Tech and immigration: ‘PJ’ stays for now, but Echo Labs’ fate up in the air

You might have heard about the campaign to “Let PJ Stay.” Well, PJ — a Belgian entrepreneur whose student visa was set to expire soon and who had recently become the face of tech’s push for immigration reform — gets to stay. But he and his company may have to leave the U.S. anyway.

Pierre-Jean “PJ” Cobut, co-founder of Silicon Valley health-wearables startup Echo Labs, received an H-1B visa a couple of weeks ago. But co-founder Elad Ferber, who’s from Israel, is facing a June 30 expiration date of his student-visa extension. Cobut won’t go on without Ferber, a former head of engineering at an Israeli space startup that Cobut calls “one of the most talented technologists I have ever met.” So the two Stanford MBAs may be forced to pack up their 2-year-old company and leave the country.

They would be leaving an employee behind. And the five jobs they had planned to fill in the next several months would go elsewhere — perhaps Canada, Cobut told me this week. (I also was among his interviewers last week on the TV show Press:Here. See video below.)

“We are looking mostly for PhDs with 5 to 10 years of experience in research, mostly in math, physics, or engineering,” Cobut told me by email. “These are people that are hard to come by, even in Silicon Valley… so I get nervous thinking about hiring people with the same level outside of the valley.”

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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…