How international students and workers can keep their startups in the U.S.

Head to this Pittsburgh Entrepreneurs Forum event at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Jasmine Goldband / The Incline
MJ Slaby

About half of the students who walk through the doors of Carnegie Mellon University’s startup incubator Project Olympus are international students, its director estimated.

“It’s one of those things that I should be keeping better track of,”Kit Needham said. “It didn’t matter as much before.”

But changes to immigration regulations by the Trump administration — such as the travel ban — have Needham and students concerned.

So the Pittsburgh Entrepreneurs Forum, where Needham is a board member, organized a Wednesday panel discussion and Q&A to discuss how immigrant entrepreneurs can achieve permanent residency status to stay in the U.S. and run their businesses.

These entrepreneurs are highly motivated people who want to stay, in part, because of the size of the U.S. market, she said.

That’s the case for Srinath Vaddepally, a CMU alumnus and founder of RistCall, a startup that allows hospital patients and nurses to communicate through a smartwatch instead of a call button.

Vaddepally said he originally planned to go home to India after a few years in the U.S., but after launching his company, he realized it was a better fit for the U.S. market which is more tech savvy. To stay after his student visa ended, Vaddepally started working for the Global Entrepreneur-in-Residence Program at University of Massachusetts while living in Pittsburgh and is also an alumni-in-residence at Project Olympus. In both roles, he advises entrepreneurs in situations similar to his.

Wednesday’s event will include a rundown of the multiple avenues to secure permanent residence and their pros and cons, and hopefully it will help students start to pursue one way or another, Needham said. The event’s speakers are two attorneys from law firm Cohen & Grigsby: David Kalson, who focuses on emerging businesses, and Larry Lebowitz, an expert on immigration.

Students from any Pittsburgh university can attend for free if they register in advance. But it’s not just for students, she added. It’s for businesses and anyone who sends recruiters to campus.

Vaddepally hopes to get an O1 visa, which would allow him to stay in the U.S. and work for his own company, as as long as it’s making money. But first, he said, he has to convince the U.S. that his company is feasible and will create jobs.

It’s not just RistCall that plans to hire, Needham stressed, adding that more companies founded by immigrants will hire local workers.

“They’re not taking anybody’s jobs. They are creating jobs,” she said.

Pathways to Permanent Residence Status for Immigrant Entrepreneurs

Head to this Pittsburgh Entrepreneurs Forum event to learn the pros and cons of the different pathways to permanent U.S. residency for immigrant entrepreneurs. Speakers are David Kalson, chair of the emerging business group, and Larry Lebowitz, chair of the immigration group, both of Cohen & Grigsby. Food is provided by CMU. Students who register in advance get in free with student ID.

Where:CMU Gates/Hillman Center, room 6115 at 4902 Forbes Ave. (Squirrel Hill)

When:October 25, 2017 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

How much:$25 general | $15 for students at the door | Free for students in advance