For once there is some good news to report on the immigration front—an option that could help, not harm immigrants, especially those with the entrepreneurial spirit.
The Obama administration is proposing a startup rule, the International Entrepreneur Rule, which would allow foreign-born entrepreneurs to stay in the country and grow their businesses.
It is welcome news even if it’s a little late in the president’s term.
But the rule, announced last week and now in the 45-day formal comment period through the Department of Homeland Security, is meant to help foreign-born entrepreneurs living in the U.S.
If approved, it would allow non-native business owners who found companies in the U.S. to stay in the country for an initial period of two years to build their startups.
To qualify, immigrant entrepreneurs must have at least a 15 percent ownership stake in a startup where they have a central role in operations, and have raised either $345,000 from private investors or $100,000 from federal, state or local government agencies. There’s no cap on the number of people who would be admitted to the country under this rule.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services says upward of 2,100 entrepreneurs could be eligible under the rule to stay annually.
The rule is about as far as Obama could go, short of another executive order. It takes advantage of the existing Immigration and Nationality Act, which permits the government to grant people temporary entry into the country on a case-by-case basis for “urgent humanitarian reasons” or “significant public benefit.”
But it’s important, given the legal challenges that the president’s executive order on immigration from 2014 has faced.
The White House is arguing that entrepreneurs who create jobs in the United States and contribute to gross domestic product are providing a significant public benefit.
“The rule advances a significant public benefit in that it promotes those enterprises that demonstrate a potential for rapid business growth, job creation and innovation,” Leon Rodriguez, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said on a press call last week.
After the initial two-year window, entrepreneurs can stay an additional three years if they meet a new set of criteria, including double-digit annual revenue growth, revenues of at least $500,000 and the creation of at least 10 full-time jobs. After that, entrepreneurs looking to stay in the U.S. could apply for other existing visas, such as the EB-2 visa, which is employment based.
More than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or the children of immigrants, and immigrants have founded one quarter of high-tech startups across America.
It’s a good move by the Obama White House, even if it will leave many qualified entrepreneurs out if they are unable to meet the capital-raise guidelines. But with the do-nothing Congress we are dealing with and the next president still months, away, settling for loopholes such as this one is indeed a bright light at the end of a dark tunnel.
The writer is CMO of Hard Beat Communications, which owns the brands News Americas Now, CaribPR Wire and Invest Caribbean Now.