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USCIS Launches Initiative to Promote Immigrant Entrepreneurship

652301_80853226_03012012.jpgAs part of a broader effort to encourage startup enterprises and job creation, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has started a program called “Entrepreneurs in Residence” (EIR). USCIS first announced the EIR initiative at a meeting of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness in October 2011. It has formed a “tactical team” composed of business analysts and USCIS personnel.

The White House announced Startup America in January 2011, an initiative intended “to celebrate, inspire, and accelerate high-growth entrepreneurship.” The initiative encourages entrepreneurship across a broad spectrum of society. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and USCIS followed up on this in August 2011 by announcing a series of actions addressing the specific needs of immigrants and immigrant communities. USCIS began by promoting EB-2 immigrant visas and holding a series of meetings with business leaders around the country. The EIR initiative grew out of these efforts.

The EIR initiative will review current procedures related to the EB-5 visa, an immigrant visa available in limited numbers to qualified investors. EIR’s tactical team will consult with entrepreneurs, business leaders, and business analysts to improve the adjudication process for EB-5 visas, and it will make resources more readily available to prospective EB-5 applicants.

USCIS hosted an “Information Summit” in California on February 22 to formally launch the EIR initiative. Over 150 people representing government, academia, and the entrepreneur community met to consider ways USCIS can promote entrepreneurship through federal immigration law. The meeting included panel discussions and breakout groups, and it reportedly encouraged participants from diverse fields to share ideas for ways to improve the immigration system for prospective entrepreneurs.

As part of the summit meeting, USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas led a naturalization ceremony for twenty Silicon Valley applicants. He also awarded “Outstanding American by Choice” awards to five entrepreneurs who are naturalized citizens. This award recognizes civic achievements of naturalized citizens.

The EIR initiative will likely hold similar summits elsewhere in the country. USCIS has said that the tactical team’s work will take at least several months. Any changes they are likely to recommend will affect how the agency processes petitions for EB-5 visas. This is an immigrant visa, meaning it is granted to people who intend to move to the United States, rather than just visit. It therefore offers a path to permanent residence.

The EB-5 visa is available to immigrants who intend to invest in or start a “new commercial enterprise.” This can be almost any kind of business venture that meets specific criteria set forth in immigration statutes and regulations. A petitioner for an EB-5 visa must create or maintain at least ten full-time jobs for authorized U.S. workers, and must sustain those jobs for a minimum period of time. The petitioner must invest at least $1 million in the business venture, although that amount is only $500,000 if the business is located in a “Targeted Employment Area.” These are areas designated by the government because of high unemployment or remote location.

The New York immigration lawyers at Samuel C. Berger, P.C. help immigrants seeking visas to come to, or remain in, the United States. To schedule a consultation with one of our skilled attorneys today, contact us online or at (212) 380-8117.

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Low-Income New Jersey Immigrants Fight Wage Theft, Other Violations of Workplace Laws, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, February 9, 2012
USCIS Opens Queens Field Office, Only the Second One In New York City, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, January 26, 2012
Bill Seeks to Expand Immigration of Highly-Skilled Workers, but Causes Controversy, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, January 24, 2012
Photo credit: ‘Lyon 4’ by Martin Boulanger on stock.xchng.