No H-1B visa talk by Modi, but Trump is scuttling the Entrepreneur visa

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President Donald Trump during a joint press statement after meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the White House, Washington, DC, June 26, 2017. Photo: Jay Mandal/On Assignment.

NEW YORK: Forget the controversial H-1B visa reform measures, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Donald Trump never discussed, and rightly so, during their meeting at the White House. It would have led to some ugly talk, possibly from both sides. Something else happened just before the duo met, which would surely have given a clear indication to Indian officials what Trump really thinks of expanding legal immigration, even if it means boosting chances of job creation in America.

India might have been forewarned of hitting a brick wall, not making any headway on the H-1B visa issue if at all they were hopeful of staving off a slew of measures the Trump administration might impose through executive orders to curb down on low skilled tech workers from India taking jobs away from American workers.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported last week that the Trump administration plans to delay and ultimately scrap a rule that would allow some foreign entrepreneurs to stay in the U.S. and build their companies, according to an administration official citing a final draft of a Federal Register notice.

The International Entrepreneur Rule, the closest the United States has come to the “startup visa” Silicon Valley has long sought, was approved by the Department of Homeland Security in January during President Barack Obama’s waning hours in office. It was supposed to go into effect July 17.

According to the notice, the department plans to push back the rule’s effective date to March, 2018. During this time, the department will pursue steps — which include a public notice and comment period — to rescind the rule altogether.

The entrepreneurial visa would have benefited many Indians. The San Francisco Chronicle reported Sharoon Thomas, 29, who is from India, until recently ran his e-commerce software startup, Fulfil.io, from an office on Castro Street in Mountain View. The international entrepreneur rule — or any visa tailored toward entrepreneurs — would have helped him stay in the U.S., he said. Instead, Thomas is moving the company to Canada, which he said has more relaxed visa rules.

The report of the hard stance by the Trump administration, ironically, coincided with the “Tech Week” in the White House, where Trump met with tech heavyweights, including Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Apple CEO Tim Cook, in an attempt to mend a strained relationship between Silicon Valley and Washington.

The benchmarks to qualify for the entrepreneurial visa are high, the Chronicle report added: A foreigner must demonstrate that he or she will contribute to economic growth or job creation and show that a reputable investor has put at least $250,000 into the company. The rule lets the individual stay in the U.S. for 30 months, with the possibility of a 30-month extension. The person cannot apply for a green card during this period.

In the recent past, some universities, including in New York City, have initiated the startup visa themselves, where budding entrepreneurs would be sponsored under the H-1B visa, and then allowed to start up businesses.

It remains to be seen if that plan would be affected by the new initiative by the Trump administration.

If nothing else, perhaps billionaire philanthropist Michael Bloomberg might come to the rescue, as he has been doing in the recent past, to resuscitate projects that the Trump administration has been trying to nullify.

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