This time last year, USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas announced a new Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) initiative to create jobs in the U.S. Now, USCIS has launched a new Entrepreneur Pathways website designed to give visa information to foreign entrepreneurs who want to start a new business in the United States. The website offers a Nonimmigrant Visa Guide describing the visa categories available to foreign entrepreneurs and provides an overview of the pre- and post-visa application process.

According to USCIS, the EIR team, comprised of startup experts from the private sector along with USCIS immigration experts,  accomplished the following as of November 2012.  It

• Conducted a training workshop for USCIS employment-based immigration officers focusing on entrepreneurs and the environment for startup companies and early-stage innovations;
• Trained a team of immigration officers to handle entrepreneur and startup nonimmigrant visa cases;
• Modified Request for Evidence (RFE) templates for certain nonimmigrant visa categories to accept new sources of evidence related to entrepreneurs and startup companies; and
• Developed a plan for quarterly engagements with the entrepreneurial community across the U.S.

As part of his vision for immigration reform, President Barack Obama has indicated that he supports a “startup visa” that would allow foreign entrepreneurs who receive financing from U.S. investors to come to the U.S. to start their businesses. The visa also would allow foreign entrepreneurs to remain permanently in the U.S. if their companies create jobs for American workers and generate revenue.

Foreign entrepreneurs should take note that some of the nonimmigrant visa categories listed on the Entrepreneur Pathways website do not provide automatic work authorization upon admission to the U.S. For example, B-1 business visitors may conduct business on behalf of a foreign entity and be paid from a foreign source, but are not authorized to engage in productive employment in the U.S. Additionally, F-1 students in Optional Practical Training must apply for and obtain authorization from USCIS before they are authorized to work in the U.S.

For more information on nonimmigrant visa eligibility requirements and work authorization issues, please contact your Jackson Lewis attorney.