New US visa policy offers opportunities for Vietnamese start-ups

By An Hong   August 30, 2016 | 04:24 pm GMT+7

Entrepreneurs worldwide could soon find it a lot easier to launch start-ups in the U.S.

The United States is considering a new immigration policy that would allow foreign entrepreneurs temporary residence for up to five years, according to a proposal  announced on Friday by the Department of Homeland Security.

Under the proposal start-up entrepreneurs from other countries must meet certain requirements.

For instance, they must own at least 15 percent of a U.S.-based start-up company and have a central role in its operations.

Those qualified for start-up visas must have secured at least $345,000 in investment from U.S. investors with a proven track record of financing companies.

Another requirement needs foreign entrepreneurs to demonstrate that their start-ups have the “potential for rapid business growth and job creation” and are of “significant public benefit to the United States”.

U.S. immigration authorities would initially allow start-up founders to stay in the country for two years. After that, they would be able to apply for an additional three years if the start-up company continues to show growth potential. Under the proposed rule, the three-year extension would be granted only once.

The United States is by far the most popular immigration destination for Vietnamese people. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2015, Vietnam had the sixth largest immigrant community in the country.

If the new visa policy is approved, the U.S. government will encourage more foreign entrepreneurs to come and work in the country, and young Vietnamese might find leaving their homeland for the U.S. an attractive option.

Vietnamese start-ups, especially technology start-ups, are emerging as a force to be reckoned with as the country's talented young minds become galvanized by runaway successes like the international hit Flappy Bird.

Mobile phone game Flappy Bird was a huge phenomenon and one of the most downloaded apps in the world. The game's creator, Hanoi-based programmer Nguyen Ha Dong, has become a dollar millionaire and a tech start-up star on the back of his creation. He was said to have earned an estimated $50,000 a day and was featured in the Forbes 201 “30 under 30” list of Vietnamese individuals who stood out in various industries.

After the Flappy Bird phenomenon, the Vietnamese government tightened its grip over tech start-ups to ensure that no start-up firms escape the tax net.

Some fear that the government’s latest move could scare young tech talents out of the country.

The fact is that a growing number of people are turning in their passports in search of better jobs and education abroad.

According to data released by the Ministry of Justice, a record 4,474 individuals renounced their Vietnamese citizenships in 2015.

This figure is set to rise even more, with official statistics showing the renunciation list for the second quarter of this year contains 2,699 names.

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