In 2017, an immigration rule was created to allow international entrepreneurs to live and work in the U.S. for up to five years in order to create start-up businesses. Now, that rule appears to be on its way out. The “international entrepreneur rule” was created during the Obama administration but was set to go into effect during the Trump administration. Last year, however, the Department of Homeland Security put the rule on hold while indicating it planned to rescind the rule and prevent the program from going into effect.
Due to intervention by a federal court, however, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has been ordered to accept applications from entrepreneurs while it attempts to end the program legally. A spokesperson said that the agency has received about 12 applications but hasn’t finalized any decisions on them. The National Venture Capital Association, a trade group, has asked a court to determine if the USCIS is deliberately circumventing the prior court ruling by intentionally failing to take action on the applications.
The international entrepreneur rule is based on the DHS’s discretionary authority to allow people to remain in the U.S. on “parole” — in other words to refrain from having them removed. This longstanding authority is typically used for humanitarian reasons, such as to give humanitarian parole to groups of people who would suffer extreme hardship if returned to their home countries. The department’s parole authority can also be used, however, to promote the public good.
When the program was created by the Obama administration, it was argued that the U.S. currently has no visa allowing entrepreneurs to start businesses in the U.S. if they require investment to do so. The rule was needed because, even when potential entrepreneurs complete a U.S. education and attract significant investor interest, they cannot legally remain in the U.S. to start a company. (The U.S. does offer visas for people who can afford to invest their own money in new businesses.)
In its statement proposing to end the rule, the Trump administration argues that the rule “represents an overly broad interpretation of parole authority,” and doesn’t offer enough protection for U.S. investors and workers. Moreover, the administration says that the international entrepreneur rule is “not the appropriate vehicle” for attracting these entrepreneurs and keeping them in the U.S. in the long term.
Instead, the DHS proposes that Congress take on the responsibility of establishing a program through legislation.
Pro-immigration and trade groups have criticized the rescission of the international entrepreneur rule, arguing that the rule would have resulted in job creation and increased middle-class wages in the U.S.