This is a harbinger of what lies ahead for immigrants from India and China. To put it simply, our flawed immigration policies have been giving these nations an unintended gift: American-educated and American-trained entrepreneurs.
- Vivek Wadhwa
America to immigrants: ‘Give me your tired, your poor’ but keep your entrepreneurs
Anand graduated from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 2001. He told me of how, at school, he had immersed himself in the culture of startups, entering business plan competitions and collaborating with fellow students and professors to brainstorm business ideas. He interned with Pitney Bowes, among other organizations, and he received eight utility patents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
During his junior year, Chhatpar founded BrainReactions with two other students. The company provided a platform for students to help large corporations solve problems and innovate. Anand says the business served dozens of notable clients.
After meeting his wife, Shikha, at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 2008, they teamed up to start another business, Fame Express. The company built Facebook game applications and, according to Anand, the apps were played online by 20 million people around the world and garnered 900,000 fans. He says that during the first two years, Fame Express grossed about $1 million in revenue and he and his wife paid more than $250,000 in taxes. Anand was featured in numerous media outlets including CNBC-TV18’s Young Turks, U.S. News & World Report, and BusinessWeek. In September 2010, the Chhatpars returned to India for a legally mandated period, while awaiting paperwork from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), which would clear a path to citizenship.
Two months later, their petition for EB-1 status was denied, despite the fact that they already had employees in the United States, were paying considerable taxes, had a clear track record of starting companies, and BusinessWeek.com had once featured Anand as one of the “Best Entrepreneurs Under 25.”
This didn’t make sense to me, so I brought the Chhatpars’ case to USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas on May 2, and he forwarded the correspondence to one of his associates. I was copied on at least forty messages back and forth between the department and Chhatpar. No one disputed the merit of their case, but even Mayorkas’ team could not cut through the immigration bureaucracy.
Today, the Chhatpars are living in Bangalore, running both Fame Express and BrainReactions. They say they have hired four computer programmers to develop India-focused Web sites. They are paying taxes to the Indian government, hiring Indian programmers, and boosting the Indian economy. They would rather be creating products for the U.S., hiring American workers and paying U.S. taxes. But our government won’t let them. Such is the senselessness of our immigration policies and why the U.S. is experiencing an immigrant exodus.