EXECUTIVE ORDER HELPS IMMIGRANT ENTREPRENEURS

Parole status details have yet to be worked out.

President Obama’s gambit to make it easier to admit foreign entrepreneurs into this country is being welcomed by entrepreneurship supporters.

Overshadowed by the political furor over the president’s executive order to grant temporary legal status to parents and children in this country illegally is a provision that offers an endaround for foreign entrepreneurs.

The new directive orders the Department of Homeland Security to grant “parole status” on a case-by-case basis to entrepreneurs, inventors and researchers who have substantial U.S. investor financing or otherwise hold the promise of innovation and job creation.

Typically, parole status is granted for humanitarian or medical relief. This new directive would allow entrepreneurs to not only enter the county to launch startups, but also start on the path toward earning a visa.

The details, such as how many entrepreneurs will be admitted, how they will be vetted, how long they can stay and what their permanent status might be, have yet to be worked out, but it’s still a positive step, said Jeremy Robbins, executive director of Partnership for a New American Economy, a coalition of business leaders and mayors pushing for comprehensive immigration reform.

“There are huge untapped gains to be had from immigrant entrepreneurs,” he said.

The order also was welcomed by the National Venture Capital Association, whose members are always on the lookout for promising startups in which to invest.

“Whatever your feelings on illegal immigration, however you feel about how the President did it, everyone should agree that this is an opportunity to strengthen the nation’s economy,” said President and CEO Bobby Franklin.

Without knowing how many waivers will be granted according to what criteria and the ultimate status of entrepreneurs admitted to this country, it’s impossible to predict what the impact will be. There is no denying, however, that immigrants have fueled the country’s economic growth. Nearly 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children.

Venture capitalists will invest in promising startups even if the ultimate status of their immigrant founders is uncertain, Franklin said: “If it’s a good company and they believe in the entrepreneurs who are doing it, absolutely those entrepreneurs are going to be funded. The question is whether they’ll start the company here or elsewhere.”

Both Franklin and Robbins used the phrase “The devil’s in the details” to describe the rulemaking that will clarify the waiver policy and both said their organizations will continue to work with Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

They agreed that the provisions for entrepreneurs probably would survive any reprisals from Republicans opposed to the temporary legal status granted to illegal immigrants.

Photo by Jason Morrison

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