This country may be deeply divided over what to do about immigration in general, but when it comes to a Startup Visa for promising foreign founders of fast-growing businesses, it's hard to imagine a case for keeping these job-creating achievers out.

Which is why the UK and Canada have specific visas for highly qualified startup entrepreneurs, and why startup luminaries including Dave McClure, Eric Ries, and Brad Feld have been lobbying hard for a similar program here in the U.S. But up to now these pleas haven't been enough to get Congress to put partisan bickering aside and actually pass the needed legislation.

So now the Obama administration is taking matters into their own hands. The White House has announced a proposed rule change to create a version of the Startup Visa. The proposal is currently open for public comment for 45 days. What exactly does the it entail?

Who will be eligible for the Startup Visa?

For all the details, head over to the blog of Tahmina Watson, author of The Startup Visa: Key to Job Growth and Economic Prosperity in America, for an detailed but readable summary of the 155-page proposal (hat tip to Feld's blog for the pointer). But here are the basic requirements for a startup to qualify, according to Watson:

  • It was created within three years of the application filing date.
  • It was formed in the US and is operating lawfully in the US.
  • It has substantial potential to experience rapid growth and job creation through significant attraction of capital investment or government grants and awards (either $345,00 from investors, or $100,000 in grants).
  • It is not a simple small business that is intended to generate income for its owner.

Up to three co-founders of a given startup can apply, but entrepreneurs themselves also must meet certain requirement to qualify.

  • He/she owns a substantial interest in the startup, defined as at least 15 percent of the entity at the time of application.
  • He/she has a central and active role in the operations of the startup.
  • He/ she can prove an existing household income of around $80,000 (depending on the size of the household).

If you meet all these requirements and your visa is approved, you'll be given a two-year work authorization in which to build your startup to a size where you qualify for other visa categories. In some cases, the parole period can be renewed. Again, all the details can be found here.

Will this proposal become law?

Ask your crystal ball. These "are proposed rules only and not final rules," Watson stresses, though if the program sounds like a good idea to you, you can do your part to push it towards becoming reality by submitting your comments (including any changes you'd like to see to the proposal) online or by emailing uscisfrcomment@dhs.gov.

Do you think a Startup Visa along these lines is a good idea?

Published on: Aug 30, 2016