THE BLOG
12/11/2012 02:57 pm ET Updated Feb 10, 2013

This Beats Stealing Someone's Wifi

Social hotspot provider Karma and the joys of US immigration law

New York is very much an international city. But considering the obstacles we set up for foreigners, it's a miracle anyone with an accent is working here.

For Karma, a mobile hotspot network with a social twist, getting into TechStars New York was easy. It was getting into the country that was the hard part for the Amsterdam-based team.

"The TechStar program is 100 days, and a tourist visa lasts 90 days," Robert Gaal, the co-founder and CEO of Karma, told us. "I applied for a B1 visa which lasts for six months, and they denied it. Try explaining to someone in Amsterdam at a consulate what an incubation program is..."

Through TechStars, Gaal was able to connect to an immigration lawyer who helped him re-apply. "We figured out the term to use when applying is 'business training program.'" He got a visa quickly thereafter.

Karma offers users a sleek 4G mobile hotspot device with an intriguing social hook. It's pay-as-you-go, but every time you share your WiFi connection with others, you receive 100MB of free bandwidth. The product launched this week with coverage available in 80 American cities.

For the moment, four members of the Karma team are still back in Amsterdam. Hopefully, their US entry will be smoother.

Score your own Karma hotspot for $79 here.

Now go forth (and support the Startup Visa Act).

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