Entrepreneurs born outside of the United States can now apply for a new category of temporary residency that would allow them to build their startups in the U.S.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is now accepting applications for the International Entrepreneur Rule (IER), an Obama-era policy that allows foreign-born founders to live in the country while growing their startups, provided they meet certain benchmarks for success. The rule is sometimes called a “startup visa” but it is technically a parole period. Only Congress can create new visa categories and paths to citizenship. President Barack Obama created the IER as a workaround when immigration reform died in Congress.
USCIS is only now accepting applications for the IER because the Trump administration tried to abolish the rule before it saw the light of day. It was originally slotted to take effect in July, but President Donald Trump issued an executive order delaying implementation of the policy with the intention of rescinding it.
The National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) sued, claiming the delay violated administrative procedures by neglecting to solicit public comment. A judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia sided with the NVCA, ordering USCIS to implement the rule.
NVCA President Bobby Franklin called the decision “a significant victory for talented foreign entrepreneurs, the entrepreneurial ecosystem, and the U.S. economy,” in a statement following the ruling.
It is a victory for advocates of immigration policies that encourage foreign-born entrepreneurs to build startups in the U.S. but it’s a small step on a long path toward creating a real startup visa. USCIS warned that it is still proceeding with plans to rescind the IER, a proposal that is “in the final stages.”
On the application page for the IER, USCIS says the Department of Homeland Security “is planning to propose to remove the IER because it is not the appropriate vehicle for attracting and retaining international entrepreneurs and does not adequately protect U.S. investors and U.S. workers.”
Between that warning and the $1,200 filing fee, it remains to be seen how many foreign-born entrepreneurs will actually apply.
“While this marks a significant achievement in NVCA’s ongoing efforts to attract and retain the best and brightest entrepreneurs from around the world, more work remains,” Franklin said in a statement Friday.