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Critics cite 'grave concerns' over government's handling of 'startup visas'

Immigration advocates won't give up the so-called "startup visa" without a fight against the US government.The...

Posted: May 10, 2018 7:12 PM
Updated: May 10, 2018 7:12 PM

Immigration advocates won't give up the so-called "startup visa" without a fight against the US government.

The National Venture Capital Association, a trade association, filed a motion this week requesting a Washington DC district court look into whether the government is disregarding applications for an Obama administration visa program for foreign entrepreneurs.

While some nations, such as France and Canada, have special visas intended to encourage foreign entrepreneurs to build companies in their countries, the United States does not.

People who come to the US and start companies have to navigate a complicated web of existing visas, like the H-1B. The H-1B requires individuals to work under the control of an employer, making it difficult to launch a company. The so-called International Entrepreneur Rule was instituted to keep foreign entrepreneurs in the US by giving them a workaround to existing visas.

The Trump administration delayed the program's start in July just days before it was set to begin. That delay was the subject of a lawsuit filed in September against the Department of Homeland Security. The National Venture Capital Association and startup founders who brought the suit argued DHS didn't follow proper "notice-and-comment" procedures before delaying the rule.

In December, a judge said that the Department of Homeland Security did not have reasonable cause to delay the start of the visa program for foreign entrepreneurs. It posted instructions and a form to apply later that month.

Related: Trump administration loses bid to delay Obama's 'startup visa'

According to the filing this week, "plaintiffs have grave concerns as to whether defendants have chosen to disregard the court's order."

A Homeland Security spokesperson said the agency cannot comment on pending litigation.

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services director L. Francis Cissna wrote in a letter in April that company has not processed any requests for the visa to date. Cissna confirmed plans to rescind the rule.

In a statement sent to CNNMoney last year about the rule delay, DHS said that per an executive order in January, it has been "carefully reviewing all [United States Citizenship and Immigration Services] policies related to parole authority, including this rule."

According to DHS's spring agenda, the proposal to rescind the rule is expected to be posted this month.

"Until there is a final rule, [the government] is required to operate under the rule that's currently in effect," Leslie Dellon, staff attorney at the American Immigration Council which is representing the case, told CNNMoney.

A report from Bloomberg cited that just ten people have applied for the visa.

According to the motion, three startup founders represented in the suit had applied for the visa in December.

The Obama administration had expected about 2,940 applications under the rule each year.

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