The Biden administration on Monday announced that it will fully implement the International Entrepreneur Rule (IER), an Obama-era program that lets certain foreign-born entrepreneurs stay in the U.S. for up to five years.
Why it matters: The Department of Homeland Security estimates that once implemented, about 3,000 foreign entrepreneurs would qualify per year for the IER program, resulting in about 100,000 jobs being created over a decade.
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IER never got the chance to realize its potential because of early Trump administration dismantling.
Big picture: Right now, immigrants who want to start a company in the U.S. have to retrofit visas to their personal situations and hope that immigration administrators approve.
Many who are already here under employer-sponsored visas like H1-B or the post-college extension (F1-OPT) apply for green cards to (hopefully) be able to start their companies.
Some apply for the E2 visa, which requires the applicant to personally invest in the startup.
Others make their case for an O1 visa — for an "individual who possesses extraordinary ability" — which is best known for helping musicians and actors.
The ultimate goal is a green card — permanent U.S. residency — which comes with freedom for employment (short of some government jobs).
"Our portfolio founders come from 27 non-U.S. countries, [and] they’ve been on 12 different kinds of visas," says Unshackled Ventures partner Nitin Pachisia, whose firm exclusively backs foreign-born entrepreneurs and helps them with immigration.
Meanwhile: Other countries like Canada have scooped up would-be U.S. immigrants by offering more straightforward visa programs for entrepreneurs.
Turkish-born Omer Kucukdere, co-founder of Nestpick, tells Axios he set up his company in Germany thanks to the European Union's Blue Card visa, and a number of his employees have also used it.
What’s next: IER isn't a panacea for foreign-born founders because it gives DHS discretionary authority and is not a formal immigration status.
Only Congress can create an actual visa for entrepreneurs, like what's been proposed in something called The Startup Act.
The bottom line: The U.S. now has a clearer path for foreign-born entrepreneurs, but it's still not entirely clear.
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