Why startup visas are good for America

As immigrant rights groups and activists continue to fight for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, another Obama-era immigration policy is quietly being dismantled by the Trump administration. The International Entrepreneur Rule, also known as the “startup visa,” which gives immigrants the chance to start businesses in the United States, now has an uncertain future.

The startup visa program was set to go into effect in July. But, just days before its implementation, the Department of Homeland Security abruptly decided topush back the program’s start date to March to give US Citizenship and Immigration Services time to review, and possibly cancel, the program.

The delay prompted the National Venture Capital Association, entrepreneurs and startup companies to file a lawsuit against DHS in September, which resultedin a federal court ruling that the program must be implemented in December. Now, however, DHS has proposed to repeal it altogether.

The startup visa was intended to allow a path for immigrant startup founders to work in the United States for 2½ years, with the possibility to renew. It was structured to include criteria ensuring that immigrant startup founders permitted to work here would provide a “significant public benefit” to the United States, requiring proof of capital investment from US investors and job creation. But beyond the concrete benefits reaped through the program are the intangible cultural advantages that create thriving companies and foster innovative thought.

Diversity and inclusion are buzzwords common to many companies’ public relations campaigns. But real progress in diversity and inclusion involves more than head counts for race and gender; it takes into account geography, culture and the specialized knowledge and skills of people with diverse backgrounds. Immigrant founders are a cornerstone of building this authentic inclusion.

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