The Biden administration is considering reviving an immigration program that was put on hold during the Trump administration to provide foreign entrepreneurs with the opportunity to enter and stay in the United States to set up and run their companies. Immigration lawyers said the program could attract a large number of Chinese entrepreneurs to invest in the United States. The Trump administration’s opposition at the time was based on the program’s high level of uncertainty, which would likely backfire and hurt U.S. investors and employees.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced Monday (May 10) that it will withdraw the Trump administration’s proposed rescission order for the International Entrepreneur Rule. “The International Entrepreneur Rule was first introduced by the Obama administration in January 2017 and was scheduled to take effect in July of the same year. Under the program, foreign entrepreneurs who own at least 10 percent of a startup company that attracts at least $250,000 in capital from U.S. investors or receives at least $100,000 in grants from the U.S. federal or local government will have the opportunity to receive a five-year “admission” (parole) for temporary residence in the United States The program is designed to foster and develop companies and create jobs in the United States.
On the eve of the program’s effective date, the incoming Trump administration decided to delay the effective date and signaled that it would cancel the program. Although it was not officially canceled, the program was largely shelved. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Trump administration’s attitude toward the program has led most entrepreneurs to believe that even if they apply, they are unlikely to be approved. Between 2017 and 2019, USCIS received only 30 applications, and only one was successfully approved.
“American immigrants have a long history of entrepreneurship, hard work and innovation, and their contributions to this country have been invaluable,” said Tracy Renaud, the current acting USCIS director, of the ‘International Entrepreneur Rule’ chartered admission The program goes hand-in-hand with our nation’s spirit of welcoming entrepreneurs, and USCIS encourages those who meet the application requirements to take advantage of the program.”
According to USCIS estimates, if the program is implemented properly, approximately 3,000 foreign entrepreneurs will be granted “admissions” each year. The New American Economy, a cross-party U.S. research and immigration advocacy group, estimates that the program could create 135,000 to 300,000 jobs in the United States over a decade.
Immigration attorneys told VOA that China is the leading source of immigrant investors in the United States, and the International Entrepreneur Rule program is sure to attract a large number of Chinese applicants as well.
What is the International Entrepreneur Rule?
“The International Entrepreneur Rule is often thought of as a U.S. “start-up visa” program, but in fact the “admissions” granted to entrepreneurs are neither a visa nor a green card.
Greg Siskind, a U.S. immigration attorney familiar with the program, told the Voice of America that the privileged entry is basically a status that gives an alien legal residence in the United States, as well as a work permit (work card) tied to that status. And the approval of a petition for admission is entirely at the discretion of the USCIS examiner, unlike visa approval.
“It’s not like you have to issue a visa as long as the applicant meets certain specific requirements. The chartered entry program doesn’t work that way; it has to be discretionary on a case-by-case basis,” Siskander said.
In general, Siskind said, admittance is granted mostly for humanitarian reasons or if the entrant will provide a “significant public benefit” to the United States.
Under the International Entrepreneur Rule, up to three co-founders of each startup can be granted “admission on a waiver” for an initial period of 2.5 years. If, after two and a half years, the entrepreneur can demonstrate that his or her company continues to provide a “significant public benefit” to the United States – such as demonstrating a significant increase in revenue, job creation and capital infusion received by the company – he or she may be granted an extension of admission for up to 2.5 years.
At the end of the five-year period, if the entrepreneur is unable to obtain a U.S. visa or green card through other channels, he or she will be required to leave the country.
Who are the main beneficiaries of the program?
Attorney Siskind told Voice of America that he expects the main group of people applying for the program to be foreign nationals already living in the United States. Entrepreneurs outside the U.S. can certainly apply, but the details of the program’s set-up make it difficult.
Siskind believes that international students in the U.S. are likely to be the main group of people applying for the Entrepreneurial Permit to Enter. Since the tightening of H-1B work visas under the Trump administration, many international students’ plans to stay and work in the U.S. have taken a hit. The creation of the International Entrepreneur Rule gives international students who have dreams of starting their own businesses a path to stay in the United States.
“It’s not easy to start a company through the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program after graduation, and it’s not easy to become the owner of a company through H-1B visa status,” Siskind said.
Students on F1 student visas have the opportunity to apply for OPT for work authorization after graduation, but OPT lasts for a maximum of one or three years (students in science and engineering have three years), so students are usually looking for employers willing to apply for H-1B for them while on OPT.
Another group that can benefit from the International Entrepreneur Rule is H-1B visa holders, those who want to start their own business and become their own employer after gaining some work experience can obtain “The International Entrepreneur Rule allows those who want to start their own business and become their own employer after gaining some work experience to leave their original employer and forgo their H-1B visa.
Program May Attract Many Chinese Entrepreneurs
Siskind believes that the International Entrepreneur Rule will bring many opportunities to Chinese entrepreneurs. Because of the large number of Chinese applicants to the EB5 immigrant investor program in the U.S., the quota has been overdrawn, and the International Entrepreneur Rule could provide an alternative pathway for Chinese who wish to do business to realize their entrepreneurial dreams in the United States.
As to whether the deterioration of U.S.-China relations and increased strategic competition will affect Chinese applicants to the program, Siskind said that Chinese immigrants are one of the most successful immigrant groups in the United States, with a large number of Chinese technology professionals and Chinese entrepreneurs making great contributions to the United States. He cited as an example the key technology used by Pfizer and Modena in the U.S. to develop the new crown vaccine, which was designed by Chinese immigrant scientists.
“Once they (Chinese immigrants) come to the U.S. and take root in the U.S., they are contributing to the U.S. to a greater extent than they are to China. Chinese immigrants are contributing to U.S. vaccines, not Chinese vaccines,” Siskind told Voice of America. He hopes that the diplomatic differences between the U.S. and China will not affect the exchange of people between the two sides.
Could it be a new channel for the Chinese government to infiltrate the United States?
In February, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) was stepping up its scrutiny of Chinese investments in U.S. technology startups to prevent those deals from becoming a “back door” for China to steal sensitive technology.
Harry Broadman, a former CFIUS official and managing director of consulting firm Berkeley Research Group, told the Voice of America at the time that “the Biden team will be as tough as its predecessor in reviewing Chinese investment in the United States, but will place more emphasis on clarity and stability of U.S. policy in this area. stability”.
Mark Williams, chief Asia economist at Capitol Macro, also noted: “Some in China may see stricter scrutiny of Chinese investment as a tactic in Trump’s trade war. But this is part of a broader shift in U.S. posture toward China, which is continuing under President Biden. The United States will not be a welcoming market for Chinese investment in the coming years.”
In response, New York immigration attorney Gao Guangjun told VOA that while there is certainly a risk of political infiltration and espionage by the Chinese government using the International Entrepreneur Rule, it would be extreme to shut down the entire program because of this factor.
“Without this program, I believe that the Chinese government’s infiltration and espionage in the United States in all aspects would not have stopped. It’s not going to increase their activities very much because of this one program; it’s not going to stop them from doing infiltrations into the United States because there is less of this program,” Gao Guangjun said.
Gao believes that, just as Chinese citizens have injected great enthusiasm into the EB5 immigrant investor program, once the International Entrepreneur Rule waiver program is implemented, there may be relatively more Chinese applicants, but the program is, after all, for people from all over the world who want to come to the United States to start their own businesses, so the risk of infiltration from the Chinese government alone is not necessary to affect the entire program. There is no need for the entire program to be affected by the risk of infiltration from the Chinese government.
Why does the Trump administration oppose it?
Siskind told Voice of America that he thought Trump, an entrepreneur, would like a program that would create jobs in the United States.
According to the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) proposed rule “Elimination of the International Entrepreneurial Admissions Program” issued in May 2018, the Trump administration said that while they agree that foreign entrepreneurs can make substantial and positive contributions to U.S. innovation, economic growth and job creation, the uncertainty-ridden “The VWP is not an appropriate tool for attracting and retaining foreign entrepreneurial talent, and the INA already provides visa categories for foreign entrepreneurs to start and work in the United States, such as the E2 nonimmigrant visa and the EB5 immigrant visa.
In addition, the admissions program itself does not grant a green card or provide a pathway to a green card. At the end of the program, if the entrepreneur is not able to obtain a U.S. green card or other visa through other channels, he or she will be required to leave the country. This may cause the entrepreneur to move the business to another country, making the “substantial public benefit” to the United States unsustainable, and may in turn harm the interests of U.S. investors and employees.