New Startup Visa Would Show the US Is Ready To Grow

New Startup Visa Would Show the US Is Ready To Grow
Six Agtech Startups Selected for Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (Photo: Business Wire)
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After calls from entrepreneurs and professionals, the Biden Administration looks set to revive the “International Entrepreneur Rule,” which uses an authority called parole to allow startup business owners from other countries to come to the U.S. without a visa, ending years of uncertainty due to the previous administration’s push to formally bring it to an end.

Although it is a promising move that shows the administration not only understands the difficulties facing U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), but that it recognizes the essential role immigrant entrepreneurs have and will continue to play in fostering an American economy that is poised to grow. However, the International Entrepreneur Rule only allows for a temporary entry into the United States and does not offer a permanent visa or pathway to permanent residency. There is still something the administration can do to ensure entrepreneurs and startups can continue bringing their talents to our country for years to come: create a category of visa specifically designed for startup businesses.

The startup visa is an idea that President Barack Obama included in his administration’s immigration reform framework. Unfortunately, it’s an idea that lost momentum when President Trump took office in 2017 and took steps to restrict the number of workers coming to the U.S.

As a result, there isn’t currently a specific “startup visa” in the U.S. immigration system, which means that anyone from outside the U.S. looking to launch their startup here has to try and fit into another category such as an H-1B, O-1 or an E-2 visa. This creates problems for people looking to devote real time and resources to starting a business in the U.S., since existing visas are designed with other types of workers in mind.

The best remedy for this would be to create a new category for visas specifically designed for startup owners. By opening a visa option tailored specifically to those who have secured proper funding and are prepared to start hiring, we can ensure that the business leaders of the future are making the U.S. their top destination, rather than another country.

Other countries that do have startup visas actively recruit U.S.-based workers facing uncertainty over their visa status. For example, Canada, a country that does offer a visa specifically for startups, purchased billboard signage in Silicon Valley as recently as last year looking to attract workers and entrepreneurs concerned that they won’t have recourse to stay in the U.S. if their visa expires.

If we want to stave off these efforts and encourage entrepreneurship in the U.S., we will need to address this competition head-on with a dedicated startup visa. The steps the administration has taken to bring back the International Entrepreneur Rule show they know this, and creating the startup visa category would cement our country’s continued status as the top destination for aspiring business owners. President Biden has an opportunity to truly begin the startup visa and ensure our country remains a place that entrepreneurs look to as one welcoming to new businesses and new ideas that help our economy grow.

After all, it is already clear that immigrant-owned businesses are a major part of our country’s economy. According to data from New American Economy, 28 percent of Main Street businesses in 2015 were owned by immigrant entrepreneurs, and roughly 44 percent of 2020’s Fortune 500 firms had at least one founder that was an immigrant or the child of an immigrant, with those companies employing 13.7 million people. Whether it’s the store down the street or an industry-defining business like Google, immigrant entrepreneurs have shaped our economy, and will continue to do so well into the future.

Imagine the companies that will be started, the jobs that will be created, and the growth in which we will all share by making it less burdensome for those primed to help our economy grow to open their businesses here. Launching a startup visa was the right idea when it was first proposed, and it is still the right path today. Now, it’s up to those in the Biden Administration and Congress to come together to make it a reality. 

Madhuri Kumar is an immigration attorney at J&K Law.

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