Associations Speak Out After Trump Eyes Rollback of “Startup Visa” Rule

The International Entrepreneur Rule was to take effect next month, but the Trump administration has delayed implementation, with an interest in rolling it back entirely. Venture capital groups say stopping the rollout would be counterproductive.

One of the last immigration-related acts of Barack Obama’s administration made things a little easier for immigrants entering the U.S. to start a company. Currently, no simple path exists for a visa of this nature.

While the International Entrepreneur Rule, a “startup visa”-style rule approved by the Department of Homeland Security mere hours before Obama left office, is supposed to take effect next month, this week President Donald Trump’s administration is reportedly putting the brakes on its implementation, according to a San Francisco Chronicle report.

The Trump administration, which has taken a hard-line stance on immigration issues—whether involving high-skilled workers or not—decided to delay the rule until March, allowing time for a review and eventual repeal.

The reported decision comes months after the Trump administration pledged to tighten up rules around the H-1B visa program—and despite broad support for the rule from the technology community. (The Chronicle report was notable because it came the same week that Trump met with many of Silicon Valley’s most prominent leaders.) Back in May, entrepreneurs and tech groups representing 25 states wrote a letter to Trump expressing support for the rule.

“We believe this rule will unleash considerable pent-up entrepreneurial energy, spur new companies, and produce high-quality jobs in communities all across the United States,” the signatories stated [PDF].

The National Venture Capital Association, which worked with the Obama administration on the rule, is particularly raising its voice on the issue.

In an op-ed for TechCrunch, NVCA president and CEO, Bobby Franklin, pointed out roughly a third of startups backed by venture capital have immigrant founders. Furthermore, more than half of all “unicorns,” privately held companies that are valued above $1 billion, were started by immigrants.

But despite that track record, Franklin expressed concern with the fact that the Trump administration was going the other way on the issue.

“Immigrant entrepreneurs have enhanced our economy and culture despite immigration law, rather than because of it—that has to change if we are going to grow our economy as President Trump hopes,” Franklin wrote.

While the rule is drawing its share of skepticism, it has supporters on both sides of the aisle. In a letter to the Department of Homeland Security, GOP senators Jerry Moran, Orrin Hatch, Jeff Flake, and John McCain expressed support for the International Entrepreneur Rule as written.

“There is little benefit to losing any ground in attracting entrepreneurs and their investments,” the senators’ letter stated, according to The Chronicle. “[The rule] will help the United States remain globally competitive with other countries that are implementing immigration policies to attract entrepreneurs, such as Canada and France.”


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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