Obama-led DHS Directive Key for Foreign Entrepreneurs

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Policies Supporting U.S. High-Skilled Businesses and Workers

It seems that the U.S. government is belatedly realizing the importance of certain foreign workers to the national economy.

Contained within the president’s executive order on immigration reform are new provisions designed to assist highly-valued foreign technology entrepreneurs in remaining in the United States.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) directive titled “Policies Supporting U.S. High-Skilled Businesses and Workers” declares this through two proclamations:

  1. That exceptional foreign entrepreneurs are essential in bolstering the U.S. economy through their research and innovations.
  2. That DHS has been given broad latitude to grant “parole” status to outstanding foreign entrepreneurs and innovators who require it to stay in the United States.

This parole status does come with a couple of caveats, however: The foreign entrepreneur must have received significant financing from U.S. investors, or deemed as likely to introduce innovations that will boost job growth.

Economists laud the move, as they see the foreign innovator who launches their businesses on American soil as a potentially huge boon to the national economic landscape. They astutely note that close to 40% of Fortune 500 corporations were started by either foreigners or their direct descendants, yet immigration procedures as a whole remain overly bureaucratic, outdated, and laden with red tape.

Especially in tech-heavy sectors, the reduction of foreign-based entrepreneurs has shown a steady decline dating back to the mid-90’s.

Part of that reduction can be attributed to the aforementioned barriers to citizenship and residency, such as the artificial cap placed on the H-1B visa for highly specialized foreign workers. Other obstacles included undeveloped work visa pathways for foreign students, and the massive backlog for green card applications necessary to attain permanent residency status.

The new provisions for assisting foreign entrepreneurs shows that the United States is catching up to the rest of the world as far as the way they cultivate and keep their top foreign talent. The DHS now has the go-ahead to exercise a level of discretion that it did not previously possess in identifying promising foreign research and development, and keeping it within U.S. borders.

Still, the new directive includes a lot of vague language, making it unclear exactly how and when the DHS will go about exercising its broad new powers.

The simple truth is, no one knows precisely how much a U.S. investor must invest in a foreigner entrepreneur’s business, or what qualifies as an “innovation” that promises to increase job growth before reaping the benefits of the new directive.

Additionally, a potential investor will definitely want assurances that an ambiguous law will not encounter an unexpected loophole that causes their investment to be for naught, should the foreign entrepreneur be forced to leave prematurely.

To prevent such predicaments and engender confidence in the new directive, economists and investors are in consensus that Congress must add their full endorsement to the President’s immigration initiative. Although a promising development and a reason for optimism, the DHS directives for expanding immigration avenues for foreign innovators won’t be considered transparent and ironclad until both major parties are fully behind them. The good news is the initial signs suggest that both parties realize the tremendous economic potential of developing talented foreign individuals in the U.S., and are committed to strengthening the legislation supporting it.

For more information on Obama’s immigration reform, contact Lightman Law Firm at (212) 643-0985 or submit a consultation request online

Lightman Law Firm was recently honored as New York’s 2014 Immigration Law Firm of the Year by Acquisition International. Additionally, founding attorney, Douglas Lightman, was named a “Rising Star” by SuperLawyers.com. Lightman Law Firm also carries a 4.9 rating on Google Reviews.