Dear Commons Community,
City College’s IN2NYC, a program created for international entrepreneurs in cooperation with New York City’s Economic Development Corporation, has begun offering 18-month visas to individuals seeking to established businesses in this country. Here is an excerpt from a New York Times article published this morning:
“Gabor Tankovics was checking off the boxes for his New York City tech start-up this past spring. Investors. Advisers. Users. But one box was still noticeably blank: Visa.
“I really felt like, ‘O.K., I am at the stage where things are starting to work out,’” said Mr. Tankovics, 33, a native of Hungary. “At the same time, I might have to leave.”
But then he heard about a new option, a program for international entrepreneurs created this year by New York City’s Economic Development Corporation with the City College of New York. By working at one of CUNY’s campuses, founders of start-up companies can obtain an 18-month United States visa to establish their businesses — with the aim of creating jobs and training aspiring innovators.
In October, Mr. Tankovics became the first of two visa recipients out of 144 applicants for the program, the International Innovators Initiative, known as IN2NYC.
“This was absolutely designed for me,” Mr. Tankovics said in an empty and echoing co-working space at LaGuardia Community College’s NYDesigns start-up studio. By next year, it will house Mr. Tankovics’s three-employee company, Dartboard, a web application to help manage student loans.
The IN2NYC program selected Namisha Bahl, 26, of India, as its second participant. Ms. Bahl is a founder of Mogul, a website for women around the world that has 25 New York-based employees, she said, but is hoping to double in size by next year. Ms. Bahl, the company’s marketing director, will begin mentoring students at City College of New York’s Zahn Innovation Center, a start-up incubator promoting diversity in the tech world, next year.
By March, she and Mr. Tankovics will be joined by as many as 20 more participants in the program, working at five schools in the CUNY system, according to IN2NYC officials.
Ms. Bahl had been out of options. She had earned her master’s degree in integrated marketing from New York University in 2015 and twice applied for an H-1B visa. The visas, which go to skilled workers, are given out by lottery each year. The number of recipients is capped at 85,000, but more than three times as many people apply each year. And self-employed entrepreneurs are not eligible.
But in 2000, Congress allowed for exemptions to the cap, including people working at institutions of higher education or affiliated nonprofits.
“It is an amazing and crucial opportunity,” Ms. Bahl said in an email. “I would not have been able to expand Mogul further without work authorization.
Or, as the program’s consulting lawyer, Peter F. Asaad, put it: “Without a program like this, she certainly would be out in the cold.”
Because of guidelines set by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, IN2NYC applicants must be sponsored for the visa by their company’s board of directors, all of whom are American citizens or permanent residents. The board members have the power to determine how much the applicant earns and other terms of employment.
The program does not just benefit the visa holder, its creators say.
“It’s not just about one person, but it’s about the larger ripple effect,” said Maria Torres-Springer, the president of New York City’s development corporation. “Both in terms of job creation for that company, and what it also means for the students and faculty, the local schools with which they partner.”
She added: “It’s an entire ecosystem.”
Congratulations to CCNY and the New York City Economic Development Corporation.