American entrepreneurship and immigration are deeply intertwined, and our community is thankful for the many contributions that immigrant entrepreneurs have brought to our country. The stats are astounding: immigrants have started more than half of America’s “unicorns;” one-third of U.S. venture-backed companies that went public between 2006 and 2012 had at least one immigrant founder; and more than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies have at least one founder who either immigrated to the U.S., or was the child of immigrants.
Despite this success, immigrant founders still do not have a dedicated ‘startup visa’ that would allow talented entrepreneurs to start their enterprises here, rather than overseas. We have incredible champions for this idea on Capitol Hill, but with comprehensive immigration reform not moving in the near future, it is unclear when a startup visa will become law.
Against that backdrop, at the end of the Obama Administration, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) finalized the International Entrepreneur Rule (IER), which would allow a foreign-born founder to remain in the U.S. for up to five years if he or she created a startup with potential for rapid growth and job creation, among other requirements.
Since January, NVCA has been the leading organization in D.C. pushing for the Trump Administration to keep the rule in place so our country can realize its many benefits. We engaged in direct advocacy with the Trump Administration to demonstrate why the IER is a job creator; organized founders and groups in emerging ecosystems to show the administration why the IER will create jobs in areas that desperately need them; engaged in a public relations campaign to showcase the many benefits immigrant entrepreneurs would bring under the IER; and rallied other national groups to encourage the administration to reverse course.
Despite our compelling arguments, DHS delayed the entrepreneur rule less than one week before it was set to go into effect and indicated it intended to rescind it all together. We were profoundly disappointed with this decision and didn’t shy away from saying so. We also believe the delay was unlawful. DHS ignored the usual requirements to take public comments and delayed the rule using dubious legal reasoning.
We have taken the next step in our advocacy efforts by filing suit against DHS. We’re asking a federal court to block DHS from delaying the International Entrepreneur Rule and require DHS to begin accepting applications from foreign-born entrepreneurs.
But why is this lawsuit necessary? While it is common for a trade association to sue the government on behalf of the industry it represents, we at NVCA don’t take suing the government lightly. This was a decision we carefully considered in consultation with our board, and our board approved us taking this course of action. The fact is that NVCA is the organization that must stand up on this issue and fight because immigrant entrepreneurs are the past, present, and future of our industry and of the U.S. economy. Venture capitalists have long stood shoulder-to-shoulder with foreign-born founders as they built new, dynamic companies that delivered value to the American public and created jobs. With this lawsuit, we once again stand with those immigrant entrepreneurs to provide new opportunities for them to build the next generation of great companies here in the U.S.