Last night, President Obama laid out a plan to create desperately needed jobs in the United States, and made an urgent plea to Congress to pass that plan immediately.  As an attorney who works every day with small and emerging businesses that seek to grow and expand opportunities in the U.S., I was captivated by the President’s words about what we can do as a country to increase employment and improve the economy. I hope that USCIS was listening too.

Within the first few minutes of his speech, the President stated, “Everyone knows that small businesses are where most new jobs begin. And you know that while corporate profits have come roaring back, smaller companies haven’t. So for everyone who speaks so passionately about making life easier for “job creators,” this plan is for you.”  After laying out the elements of his jobs bill, the President discussed needed changes to the corporate tax code, which, he said, should “give an advantage to companies that invest and create jobs here in America.”  He said that, in a world “where technology has made it possible for companies to take their business anywhere,” in order to preserve jobs here, we must “out-build, out-educate, and out-innovate every other country on Earth.”  In introducing his Jobs Council, President Obama said, “[O]n all our efforts to strengthen competitiveness, we need to look for ways to work side-by-side with American’s businesses.” And he urged Congress to “keep trying every new idea that works, and listen to every good proposal, no matter which party comes up with it.”

While the President didn’t mention business immigration specifically in his speech, it was absolutely clear that his vision for creating American jobs embraces using every single tool at our disposal to assist, support and nurture businesses with the potential to expand employment here. While we must wait for Congressional action to achieve some solutions, like new green card categories for treaty traders and investors and other small entrepreneurs, there are crucial steps that may be taken immediately, and without Congressional action, to reduce or eliminate the immigration-related challenges faced by small businesses.

USCIS has started the ball rolling with its recent announcements on its entrepreneurship initiatives. But much more needs to be done. USCIS can and should provide additional training and guidance to those adjudicating petitions for key employees of new companies, to improve their understanding of business fundamentals and 21st century corporate models.  A new company seeking to establish itself in the U.S. typically finds itself faced with a request for an avalanche of documents –some irrelevant, some repetitive of what has already been submitted.  Adjudications can be streamlined and improved if adjudicators have a better understanding of what specific corporate documents they should request to confirm the existence and viability of a petitioner.  The corporate world has gone far beyond the “brick and mortar” days, and many businesses can succeed and thrive with less physical space and fewer physical assets. Regulations and adjudicators’ guidance manuals should be reviewed and updated to encompass these new and exciting business concepts, and to recognize that the creation of jobs–even a modest number–is in the national interest.  More encouraging consideration should be given to petitions involving new businesses with the potential for creating American jobs.  Simply put, in the current economy, we cannot afford to lose even one job due to a lack of understanding of a petitioner’s business model. There are myriad other innovative ways in which USCIS can support and help U.S. businesses thrive, and, as the President said, the agency should “keep trying every new idea that works.”

I am energized by the Administration’s focus on job creation and I am proud of the work that I do for my clients who want to help the U.S. “out-build, out-educate, and out-innovate” our global competitors. I hope that USCIS is willing to “work side-by-side with America’s businesses” too.