Even as presidential candidate Donald Trump continues to emphasise his determination to crack down on US immigration if elected president, the incumbent in that office, President Obama, is looking to make it easier for foreign entrepreneurs to come to the country, at least temporarily, if they are looking to launch and grow start-up businesses there.
The new International Entrepreneur Rule, published last Friday by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) – an arm of the Department of Homeland Security – would ease the ability of start-up founders to launch businesses in the US if they had “significant investment of capital” or “significant awards or grants” from “certain qualified US investors”.
The move is seen as being targeted fairly specifically at the tech sector.
“Under the proposed rule, entrepreneurs may be granted an initial stay of up to two years to oversee and grow their startup entity in the United States,” the USCIS proposal, on the organisation’s website, says.
“A subsequent request for re-parole (for up to three additional years) would be considered only if the entrepreneur and the startup entity continue to provide a significant public benefit as evidenced by substantial increases in capital investment, revenue or job creation.”
Public comment on the proposal is invited over the next 45 days, and the Obama administration is said to hope that the scheme might be enacted before the president’s term ends on 20 January.
Tom Kalil, a technology policy adviser at the White House, told journalists on Friday in Washington that the proposed rule was part of President Obama’s commitment to “attracting the world’s best and brightest entrepreneurs to start the next great companies here”.
He noted that immigrants had co-founded as many as one in four high-tech start-ups in the US, including more than half of all start-ups in Silicon Valley.
Other elements of the proposed scheme would see the DHS granting temporary permission for entrepreneurs to live in the US if they have at least 15% ownership in start-up companies formed in the country within the past three years. The companies must have investment of at least US$345,000 from qualified US investors.
The administration expects about 3,000 immigrants to apply for the temporary permission, known as parole.
President Obama has made efforts to provide US residency and citizenship to foreign entrepreneurs and those with specific skills “a signature policy issue”, a report in the New York Times noted in an online article published on Friday, but has struggled, as his efforts have “repeatedly died in Congress”.
The latest effort doesn’t require Congressional approval, and “circumvents visas by relying on a federal law that lets the secretary of homeland security temporarily admit people whose entry into the United States would create ‘significant public benefit'”, the Times article noted.
News of the new US immigration scheme was widely covered in the international high-tech press, with stories appearing over the last few days on such news websites as pctechmag.com and GeekWire.com.
China, India visa applications ‘halted’
News of the new “start-up visas”, as the new US scheme has been dubbed by some commentators, came days after a report in the Chinese press noted that the US State Department had temporarily halted visa applications for Chinese and Indian nationals with special skills because of a “dramatic increase” in worldwide demand for the visas.
No more than 7% of all visas can go to applicants from any one country, which means just 2,800 each for China and India, the article, on China.org.cn, noted.