US pushes to keep entrepreneur jobs in the country

CAMBRIDGE — The Obama administration’s top immigration official says his agency is working to attract and keep more foreign-born high-tech entrepreneurs who are seeking to start companies in the United States, a move he hopes will help the nation retain its edge in an increasingly competitive global economy.

Alejandro Mayorkas, director of the US Citizenship and Immigration Service, acknowledged on Wednesday that his agency ‘‘has not been especially nimble’’ in adapting to fast-paced changes in the business landscape.

That is changing, Mayorkas said, since the agency added new training for adjudicators who evaluate business visa applications, including those for H-1B visas — temporary employment visas for specialty occupations — sponsored by start-ups whose profiles do not fit those of traditional businesses.


‘‘Three years ago if we’d received a petition for a H-1B visa from an individual working in a cubicle who might have received funding from a respectable venture capital firm, adjudicators might have rejected that application,’’ Mayorkas told students and investors at the Sloan School of Management of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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He unveiled a new website that provides entrepreneurs an easier way to navigate their immigration options under the so-called Entrepreneur Pathways initiative.

The measure is the first product of the unusual ‘‘Entrepreneurs in Residence’’ program under which the immigration agency recruited five entrepreneurs who reviewed the system and proposed changes to make it easier for investors to figure out their immigration options and communicate with the agency.

Next step? A review of existing laws and practices to ensure that they achieve their full potential.

‘‘We are going to be looking at our policies and practices . . . to ensure that we are maximizing existing laws’ full potential,’’ Mayorkas said. ‘‘But it is no substitute for the need for legislative reforms.’’