Business & Tech

Trump administration blocks ‘startup visas’ tech leaders back

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration said it plans to rescind an Obama-era program that would allow foreign entrepreneurs who launch startup companies in the United States to live in the country, in the president’s latest effort to constrict immigration flows.

Known as the International Entrepreneur Rule and favored by many in the technology industry, the program would allow non-US citizens who launched companies that won $100,000 in government grants or received $250,000 in venture capital investment to stay in the country for a renewable 30-month term.

Finalized in the last days of the Obama administration, it was set to take effect July 17.

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But the Trump administration on Monday announced it would delay the program until next March as the Department of Homeland Security launches an additional review of the so-called “startup visa.”

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A notice the department issued indicates that in the interim the administration will propose rescinding the program.

“Big mistake,” Steve Case, founder of America Online and now chief executive of the Revolution LLC investment fund, said in a Twitter statement. “Immigrant entrepreneurs are job makers, not job takers.”

The National Venture Capital Association, an industry trade group, also criticized the step in a statement.

“At a time when countries around the world are doing all they can to attract and retain talented individuals to come to their shores to build and grow innovative companies, the Trump administration is signaling its intent to do the exact opposite,” Bobby Franklin, president and CEO of the trade group said.

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It’s the latest example of the Trump administration taking a step to restrain immigration to the United States despite objections from business groups. 

The president’s ban on travel from six Muslim majority companies drew criticism from a wide swath of companies.

More than 160 technology firms, including Amazon.com Inc., Facebook Inc., and Google corporate parent Alphabet Inc., joined a legal brief criticizing the executive order on foreign travel.

Technology companies have also criticized the administration’s efforts to restrict access to H-1B visas for high-skilled workers.

The move is also likely to draw the ire of some of the president’s allies on Capitol Hill.

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A group of Republican senators last month sent Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly a letter calling the rule consistent with the administration’s “goals of stimulating the economy and creating job growth at home.”

“There is little benefit to losing any more ground in attracting entrepreneurs and their investments,” the senators, who include Arizona’s John McCain and Jeff Flake, Utah’s Orrin Hatch, and Jerry Moran of Kansas, said in the letter.