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Introduced two years ago by former President, Barack Obama, in the closing months of his time in office, the US startup visa scheme was touted as a program that would ‘attract thousands of foreign entrepreneurs, boosting jobs and the US economy. Instead, the program has received just 10 applications, plunging its future into doubt.
Sanwar Ali workpermit.com comment:
In the US there are already a number of options for businesses wishing to start up in the US with a relatively small investment. There is the E2 treaty investor visa scheme and E1 treaty trader visa (not available to Indians and Chinese). There is also the L1 intra-company transfer visa. This new US visa option would have been a welcome addition. However, with so much hostility by Trump towards this scheme it stood little chance of success.
Indeed, current US President Donald Trump has launched an all-out assault on the program. Despite venture capitalists winning a court battle in December 2017, keeping the scheme open, the Trump administration is attempting to bury the US startup visa with bureaucracy.
Since his inauguration as President, Trump has been on a mission to tighten US immigration, with an agenda set on getting a number of high-profile executive orders passed, while simultaneously scrapping policies enacted during the Obama era.
No US startup visas granted
While the US startup visa has received 10 applications, none have been awarded. Meanwhile, in 2017, US Homeland Security indicated that it was working to abolish the program entirely.
The US startup visa was introduced as part of the International Entrepreneur Rule, and is designed to allow foreigners - who secure venture funding - to live and work in the US for up to five years, growing their businesses.
However, the program has been hit with a series of delays. Just days before it was set to be launched in July 2017, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a rule in the Federal Register, delaying the implementation until March 2018 and stated its intention to rescind the regulation altogether.
Washington-based industry lobbying group, the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA), challenged the DHS in the courts successfully, keeping the program open for now. However, the Trump administration has repeatedly said that it would find a way to discontinue the program.
The ongoing wrangling is creating uncertainty for entrepreneurs, but a return of just 10 applications for the startup visa, despite the DHS estimating upwards of three 3,000 applications per year in a recent Bloomberg report, means that some quarters feel that the administration’s actions are justified.
NVCA will challenge the administration new US Visa scheme
President and CEO of the NVCA, Bobby Franklin, said: “This is not the welcome mat we need to be putting out for entrepreneurs. We’re going to continue to push this administration, and frankly everyone in Washington to understand the merits of encouraging more, new company formations in the US, and to recognize the strong correlation between immigrant entrepreneurs and successful companies.”
The ongoing saga surrounding the US startup visa is symptomatic of the tension that exists between the tech industry and the Trump administration, which has also come down hard on Indian IT companies amid their alleged abuse of the US L1 visa system.
Tech companies increasingly rely on foreign talent, and they’ve urged Congress to maintain existing US immigration programs. However, Trump is adamant that too many companies abuse visa programs, to avoid hiring American talent.
With entrepreneurs continually being denied entry to the US, they’ve pursued opportunities in other countries, especially Canada. The Canadian Global Skills program allows tech workers to obtain a work permit in just two weeks.
However, it’s not a foregone conclusion that the US startup visa will be scrapped. There’s a possibility that the Trump administration could keep the International Entrepreneur Rule in place. Alternatively, the program will be tweaked with a more selective approach taken towards entrepreneurs welcomed into the US.
Franklin would prefer Congress to pass an actual bipartisan startup visa law, rather than the current setup, which is a workaround - an aspect of the International Entrepreneur Rule, created after multiple proposals for an official visa category for foreign-born entrepreneurs were rejected in Congress.
Unfortunately for Franklin, many are not optimistic about the passing of an actual bipartisan startup visa law.
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