I am originally from Delhi, India. I moved to New York in 2007 to study at Columbia University where I pursued a Masters in Computer Science. I graduated in December 2008, when the economy was in the very depths of recession - it was the worst time to graduate. My classmates and I had a very hard time finding jobs at that time. In some cases we interviewed for positions that were later retracted. After graduation, international students are allowed to stay in the country for upto 90 days within which they have to find a job (an employer who can sponsor a work visa). Many of my international friends ended up leaving the country at that time because they couldn't find employment - something that they regret to this very day.
I was lucky enough to find a job at a technology startup in early 2009. Since then, I've worked in the startup space in New York. The NYC startup scene has grown by leaps and bounds over the last 5 years and is now the second largest tech hub in the US after Silicon Valley. It's a great place to be for entrepreneurs, in general. Unfortunately, not so much for immigrant entrepreneurs, or immigrants who are looking to join startups.
I tried starting my own company in late 2010 and quickly found out that it was next to impossible to do so. Immigrants are not allowed to be self-employed in the country - their employment has to be in a legal resident's control. There are ways to work around this stipulation but doing so costs a lot of time and money. This is the status quo despite the fact that many successful American companies were started by immigrants (Google, AT&T, eBay, Yahoo etc.) and created thousands of jobs. In fact, around 40% of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children.
Futher, the visa application process is very expensive and time consuming. Most startups, that are strapped for cash and time, shy away from sponsoring visas for immigrants.
It sounds clichéd but the "American Dream" is a real phenomenon. American society is a strong meritocracy – almost everyone is rewarded for their hard work in this country. Further, if not for themselves, many immigrants have come here and created more prosperous lives for their progeny. Unfortunately, with the current state of immigration reform laws, it is very difficult immigrants, even as legal taxpayers, to gain legal resident status in the country, and pursue the American Dream.