PALO ALTO, Calif."“Congress still hasn't done right by Sam Chaudhary and Liam Don. But they've managed to stay in the United States anyway.
After being featured in a National Journal cover story from March about how Washington can't solve simple problems with bipartisan-backed solutions"“starting with how to allow more high-skilled immigrants into the country"“the British-born tech entrepreneurs have completed a Hail Mary pass to win U.S. visas.
"I didn't allow myself to really feel the ecstasy until I got the passport in my hand and opened it and saw the visa," Chaudhary said. "It was very grand, with stars and stripes. It was like a movie moment."
Chaudhary and Don founded an educational-technology company, Class Dojo, which raised $2 million from private investors and won an Innovation in Education contest sponsored by NBC and Citigroup. More than 1 million students and teachers have used the software, which helps teachers manage classroom behavior.
But there was a hitch: Chaudhary and Don are not American citizens. The Brits' temporary visas were slated to expire last month, and the U.S. government's annual ration of H-1B work visas was tapped out.
Despite broad consensus among Democrats and Republicans in Congress about the need to create jobs and foster innovation, the U.S. does not offer visas aimed at foreign entrepreneurs. In Washington, efforts to expand visas for highly skilled workers are frequently crushed in the grinding gears of immigration reform, corroded with fears about border security, job losses for American citizens, and the burdens on government and schools. The latest effort "“ a measure dubbed Startup 2.0 that was unveiled Tuesday "“ is aimed at keeping foreign entrepreneurs who graduate from U.S. universities in the country, but it too faces long odds.