Obama in push for immigrant entrepreneurs

MR MAX LEVCHIN, a co-founder of PayPal who was born in Ukraine.
MR MAX LEVCHIN, a co-founder of PayPal who was born in Ukraine.

Move aimed at making it easier for immigrants - many educated in the US - to launch start-ups

WASHINGTON • The Obama administration has proposed a rule aimed at attracting thousands of immigrant entrepreneurs to start companies in the United States.

The rule, proposed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), would ease the ability of start-up founders to build companies if they have significant funding from US investors.

The administration hopes the rule will be completed before the President's term ends on Jan 20.

The proposed rule is part of Mr Obama's commitment to "attracting the world's best and brightest entrepreneurs to start the next great companies here", Mr Tom Kalil, a technology policy adviser at the White House, told reporters.

Mr Kalil said immigrants have co- founded as many as one in four high-tech start-ups across the United States and more than half of all start-ups in Silicon Valley.

EDUCATE, THEN LOSE

We lose and will continue to lose talented, skilled, well-educated scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs because they are simply not allowed to stay and work after we educated them to very high standards. It makes very little sense.

MR MAX LEVCHIN, a co-founder of PayPal who was born in Ukraine.

Immigration has been a crucial issue in the 2016 presidential campaign ahead of the Nov 8 election.

Republican candidate Donald Trump has vowed to toughen immigration policies, while Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has proposed creating an office of immigrant affairs to expand Mr Obama's efforts to help immigrants integrate better into the country.

Under the rule, the DHS would issue temporary permission for entrepreneurs to live in the US if they have at least 15 per cent ownership in start-up companies formed in the country within the past three years. The companies must have investment of at least US$345,000 (S$469,000) from qualified US investors.

The administration expects about 3,000 immigrants to apply for the temporary permission, known as parole.

Mr Max Levchin, a co-founder of PayPal and other companies, who was born in Ukraine, said the proposed rule is a "great, concrete step toward creating more jobs in America and more success stories".

Many entrepreneurs are educated at prestigious US universities, but find themselves unable to stay in the country because they lose visa lotteries or cannot afford to sponsor themselves through an existing investor visa programme.

"We lose and will continue to lose talented, skilled, well-educated scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs because they are simply not allowed to stay and work after we educated them to very high standards," Mr Levchin said. "It makes very little sense."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 28, 2016, with the headline 'Obama in push for immigrant entrepreneurs'. Print Edition | Subscribe