“The first principle of green chemistry is: let’s talk about waste, let’s talk about waste prevention, and let’s come up with a way to quantify the amount of waste we are producing.” It’s a December evening in San Francisco, and Wojciech is giving a presentation to a group of scientists and early-stage investors with Impact.tech, which organizes talks to inspire people to start, work for and fund companies that are using technology entrepreneurship to solve problems.
A recent report by FWD.us and the Hatch Foundation shares what economists have understood for decades: that high-skilled immigrants working in the sciences and engineering, like Wojciech, are fundamental to driving innovation, technological adoption and productivity. Immigrants have started more than half (44 of 87) of America’s startups that are valued at $1 billion or more, and are key members of management or product development teams in over 70% (62 of 87) of these companies.
Wojciech is giving a seminar on clean chemicals, examining some of the innovative tech and startups working to reduce the U.S. chemical industry’s environmental impact. It is a subject he knows well. In his fifth year of studies at UC Berkeley, Wojciech’s research focuses on utilizing nanoparticles for electrochemical carbon dioxide reduction. Wojciech has almost completed a Ph.D. in chemistry, and in many ways he exemplifies former Senator Orrin Hatch’s vision for America.
“We can cultivate the most dynamic, talented, and educated workforce in the world while increasing economic opportunity for all Americans. In fact, we must do both. We must continue to attract overseas talent to sustain the very innovation that has made our nation the most prosperous in the world.” – Senator Orrin G. Hatch
Wojciech currently holds an F-1 visa, which enables him to live in the U.S. as long as he is enrolled as a full-time student. As he nears graduation from his Ph.D. program, he must consider the next steps for his immigration status. Like many international students who come to the U.S., he’s hoping to obtain an H-1B visa. It is reserved for those with specialized knowledge and education, and for many immigrants, it is a stepping stone to qualifying for a green card, and building a career and life in the United States. Each year, USCIS opens 85,000 such visas for applicants, reserving 20,000 for students pursuing advanced degrees. It is a competitive process, and has become all the more difficult over the past two years due to a noted uptick in H-1B visa petition denials, and increase in application processing times.