Immigrants have a centuries-long track record of entrepreneurial activity in the U.S. More than half of all U.S. start-ups of at least $1 billion in value had at least one immigrant cofounder, according to a 2016 study. This holds true as well for over 40% of Fortune 500 firms who have at least one immigrant or a child of immigrants founder. Immigrant entrepreneurs are the backbone of a vibrant U.S. economy.
Unfortunately, the nation’s outdated immigration laws do not provide adequate avenues for immigrant entrepreneurs at the start-up stage. This shuts out not only entrepreneurs living abroad, but also foreign students who have attained advanced degrees, often in STEM fields, at U.S. universities, who want to innovate here rather than in their home countries.
Following repeated unsuccessful attempts to get meaningful immigration reform through Congress, the prior Administration crafted a new International Entrepreneur Rule (IER) to allow use of an existing program called “parole” as a vehicle through which international entrepreneurs could gain temporary legal status in the U.S. to launch new enterprises, on a case-by-case basis, if they met certain investment and other criteria. If their launch efforts were successful, they might later obtain permanent legal status under existing immigration laws. The IER was scheduled to take effect on July 17, 2017.
On July 11, 2017, the new Administration published a final rule delaying implementation of the IER until March 14, 2018, and expressing its intent to rescind the IER altogether, following a notice and comment period ending Aug. 10, 2017.
Many organizations and individuals concerned with the economy expressed their disagreement with the new Administration’s stance, including the National Venture Capital Association, and the Consumer Technology Association.
Rescission of the IER, absent Congressional action to dramatically improve our federal immigration statutes, will result in the U.S. losing talented entrepreneurs and job creators to other countries.