On October 11, 2011, USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas announced a new initiative to harness industry expertise from the public and private sectors and Introducing the EIRs – Business Professionals increase the job creation potential of employment-based and high-skilled visa categories. Called ‘Entrepreneurs in Residence’, the initiative built upon a series of policy, operational, and outreach efforts within the framework of existing immigration laws. The EIR program was part of a wider White House and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) effort to grow the U.S. economy and create American jobs.
USCIS focused the EIR initiative on streamlining the immigration process for foreign entrepreneurs.
What it did
The EIR team worked collaboratively to develop the most effective solutions for USCIS. For each of its three main goals, the team produced a range of signature deliverables, detailed below.
1. Produced clear public materials to help entrepreneurs understand which visa categories are most appropriate for their particular circumstance.
Launched Entrepreneur Pathways. In November 2012, the EIR team launched Entrepreneur Pathways, a custom-designed resource for immigrant entrepreneurs that provides them with the tools and information to determine which visa category is most appropriate for their particular circumstance.
Improved outreach to student entrepreneurs. Though USCIS does not have primary jurisdiction over student visas, the team focused on identifying better ways to reach student entrepreneurs and disseminating information about the immigration pathways that may allow these students to stay in the United States to start a business after completing their education. This included cross-linking USCIS resources with Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE’s) Study in the States website, sharing information with ICE and DHS on top university and private incubator programs, and identifying and collaborating with universities as a preferred venue for community engagements.
2. Equipped USCIS’s workforce with tools to better adjudicate cases in today’s complex and rapidly evolving business environment.
Developed and delivered Startup 101 training. The team developed a comprehensive training course for USCIS on the startup landscape. Piloted with a small group of immigration officers in June 2012, the team subsequently delivered the training to nearly all employment-based immigration officers at the four USCIS service centers. The training curriculum covers such topics as the history and anatomy of a startup enterprise, business fundamentals, stages of a startup, and funding and sources of capital.
Trained specialized core of immigration officers. While nearly all employment-based immigration officers at USCIS’s four service centers received the Startup 101 training course, a smaller subset of officers at each center received more detailed document-based training and case study workshops.
Created startup resource library. To complement the Startup 101 training and ensure that immigration officers have continued access to a range of evolving tools to assist their adjudications, the team developed an internal USCIS website with all EIR-related resources.
3. Streamlined USCIS’s policies and practices to better reflect the realities faced by foreign entrepreneurs and startup businesses.
Engaged with entrepreneurs nationwide. The EIR team prioritized gathering feedback and strategic thinking directly from entrepreneurs. In addition to the summit in Silicon Valley, the team held engagements with entrepreneurial communities in Atlanta, Boston, and Washington, DC. USCIS partnered with such academic institutions as Georgia Tech and MIT that have a vested interest in issues connecting immigration and entrepreneurship. In 2013, USCIS will host additional engagements in startup hubs across the country, beginning with the University of Chicago.
Revised Request for Evidence (RFE) templates. To help officers better communicate with startup companies, the team explored alternative forms of evidence that the agency has not traditionally asked for and that an entrepreneur or startup may be more able to provide to meet the eligibility criteria for particular visa classifications. The team revised specific templates to make them more user-friendly and reflective of current business trends.
Reviewed H-1B policies. Based on internal and external feedback, the team evaluated the challenges and limitations faced by entrepreneurs in filing for and obtaining H-1B visas enabling them to work for their own or other startup companies. After undertaking an in-depth review of the policy parameters and operational considerations related to the interplay between the H-1B visa requirements and startup enterprises, the team proposed changes to current policy that remain under consideration by USCIS.
Entrepreneur in residence (EIR), sometimes executive in residence, is a position or title within the venture capital, law firm, and business school industries, typically held by a seasoned entrepreneur who is brought on-staff by a venture capital firm, university or other organization.
The EIR role in a venture capital firm is often designed to fill one of three primary functions:
- To launch a new entrepreneurial venture, often with the backing of the parent firm or organization;
- To assist in the evaluation of potential investments where the entrepreneur has a particular expertise; or
- To provide functional expertise to assist with an existing investment.
In a business school setting, an EIR acts as a mentor and coach to students.
In a law firm setting, an EIR provides business consulting, networking, mentoring and coaching to clients and prospective clients of the firm who are launching or engaged in entrepreneurial ventures (each a “client entrepreneur”). Typically, these services are provided without charge to selected client entrepreneurs for the first one year period that they receive such services. Business consulting services may include assistance with strengthening the client entrepreneur’s business plan, the clear expression of that plan in an executive summary and investor presentation, and assistance with introductions to prospective investors and other individuals who may be useful to the client entrepreneur, including C-level executives who may play a direct role in the client entrepreneur’s venture. Mentoring and coaching may include coaching on making presentations to investors and mentoring on how to build a more successful business and overcome business obstacles.
As part of and in addition to providing these services to client entrepreneurs, the EIR provides a business development function for the firm, and may also act as a mentor to assist attorneys in the firm with their own business development. One element of the business development function comprises representing the law firm through public speaking and attendance at emerging company events, and by utilizing networking and other appropriate means to elevate the firms profile in the relevant business and entrepreneurial community. Law firm EIRs may be either lawyers or non-lawyers.
Since this EIR program with USCIS, we have seen clarified rules on the EB-5 immigrant visas and a House bill that if it becomes law would grant a path to permanent residence for E-2 visa entrepreneurs.