Groups urge White House to keep 'International Entrepreneur Rule'

Groups urge White House to keep 'International Entrepreneur Rule'
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Entrepreneurs, investors and civic leaders are pushing the White House to not block a rule that would allow entrepreneurs from other countries to come to the U.S. more easily.

Seventy-eight groups representing startup founders, investors, economic development organizations and civic leaders sent a letter in May, to the White House urging the administration to not roll back the International Entrepreneur Rule before it goes into effect on July 17. The letter is set to be released on Friday.

The National Venture Capital Association (NVCA), a D.C. trade association representing venture capital and entrepreneurial interests, who organized but did not sign the letter, also met with administration officials on Thursday to advocate for the rule.

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The measure was originally proposed by the Obama administration. If implemented it will allow the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to evaluate whether or not business owners can come to the U.S. to grow their companies, on a case-by-case basis.

“Immigrant entrepreneurs are a critical driver of increased economic activity, as they play an outsized role in new company creation in communities all across our country,” the groups argued in their letter.

“Despite these contributions, the United States has pushed away many promising would-be immigrant entrepreneurs because we lack a dedicated ‘startup visa’ that would help attract more of the world’s top entrepreneurs to create jobs in our communities.”

Ben Veghte, a spokesperson for the NVCA, highlighted that the letter was signed exclusively by entrepreneurial interests in emerging areas and not by anyone from traditional venture capital hubs like Silicon Valley, New York and Boston.

The groups wrote that while the rule was not a substitute for legislation, they saw it as an important step in bringing entrepreneurial talent to the U.S., which has been waning in recent years.

“We’ve long argued that a startup visa is appropriate,” said NVCA’s s VP of Government Affairs Jeff Farrah. “It would be a job creator for the country. With comprehensive immigration reform not moving in the near future, this is the best alternative.”

The signatories also cautioned that not implementing the rule would only lead to lost opportunities.

“The International Entrepreneur Rule is desperately needed at a time when U.S. entrepreneurial leadership is being challenged by other countries,” they wrote. “In the last five years, at least half of the top ten largest venture investments in the world occurred outside the U.S.”

“The world’s best entrepreneurs are going to get funding somewhere,” Farrah said. "The only question is if we get them here or are they going to compete against us."

The Trump administration has not publicly weighed in on the rules, and groups interested in the rule told The Hill that they did not have any indication of the administration's position it.

“I think we’ve got the attention of the people who are making the decision on this, and we’re beating the drum to help make sure it goes through,” Farrah told The Hill. 

Under the rule, entrants to the U.S. via the rule would not get a visa, but would be under “parole” a condition allowed on a case-by-case basis for “humanitarian reasons” or “significant public benefit.”

To be considered, foreign national entrepreneurs would have to meet certain requirements like maintaining a “central and active role in its operations.” The startup must also have received at least $250,000 in funding from an investor and/or at least $100,000 in government grants to show “substantial potential for rapid growth and job creation.”

Entrepreneurs approved under the rule would be granted an initial stay of up to 30 months with the potential for extension for another 30 months at the DHS’s discretion. 

“This proposed rule, when finalized, will help our economy grow by expanding immigration options for foreign entrepreneurs who meet certain criteria for creating jobs, attracting investment and generating revenue in the U.S.,” said then USCIS Director León Rodríguez in a statement in August.