Emily Baker

by & filed under Immigration, Issues, NVCA Blog.

Last night President Obama announced his executive action to fix the nation’s broken immigration system. Key provisions of the Executive Order benefit the innovation ecosystem and represent a victory for NVCA.  Here is a short recap of the provisions that relate to high-skilled immigrant entrepreneurs, the venture capital industry and why this is such an important achievement for NVCA.

Immigration reform has been a top priority for NVCA for more than a decade and we have been working on the Startup Visa for more than four years.  The original concept of the Startup Visa, developed by Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Jared Polis (D-CO), aimed to provide immigrant entrepreneurs with the ability to raise angel or venture capital and build their businesses in the U.S.  Former NVCA board members Jason Mendelson (Foundry Group), Deepak Kamra (Canaan Partners), Keith Crandell (Arch Ventures), Ray Rothrock (formerly of Venrock) as well as NVCA members Jeff Bussgang (Flybridge Capital) and Shervin Pishevar (formerly of Menlo Ventures) have all testified before Congress on the importance of providing visas to entrepreneurs who receive venture capital so that they can build their businesses in the U.S.

The Executive Order expands opportunities for foreign entrepreneurs who receive venture capital (or angel investment) and meet other criteria such as job creation and revenue generation.  Achieving these milestones will allow the entrepreneur to stay in the U.S. and, if successful, be on a pathway to getting a green card.  Importantly, this visa program is uncapped and entrepreneurs can remain in the U.S. for an unlimited amount of time as they grow their business.

The Executive Order does not specify the details of the Startup Visa.  Instead it calls for the appropriate federal agency to provide guidelines and rulemaking on the specifics.  Because NVCA has been working with lawmakers and officials at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for so long on this issue, we believe that the criteria around this visa are well-defined, even if they are not public at this time.  In the case of the Startup Visa, we anticipate that the entrepreneur will have to raise a certain amount of capital and create a certain number of jobs in order to be eligible.  The inclusion of the Startup Visa in the Executive Order is a tremendous success, but doesn’t negate the need for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform that becomes the law of the land.

The Obama Administration will now turn its attention to defining the regulatory terms of the Executive Order over the next 120 days.  NVCA has already been in discussions with the White House and DHS to ensure that the rules for these visas are written in such a way that they achieve the intended results for the startup community.  In the weeks and months ahead, we will continue working with the Administration on the regulatory front and Congress on the legislative front.

Today, Bobby Franklin, NVCA President and CEO, discussed the positive impact of the provisions included in the Executive Order that benefit the innovation ecosystem on CNBC’s Squawk Alley. Watch the interview.

We encourage members of NVCA to join in sharing their support for the provisions of the Executive Order that increase access to visas for foreign-born entrepreneurs.  Whether you write a blog post, discuss on social media, or in conversations with reporters, we ask for your contributions to make clear that the inclusion of the Startup Visa is a win for innovation, job creation and economic growth in the U.S.  There is broad bipartisan support in Congress and the White House for the high-skilled immigration provisions in the Executive Order and we want to demonstrate our support for these provisions to be included in any legislative effort. Please share your contributions with NVCA on Twitter at @NVCA.