Despite the backing of a number of high-profile Silicon Valley titans, an Obama-era program that would give temporary U.S. visas to nearly 3,000 foreign-born entrepreneurs working on start-ups is on the chopping block for good by the Trump administration, reports the Silicon Valley Business Journal.
In a notice released on Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced that it was opening up public comments on its move to formally rescind the International Entrepreneur Rule, drafted two days before President Trump’s inauguration, according to TechCrunch.
Citing an “overly broad interpretation of parole authority,” the department said that rescinding the rule increases protections for U.S. workers and investors. Critics contend the decision goes hand in hand with the Trump administration’s efforts to crack down on immigration loopholes.
The so-called “startup visa” rule, designed to give the U.S. a competitive lift globally as countries gobble up tech talent from around the world, would grant an initial 30-day stay in the country to entrepreneurs overseeing young companies with significant investor backing and the potential for “rapid growth,” with possible further extensions up to 30 months.
The rule was slated to go into effect last year, but its launch was delayed until further notice by Trump officials in July 2017. At the time, former AOL founder Steve Case tweeted that the decision to stall was a “Big mistake. Immigrant entrepreneurs are job makers, not job takers,” reported the New York Times.
Other critics of the department’s decision to kill the initiative point to a 2016 National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) study citing the key role of immigrants in creating “new, fast-growing companies.” NFAP research found that Immigrants have been the catalyst for more than half (44 of 87) of America’s startup companies valued at $1 billion or more. Some 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were started by immigrants.
Gary Shapiro, chief executive of the Consumer Technology Association, told the New York Times that ending the rule would damage American innovation and job creation.
“The 44 immigrant-founded billion-dollar start-ups now in the U.S. have created an average of 760 American jobs per company,” Mr. Shapiro said in a statement to the Times. “Without these immigrant entrepreneurs, it is unlikely America would stand as the beacon of innovation that it is today.”
At the local level, cities recognize the value of foreign-born entrepreneurs, creating avenues to recruit them and root their companies locally. As reported in Next City, IN2NYC, created in a partnership between the NYC Economic Development Corporation and seven CUNY institutions, helps 80 foreign-born entrepreneurs attain visa access and a foothold in CUNY startup incubators. Under the IN2NYC umbrella, startups in the City College of New York’s Zahn Innovation Center have included Skinno, a consumer app designed to decipher the ingredients in skin cosmetics, and Listen!, a nonprofit building an e-learning tool using gamification to teach basic vocabulary and language to children in refugee camps.
Alexis Lipsitz Flippin is a writer and editor living in New York City.