Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen and NYCEDC president Maria Torres-Springer with CUNY and Zahn Center staff.

NEW YORK The New York City Economic Development Corp., in partnership with the City University of New York said Monday they have opened applications for the International Innovators Initiative, or IN2NYC, the first municipal program in the nation designed to help international entrepreneurs access visas so they can create jobs in the U.S.

IN2NYC will help up to 80 entrepreneurs gain access to the visas they need to grow their businesses in New York City and is projected to create more than 700 jobs for New Yorkers in its first three years. Applicants can apply for IN2NYC through the program’s web site at Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis until the program’s July 29 deadline.

Five of the program’s seven CUNY partner schools — City College, LaGuardia Community College, Medgar Evers College, Queens College and the College of Staten Island— will immediately begin to accept applications. The two remaining CUNY partner schools, Baruch College and Lehman College, will begin accepting applications later this year.

Entrepreneurs selected through a competitive process will be matched with one CUNY school to form a partnership that will enable them to qualify for cap-exempt H-1B visas. As part of the partnerships, entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to build their businesses in CUNY co-working spaces alongside other innovators, while also furthering the mission of their partner CUNY school by contributing to academic research, developing curricula, providing students with internship and employment opportunities or serving as mentors.

“By attracting world-class entrepreneurial talent and further enabling our students and workforce to compete on a world stage, we can ensure New York City remains a hotbed for the cutting-edge industries of a 21st-century economy,” said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Maria Torres-Springer, president of the NYCEDC, said, “This program is for all of us. It’s for the international entrepreneurs who will grow their businesses in New York City; it’s for the CUNY students who will work alongside of them; it’s for the hundreds of New Yorkers who will find jobs at IN2NYC companies; it’s for the vibrancy of our city, that will undoubtedly benefit from a more diverse and equitable economy.”

IN2NYC is designed for international entrepreneurs who have started a business overseas and would like to relocate or expand their business to the U.S. International students graduating from U.S. universities who have started their own businesses are also eligible to apply. All applicants must have an established business offering a product or service suitable for the New York market at time of application.

NYEDC said the current federal immigration system makes it difficult for many foreign-born entrepreneurs to start or grow businesses in the U.S., while countries like Canada and the U.K. have created “founder visa” programs that encourage entrepreneurs to locate companies within their borders, threatening to deprive the U.S. and New York City of the jobs of the future.

By partnering entrepreneurs with CUNY schools, which enables entrepreneurs to provide direct contributions to the U.S. through their work on behalf of institutions of higher education and qualify for an exemption to the H-1B cap, allowing entrepreneurs to apply for a cap-exempt H-1B visa at any time during the year.

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