While Washington struggles to come up with comprehensive immigration reform, the Senate has introduced a bill to help foreign professionals set up shop in the United States.
The bipartisan Startup Act 3.0 would create 75,000 “entrepreneur visas” that would be given to immigrants holding H-1B work visas or F-1 student visas, according to the Wall Street Journal. The entrepreneur visa would allow them to stay in the country permanently if they start a business that raises or invests at least $100,000, hires at least two employees within the first year, and employs at least five workers within the first three years. These visas differ from the popular H-1B visa in that the H-1B effectively disqualifies entrepreneurs because they require sponsorship by an employer.
Although the visa does not specify what type of company must be created, it appears this bill is squarely aimed at removing obstacles for foreign entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. According to the San Jose Mercury News, difficulties obtaining visas have resulted in a decrease in the number of startups created by immigrants in the northern San Francisco area.
In addition to creating the entrepreneur visas, the Startup Act 3.0 would also create STEM visas for immigrants graduating from American universities with advanced degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Up to 50,000 immigrants could receive this visa, which would allow them to spend at least five years in the U.S. working in those fields. Finally, the bill would eliminate the cap on how many people from one country could achieve permanent residency. This provision would especially benefit immigrants from India and China.
While the new visas have bipartisan support, President Obama and top Senate Democrats insist they must be part of a more comprehensive immigration reform that provides a pathway to citizenship for approximately 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the country. So it may be awhile before these visas “hit the street.”