Getting a Visa Took Longer Than Building Instagram, Says Immigrant Co-Founder

Instagram almost didn’t happen, and the U.S.’s convoluted immigration system would have been to blame. Before Mike Krieger created the wildly popular photo-sharing app with business partner Kevin Systrom, he was living in Silicon Valley on a temporary work visa. If not for some lucky breaks navigating the country’s immigration process, our world of artfully filtered, boxy photographs might look very different today.

A native of Brazil, Krieger came to the U.S. to study at Stanford University on a student visa. After graduating, he got a job at Meebo, and the software startup helped him apply for an H-1B visa. This class of temporary visa is designated for specialty workers, and the technology industry is a major customer. Google, Facebook, Intel, and other tech giants mail tens of thousands of applications off to government processing centers each year in hopes of securing the limited supply of visas for foreign computer programmers and engineers.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services began accepting applications on April 1, and, like in recent years, the number of requests quickly exceeded the cap. The agency said on Tuesday that it will stop accepting applications and will hold a random lottery to determine which companies’ employees will be awarded visas from the 85,000 available slots. In 2014 only about half made it through the lottery. The agency hasn’t yet disclosed the number of requests it’s received this year.

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About NAE

New American Economy is a bipartisan research and advocacy organization fighting for smart federal, state, and local immigration policies that help grow our economy and create jobs for all Americans. More…