Stakeholders in central Arkansas’ technology sector on Wednesday announced a new program to recruit international tech entrepreneurs to the region and provide them with talent development and support services.
The program, AR Tech Launch, is a joint initiative of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, The Venture Center and Little Rock Regional Chamber. It seeks to provide H-1B work visas to build “new potential high-growth start-ups” in the Little Rock region and add tech innovators to UA Little Rock’s faculty, the university said in a news release.
An H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows people with specific skills or abilities to work in the U.S. for a limited period of time, typically up to six years. To be eligible for an H-1B visa, applicants must have a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent in a specialized field and must be able to demonstrate their ability to perform the job for which they are being sponsored.
H-1B visas are highly competitive, and there are limits on the number of visas that can be issued each year. But universities and related nonprofit entities, nonprofit research organizations and government research organizations are exempt from the cap.
The Venture Center will work with UA Little Rock to help select international entrepreneurs through a competitive curation process, similar to its work in fintech accelerators, according to the release. Once selected, the entrepreneurs will work with the university to qualify for H-1B visas and then, upon receipt, relocate to Little Rock and begin collaborative academically-focused work with the university while launching their technology-based business.
The Venture Center and Little Rock Regional Chamber will provide the entrepreneurs additional mentor and operational support services to help them scale, grow and provide high-wage employment opportunities.
Christina Drale, chancellor of UA Little Rock, announced the program Wednesday at the Little Rock Regional Chamber’s annual meeting.
AR Tech Launch is looking to finalize the application process in early 2024.