Chicago immigration legal professionals, enterprise teams push for Biden administration to assist younger entrepreneurs
A startup founded by Oliver Yiu, a student at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, due to graduate in June sounds like an American dream.
As an online dermatology practice, it is innovative and as a company that can easily transform into other fields, it has potential for job creation. The mySkin Indonesia company was founded in Yiu’s native Indonesia, however, as the way for foreign entrepreneurs in America was not available at the time, despite a regulation that created one in 2016.
Had the International Entrepreneur Rule (IER), an executive regulation created by the Obama administration, been implemented when it came into effect in June 2017, Yiu might have started his business in the United States, a country he frequently visited with a child.
The rule, which aims to allow more entrepreneurs to immigrate to the US to start their businesses, was signed by Obama towards the end of his second term, but postponed by the Trump administration.
With the election of Joe Biden, who has already reversed several immigration measures under Trump, corporate groups and lawyers such as Chicago lawyer Fiona McEntee are calling for the International Entrepreneur Rule to be restored.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for the US,” said McEntee.
McEntee, herself an immigrant who works as an immigration attorney with the McEntee Law Group in Jefferson Park and chairs the Media and Advocacy Committee of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said she has about a dozen clients who could benefit if the rule would reset in place.
“I see what my customers can achieve when they have the opportunity. Often it’s foreign students, people who are here with this great idea and there is no mechanism for them to do it. It can be very, very difficult. “
To qualify, an entrepreneur must own at least a 10% interest in their business and receive at least $ 250,000 from a qualified investor or at least $ 100,000 through a qualifying government award or grant. Although it is commonly referred to as a starting visa, it is not a visa. Rather, it is a probationary period that begins with a term of 2 1/2 years.
If the company meets certain requirements – create at least five jobs and have annual sales of $ 500,000 – the period can be extended. The benefit for foreign-born entrepreneurs of settling in the US is access to a huge market and the best of the best in terms of talent, many of whom are fellow immigrants.
The Obama administration estimated that 2,490 people would apply for the IER program annually. But because it was not implemented, many entrepreneurs like Yiu did not take it into account when starting businesses. Yiu said that if the rule had been implemented as originally planned, he might have started his company in the US rather than Indonesia.
According to proponents of the IER, the result is a loss to the US, a point McEntee and the National Venture Capital Association stress.
“There is no doubt that the US has lost to other countries,” said Jeff Farrah, NVCA General Counsel.
“Many other countries have recognized the economic benefits of starting new businesses and have developed an ecosystem in their own countries. When you’re a foreign-born entrepreneur, you don’t have to come to the US like you used to, ”said Farrah.
Although implementation of the IIR was scheduled for June 2017, the Trump administration stalled and eventually enacted a rule to remove it – something the NVCA stopped with a lawsuit in 2018. The group wrote a letter to President-elect Biden in December calling on him, in a letter recently sent to the new Minister of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, to take action against the IIR and join a coalition of economic and join immigrant groups.
The Trump administration argued that the IIR “is an overly broad interpretation of parole, does not provide adequate protection for US workers and investors, and is not an appropriate means of attracting and retaining international entrepreneurs.”
McEntee called this argument “ridiculous”.
Farrah added, “It is ironic that the Trump administration said it did not have adequate support for investors and corporations, but groups like ours, which represent venture capital investors, and angel capital investors and other investors, have been some of the biggest proponents of that Rule.”
Caralynn Nowinski Collins, physician and CEO of Dimension Inx, an American company that makes organ and tissue implant materials, said foreign-owned startups create jobs and an atmosphere of competition that helps everyone.
“In general, we are facing a globally competitive market in the US. If we are unable to retain talent and build the best possible business because some people are left out, I believe it is detrimental to the US and affects the competitiveness of all companies, ”said Nowinski Collens.
Farrah said the goal of his group is to get Congress to make the rule law.
“Our ultimate goal is to get a startup visa into federal law so that Congress actually creates a new visa category for foreign-born founders,” said Farrah. “It would be much more durable [than an executive order] and not subject to the whims of future administrations who may not properly manage it. “