Floating city off California coast could house foreign workers

Word of H-1B employment visas reaching their capacity broke last month, and we discussed the merits of the program last week. H-1B visas are a great way for foreign workers to gain temporary employment (and residency) in the U.S. But one Silicon Valley startup plans to take employment immigration to a logical extreme.

Blueseed Co. in Sunnyvale, California plans to dock a large ship 12 miles off the coast of San Francisco – placing it in international waters – to house foreign workers who cannot get employment immigration visas. The vessel could hold 1,000 workers who would use temporary business or tourist visas to meet with clients, partners or co-workers on land.

The logistics behind such an idea are a bit complicated, as the ship would be registered to a country with a reputable legal system while being owned or leased by Blueseed. The vessel would also need to be able to move should dangerous weather approach it.

Still, the idea of a floating city – or “seasteads” – only highlights the need for immigration reform in the U.S according to a leader for the Partnership for a New American Economy. “The ship may sound like a crazy idea but it illustrates how seriously flawed the immigration system here is,” he said. The Partnership for a New American Economy reported last summer that about 40% of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or by their children.

The founder of PayPal, Peter Thiel, is a proponent of “seasteads” and will be supporting Blueseed as they undertake this idea, with a preliminary goal of launching in 2013.

Source: Associated Press, “CA startup sees entrepreneur-ship as visa solution,” Brooke Donald, Dec. 16, 2011

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