Administration proposes visa program for entrepreneurs

Administration proposes visa program for entrepreneurs
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U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) proposed a new rule on Friday that would allow foreign entrepreneurs to come to the U.S.

Dubbed the “startup visa,” the international entrepreneur rule would allow the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to evaluate on a case-by-case basis whether to allow business owners to come to the U.S. to grow their companies.

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“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.,” USCIS Director León Rodríguez said in a statement.

President Obama has long supported similar startup visa initiatives, but the issue has been unable to gain any momentum in Congress. According to the full document released by the USCIS, the rule took advantage of a provision in the Immigration and Nationality Act that “grants the Secretary of Homeland Security the discretionary authority to parole individuals into the United States.” The DHS plans to adopt the rule into its regulations.

Foreign national entrepreneurs would need to meet certain conditions to be granted visas: Their U.S. startup must be less than three years old; they must hold at least a 15 percent stake in the company while also maintaining a “central and active role in its operations”; and the startup must have received at least $345,000 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 program would be granted an initial two-year stay with the potential for extension.

Brandon Pollack, Global Director at 1776, a Washington-based startup incubator and seed fund, said that DHS’s eligibility requirements made sense. 

“The proposed rules are consistent with milestones that an entrepreneur should try to reach when building a high growth startup,” Pollack said in a statement to The Hill. 

Pollack also spoke approvingly of the initiative’s purpose, calling it “big step forward for immigrant entrepreneurs” who “have played such a vital role building our country's innovation economy.”

- Updated at 11:12 a.m.