In late May, the Department of Homeland Security announced its plans to rescind the International Entrepreneur Rule, an Obama-era provision that allowed foreign-born entrepreneurs to stay in the United States for up to five years to expand their businesses, granted they could prove their companies’ potential for rapid business growth and job creation. The announcement came as no surprise, given the Trump administration’s rollback of other executive orders issued during Obama’s presidency, and earlier hints the administration would cancel the rule. But it dealt a particular punch to those who saw the rule as a gateway toward a long-held goal: a start-up visa, which would create a pathway to legal immigration for foreign-born entrepreneurs, thus drawing the best founders to the United States and improving its competitiveness at a time when other countries are launching more and more lucrative start-ups.
Immigrants are nearly twice as likely as American-born citizens to start businesses in the United States, according to the Kauffman Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes entrepreneurship. Fifty-one percent of all U.S. start-up companies valued at $1 billion—the so-called unicorns—have at least one immigrant founder, according to the National Foundation for American Policy, a nonpartisan public-policy research organization. But historically, there hasn’t been an immigrant-visa category tailored for entrepreneurs. Mike Krieger, the Brazilian-born co-founder of Instagram, came to Stanford University on a student visa before transitioning to a skilled-worker visa. The Google co-founder, Sergey Brin, was a child when his family immigrated to the United States from the Soviet Union as refugees. Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX and co-founder of Tesla, first immigrated from South Africa to Canada in order to eventually immigrate to the United States.
During the Obama administration, lawmakers began pushing for a start-up visa and seemed to be gaining some traction. In August 2016, the Obama White House announced the Department of Homeland Security would propose the International Entrepreneur Rule.
By Sonia Paul for THE ATLANTIC
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