By Stacy Cowley, New York Times
Foreign entrepreneurs building new companies in the United States could soon gain a new immigration option that would grant them temporary entry for up to five years, under a rule (pdf) proposed Friday by the Department of Homeland Security.
The proposal, which does not require congressional approval, would allow immigration officials to admit entrepreneurs case by case. To qualify, an applicant must have an “active and central role,” and a significant ownership stake, in a U.S. company founded in the last three years.
The move is one of many piecemeal efforts by the Obama administration to expand American immigration policies without action from Congress. Entrepreneurs in any industry would be eligible to apply, but the new rule would be especially significant for the technology field. Creating an immigration route for startup founders has been one of Silicon Valley’s political priorities.
“This is a big step in the right direction,” said Patrick Collison, an Irish immigrant and the chief executive of Stripe, a payment processing company based in San Francisco. “I think it will have major impact on U.S. entrepreneurship, and potentially on the broader economy.”
More than half of American tech startups valued at $1 billion or more had at least one immigrant founder, according to a recent study (pdf) by the National Foundation for American Policy, a research group that focuses on immigration issues.
Collison and his brother John started Stripe five years ago while attending colleges in Massachusetts. Dealing with the brothers’ visa issues was one of the biggest challenges Stripe had to overcome in its early days, Collison said. The company now has more than 500 employees, and Collison is part of a group of Silicon Valley executives …