Startup Visa Would Help Silicon Valley

Today, U.S. Senators John Kerry and Richard Lugar proposed a new immigration law that Silicon Valley companies and investors have long supported - the Startup Visa. The Startup Visa Act would allow a foreign national entrepreneur to receive a two-year visa upon showing that a qualified U.S. investor is willing to invest at least $250,000 into the entrepreneur's startup venture. If after two years the entrepreneur can show that the venture created at least 5 full-time jobs in the U.S., and attracted an additional $1,000,000 in additional investment capital, or achieved $1,000,000 in revenue, then the entrepreneur could obtain permanent resident status.

Many Silicon Valley venture capital firms signed onto a letter to the Senators in support of the Startup Visa Act. The letter describes how the immigrant entrepreneurs they have tried to work with often cannot obtain a visa that will allow them to remain in the U.S. and develop a new business. When the immigrant cannot obtain the visa and leaves the U.S. to start their company in a different country, the loss to the U.S. is substantial. The jobs that would be created by the new venture, which could easily number in the hundreds and thousands over the first decade of a successful company, are simply lost.

Senator Kerry's Press Release today quotes him as saying, ""Global competition for talent and investment grows more intense daily and the United States must step up or be left behind. Everywhere Dick Lugar and I travel for the Foreign Relations Committee, we see firsthand the entrepreneurial spirit driving the economies of our competitors. Creating a new magnet for innovations and innovators to come to the United States and create jobs here will offer our economy a double shot in the arm - robust job creation at home and reaffirmation that we're the world's best place to do business."

The Startup Visa Act is actually a modification of the current EB-5 category. The EB-5 permits foreign nationals who invest at least $1 million in the U.S., and thereby create 10 jobs, to obtain permanent residence. Instead of adding additional immigrant visas for this program, the Startup visa would draw from the visas already allotted annually under the EB-5 program. While 10,000 visas are allocated annually for the EB-5 category, less than half were used in FY 2009.

Understanding the importance of providing a startup visa comes down to one simple question: Do we want the bright and innovative foreign entrepreneurs who graduate from U.S. universities to create their business in the U.S., or in another country? As I've discussed in earlier posts, a start-up visa is much more than another visa type allowing foreign nationals to stay and work in the U.S. Providing a visa for entrepreneurs opens up a new avenue for creating businesses and generating jobs. Not only would a start-up visa result in new companies, new jobs, and a boost to the economy, etc., but it would also help the U.S. in maintaining its global stance in technological and innovative advancement.

Employment-Based Green Cards / by Michelle Gee