For generations, the American economy has benefited from the ingenuity and industry of immigrants who chose to start businesses here. Many iconic American companies, from Proctor and Gamble and Pfizer in the 19th Century to Google and WeWork more recently, and companies like Sprinklr and AppNexus right here in New York, were founded, in whole or in part, by immigrants.
This is why so many—and especially those in the technology industry—support real immigration reform that would make it easier for, among other things, high-skilled and entrepreneurial workers to come to this nation to build companies, create jobs, and grow new and interesting technologies.
Currently, federal law caps the number of available visas for so-called high-skill workers and Congress has not shown that this will change any time soon. In the meantime, the White House took matters into its own hands by issuing a proposed rule that would make it easier for immigrant entrepreneurs to remain in the United States.
This week, Tech:NYC partnered with technology advocacy organization Engine to submit comments in support of that proposed rule, the International Entrepreneur Rule, and included several ideas to improve the likelihood of its effectiveness. Elements of those recommendations were based on input we received from Tech:NYC member companies and investors during a roundtable hosted by member company Expa on September 20th. A copy of the comments we filed with DHS are available here.
The startup community has been advocating for years for reforms that would allow the world’s brightest innovators to start and scale their companies here in the United States. There currently exists no visa program specifically designed to encourage immigrant entrepreneurs to build their startups in America. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has written about “cases in which entrepreneurs attempting to establish very early-stage technology start-ups were unable to obtain H-1B or other work visas for themselves and either relocated the project abroad or had to abandon the start-up.”
The International Entrepreneur Rule proposed by the Department of Homeland Security will allow talented foreign-born entrepreneurs to build their companies in the U.S., in turn creating jobs and driving economic transformation.
We provided some specific recommendations that would help strengthen the rule including increasing the ways an applicant could prove she meets the program’s requirements, such as by showing acceptance into a reputable accelerator, demonstrating positive revenue and/or job creation, or holding an advanced degree from an accredited American university. We also urged the White House to lower the threshold for initial capital investment, lengthening the period of time an entrepreneur can remain in the U.S. to reflect a realistic timetable for startup growth, and allowing crowdfunding to count as a qualified investment.
We are optimistic that the International Entrepreneur Rule, when finalized, will be a positive and productive piece of an otherwise broken immigration system.