Those hypothesis-testers have become more prevalent in Pittsburgh as the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University continue developing programs that encourage business-minded students to have a startup business by graduation.
Programs like Project Olympus at CMU provide counseling to early-stage startups, and Olympus director Lenore Blum said she'd seen startups dissolve after immigration restrictions cut short additional funding.
The $250,000 required for the EB-6 visa must come from so-called angel investors who provide seed funding for early-stage startups, usually in exchange for an ownership stake.
That threshold might be high for life sciences companies, which typically don't raise as much in early funding as other tech specialties, said Ms. Russo.
Critics of the legislation say tying citizenship to successful fundraising can grant too much power to investors.
In an opinion piece published by Business Insider, Paris-based tech entrepreneur Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry questioned the possible motives of investor demands when deportation is at stake. Mr. Gobry said the increased pressure could coerce entrepreneurs into unfair agreements about ownership stakes.
"How many terms can a wily investor wring from this new language? How much liquidation? How much liquidation preference?" he wrote.
Statistically, angel investor activity is most concentrated in Silicon Valley, and while Pittsburgh startups have enjoyed significant success in attracting West Coast money, the distance has forced some promising local companies to move west as they chase the cash.
The imbalanced location of funding could be amplified if angel investors are hit with a new wave of immigrant applicants, said Mr. Wadhwa.
He proposes a system in which the state manages a private fund that acts as seed funding to regional startups, rather than a system he sees as giving more prospects to the already-heavy hitters.
"These investors are already inundated with startups seeking money," he said. "Why would they invest in someone across the country?"
Dr. Blum said the possibility of a statewide holding company made up of small incubators could create a system in which Pennsylvania investors help fund Pennsylvania startups.
"This would require investors in town to decide it was a good thing," she said. "This is an 'it takes a village' effort."
The EB-6 visa wouldn't be the first time the state has used the promise of a green card to buoy local business. Since 1990, the EB-5 visa program has granted a green card to any foreigner who invests at least $500,000 in state-approved projects.
"It sounds a little weird, but they can buy their way into the United States by investing," said Wilfred Muskens, the deputy secretary for international business development at the Department of Community and Economic Development in Harrisburg.
Foreigners invest $500,000 in a pool of money that is loaned to low-risk projects throughout the state -- the Bakery Square complex in Larimer (the place now home to Google Pittsburgh) is one example of a project that tapped into such funds.
Once the requisite background checks are cleared, the green card is issued and the $500,000 returned after five years.
Citizens from one global competitor have monopolized the program.
"For Pennsylvania, more than 90 percent -- if not more -- of all the money that we've raised through this program has come from China," said Mr. Muskens.
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