The Obama-era ‘startup visa’ is set to be scrapped, in a move criticised by US high-tech businesses and investors
The US presidential administration has formally announced plans to rescind an Obama-era visa programme aimed at entrepreneurs that had been backed by many in the country’s high-tech industry.
The programme, known as the “International Entrepreneur Rule”, would have given entrepreneurs from abroad who had $100,000 (£77,000) in government backing or $250,000 in funding from reputable US investors an “initial parole stay” of 30 months, renewable by another 30 months.
Many technology industry leaders had pushed for such a programme, which is comparable to those offered by countries including Australia and Canada that are designed to attract people who want to start businesses in those countries.
In the US there is no clearly defined way to ensure that entrepreneurs, even those with significant funding, can continue to reside there.
The rule was finalised in the last days of the Obama administration and would have gone into effect on 17 July.
The Trump administration had indicated it planned to rescind the rule, and in a notice published in the Federal Register on Tuesday the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said it would push back implementation to next March.
In the meantime the DHS said it plans to take public comments before rescinding the programme.
The department cited security grounds for the move, as has also been the case with previous efforts by the Trump administration to restrict the flows of people into the country.
“Big mistake,” wrote America Online founder Steve Case, now chief executive of the Revolution investment fund, in a post on Twitter. “Immigrant entrepreneurs are job makers, not job takers.”
The National Venture Capital Association said the move is harmful to business.
“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,” stated the trade group’s president and chief executive Bobby Franklin.
The decision is also likely to be unpopular with some in the president’s own party.
Last month a group of Republican senators argued in an open letter to DHS secretary John Kelly the visa scheme could be helpful in “stimulating the economy and creating job growth at home”.
“There is little benefit to losing any more ground in attracting entrepreneurs and their investments,” the senators wrote.
More than 160 technology firms, including Amazon, Facebook and Google parent Alphabet backed a legal brief criticising an earlier executive order banning travel into the US from six Middle Eastern countries.
US technology firms, which are heavily dependent on their ability to attract talent from abroad, have also been critical of the administration’s moves to restrict access to the H-1B visas used for skilled staff.
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