Kenneth Ballenegger

Angel Investor, Engineer, Startup Founder

President Obama on Immigration Reform:

So this steady stream of hardworking and talented people has made America the engine of the global economy and a beacon of hope around the world. And it’s allowed us to adapt and thrive in the face of technological and societal change. To this day, America reaps incredible economic rewards because we remain a magnet for the best and brightest from across the globe. Folks travel here in the hopes of being a part of a culture of entrepreneurship and ingenuity, and by doing so they strengthen and enrich that culture. Immigration also means we have a younger workforce -– and a faster-growing economy — than many of our competitors. And in an increasingly interconnected world, the diversity of our country is a powerful advantage in global competition.

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And while we provide students from around the world visas to get engineering and computer science degrees at our top universities, our laws discourage them from using those skills to start a business or power a new industry right here in the United States. Instead of training entrepreneurs to create jobs on our shores, we train our competition.

This is an issue that important to me. As a Swiss citizen, trying to integrate myself into the Silicon Valley culture, I am acutely aware of the deep problems in US immigration law. I am here under an F-1 student visa, which will eject me from the country once my studies are over.

This summer, I landed an internship at Tapulous (now Disney). I had to go to great lengths just to get approved by the government’s bureaucracy. For argument’s sake, imagine after the internship is complete they’d like to keep me. Because my visa does not allow for permanent employment, I wouldn’t be able to accept. I would have to apply for an H-1 visa, which would require me to leave the country while waiting for months (or maybe even years) for the process to be complete. All of this setting aside the fact that H-1 requires a completed bachelors degree, which – were I to drop out of school to take the opportunity – I would not have.

If, hypothetically, I were eligible for the visa; its fine print puts a great burden on the employer, making me an unattractive prospective employee. The employer would have to sponsor me, spending a great deal of money on application and lawyer fees, all on the uncertain hopes that my visa gets approved. Additionally, they have to prove that they could not find a suitable employee who is a US citizen, with documentation showing that they interviewed other candidates and that none were fit for the position.

All of this makes it very hard, or even impossible for me to start a career in Silicon Valley. I believe – if I may say so – that I would be an asset to the US economy, rather than a burden. Preventing me from being a part of this great country – which, even with all its faults, I love – makes no logical sense.