would provide much-needed relief as the industry awaits a broader legislative action.

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