On May 8, 2013, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) released a summary and assessment of efforts taken during the first year of its Entrepreneurs in Residence (EIR) initiative.  As stated by Director Alejandro Mayorkas, the goal of the EIR program is  “…to ensure that we capture the full potential of current immigration laws to attract and retain startup enterprises that promote innovation and create jobs in America…”. With the uncertainty that continues to surround comprehensive immigration reform, initiatives like EIR become all the more important.

Highlights from the USCIS EIR summary can be viewed on the USCIS website and include the following:

  • Nearly 30,000 visits to Entrepreneur Pathways, which was designed to help prospective entrepreneurs understand their immigration options and the related processes;
  • Approximately 500 participants across the United States in USCIS’s entrepreneur-focused engagements;
  • More than 400 USCIS employment-based immigration officers trained on startup businesses and the environment for early-stage innovation; and
  • More than 100 USCIS officers receiving additional specialized training to handle entrepreneur and startup cases.

In furtherance of its efforts, USCIS is “seeking new private sector experts, using the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS’s) Loaned Executive Program, in the areas of performing arts, health care and information technology.”  The purpose of seeking expert input into these industry sectors, which are a critical part of the country’s economy, is to provide the agency with insights into these areas, and help strengthen USCIS’s policies and practices in an informed manner.  It is anticipated that the range of industries will be broadened over time.

EIR, which was launched just over a year ago in February 2012, provided a means through which startup experts and USCIS immigration experts can work together, providing the immigration service access to focused, real-world information that can inform its policies and processes.  At the initiation of EIR, three key goals were set forth:  1) production of public materials intended to assist entrepreneurs in understanding the visa categories; 2) equipping Immigration Service adjudicators to process petitions in the context of the complex business environment; and the streamlining of USCIS policies toward better reflecting issues and realities encountered by foreign entrepreneurs and startup businesses.

While the program’s impact on the adjudication of petitions filed by immigration entrepreneurs remains to be seen, USCIS is taking a step in the right direction through its EIR initiative by striving to implement the immigration laws in a way which will best benefit the country.