September 5, 2017
One of the last immigration rules approved under Obama’s Presidency was the so-called “startup visa program” for investors. This would have allowed foreign entrepreneurs to reside in the USA if they have secured sufficient funding for expanding their company.
Immigration parole for qualified entrepreneurs
Venture capital firms often make it a condition of funding that a startup moves close to them – typically, to Silicon Valley. This enables the venture capital firm to mentor the startup and also encourage cooperation with other startups in their portfolio. The “startup visa program”, granting foreign entrepreneurs easy access to living in the USA, has quite strict criteria of eligibility. Applicants had to secure investment capital for a minimum of USD 250,000 from a reputable investor, and demonstrate that will contribute to the economy and create jobs. Accordingly, the program was expected to admit only around 3,000 qualified applicants.
It is important to note that the program was technically about granting entrepreneurs immigration parole, that is, it would not have qualified them to apply for a green card later on. Still, it was considered a long-awaited means of attracting highly qualified individuals in the global race for top talent.
Trump seeks to dismantle the program
The program was set to start in June 2017. However, the Trump administration officially announced that the start of the program is delayed until March 2018, while it is being re-evaluated. Given the new directive that immigration parole should be reserved for cases of dire humanitarian distress only, it is no secret that the new administration seeks to dismantle the program before it ever takes effect.
The decision to rescind the program was heavily criticized by industry representatives. Silicon Valley companies rely heavily on attracting international talent, and the USA is facing more and more competition from countries like Australia, Canada, Chile, Ireland, and New Zealand, which all have programs to attract international entrepreneurs.