An Obama-era program aimed at making it easier for foreign entrepreneurs to launch U.S.-based startups seems to be on the chopping block as the Trump administration looks to limit foreign immigration.
The International Entrepreneur Rule would allow foreign-born founders to live and work in the U.S. and was highly favored by Silicon Valley business leaders and tech workers. The program gives non-U.S. citizens who founded companies — and had secured either $100,000 in government grants or at least $250,000 in venture capital funds — the ability to stay in the U.S. for a 30-month term with the option for future renewals.
The program was set to go into effect on July 17.
However, the White House stated Monday that it will stay the program until sometime next March to give the U.S. Defense Security Service time to review the “startup visa.” That stay seemed to be something of a temporary measure, though this morning’s reports in Reuters indicated the Trump administration plans to rescind the program entirely.
The move has netted some criticism.
“Big mistake,” said Steve Case, chief executive officer of the Revolution LLC investment fund and founder of America Online, in a Twitter statement. “Immigrant entrepreneurs are job makers, not job takers.”
The National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) took a similar line.
“At a time when countries around the world are doing all they can to attract and retain talented individuals to come to their shores to build and grow innovative companies, the Trump Administration is signaling its intent to do the exact opposite,” said Bobby Franklin, president and CEO of the NVCA.
The stay comes as part of a packet of moves from the Trump administration to restrict the flow of immigration into the U.S. — regardless of the opinions of the business community. The startup visa roll-back joins a travel ban on six Muslim majority nations which drew sharp criticism from Silicon Valley luminary firms like Amazon.com Inc., Facebook Inc. and Google’s corporate parent Alphabet Inc. Those firms have also been critical of cutting back the H1B visas that make it possible for skilled foreign workers — many of whom are in the tech industry — to work in the U.S. for U.S.-based companies.
The move is also likely to generate pushback from Republicans in Congress. Last month, a group of Republican senators wrote Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to affirm the entrepreneur visa program as consistent with the party’s “goals of stimulating the economy and creating job growth at home.”
“There is little benefit to losing any more ground in attracting entrepreneurs and their investments,” said the senators, which included Arizona’s John McCain and Jeff Flake, Utah’s Orrin Hatch, and Jerry Moran of Kansas.