SAN JOSE, Calif. — Amin Shokrollahi got some attention for his best paper award at DesignCon, but even more for his inability to pick it up. The founder and chief executive of startup Kandou Bus got caught up in the U.S. travel restrictions.
Anticipating visa troubles he has experienced in the past, Shokrollahi decided at the last minute not to travel to the Silicon Valley event from his home in Switzerland. “I have developed a sixth sense about these things,” he said in a phone interview from Lausanne, where he is a professor of math and computer science.
His intuition proved correct. The day Shokrollahi was scheduled to fly, President Trump issued his order forbidding entry into the U.S. for people from seven countries, including Shokrollahi's native Iran. “I would have gotten on the plane not suspecting anything and in San Francisco would have been told my visa was not valid and I would have had to go home,” he said.
A year ago, he had a similar experience while planning a trip to speak at the International Solid State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) in San Francisco. Just as he was about to fly, Congress passed a law requiring visas for people with dual citizenship like Shokrollahi, who was born in Iran and moved to Germany in 1979.
As it turned out, Shokrollahi addressed the ISSCC crowd by Skype last year. ISSCC organizers said the experience is not unusual, but more typically involves travelers on China passports. The Trump travel order prevented multiple speakers and attendees from coming to ISSCC this year, they said.
Last year, Shokrollahi was granted a multiple-entry U.S. visa good for a year. This year he is waiting for a visa that will allow just one entry in a three-month period.
“How am I supposed to run my business this way -- it takes me six weeks to get a visa and I can only enter the country one time,” he asked. “This affects me and my company quite a bit, so we are seriously thinking about other places we can grow, and I’m thinking about building up teams in places I can travel easily,” he said.
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