Just 10 People Have Applied for This US Visa

Apr 24, 2018

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Passed in 2016, the so-called “startup” visa program was supposed to bring foreign entrepreneurs from all over the world to the US. But, new reports show that only a meager 10 people have applied for the specialized entry paperwork.

And even those 10 applications are sitting in limbo, unable to be granted approval as the policy — signed into law under the Obama administration — faces legislative hurdles from the Trump administration. As the White House seeks to tighten immigration policies, the Department of Homeland Security delayed implementing the program twice last year, saying it potentially interfered with President Trump’s travel ban.

After a District Court in Washington, DC, ruled in December 2017, that the program must remain open with no further delays, the Department of Homeland Security  said it would be accepting the visa applications.

But no visas have been granted.

A DHS spokesperson told TPG in an email that “no final decisions” on the 10 visa applications have been made.

Formally called the International Entrepreneur Rule, the startup visa program allows foreign citizens who have secured venture funding to start a new business spend five years in the US doing so. Because they do not qualify under the H-1B visa for skilled workers that many in the tech industry use to work in the US, foreign entrepreneurs need a special visa. The H-1B visa requires sponsorship from an employer, which cannot be granted to someone who is a self-employed upstart.

When the program was first delay by DHS in July 2017, it was estimated that 2,940 foreign entrepreneurs would apply for the startup visas every year. On the US Citizenship and Immigration Services website, it says that DHS is planning to remove the International Entrepreneur Rule because the program is “not the appropriate vehicle for attracting and retaining international entrepreneurs and does not adequately protect U.S. investors and U.S. workers.”

The DHS spokesperson told TPG that “DHS is also in the final stages of publishing a notice of proposed rulemaking seeking to remove the IER.”

Keeping the program in place is important to the venture capital industry. Collectively, the VC industry has spent about $2.2 million lobbying against the delay in approving startup visas, according to numbers calculated by Bloomberg. In May, policy and economic advisors from the Trump administration will meet with more than 100 venture capital partners at a summit in DC, organized by the The National Venture Capital Association, and experts predict the startup visas will be a hot topic of conversation.

“We’ve been meeting with different groups within the White House during the past two weeks,” Bobby Franklin, president of The National Venture Capital Association, told Bloomberg. “The White House has the ultimate power over what the agencies do.”

Featured image by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

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