Immigrant-entrepreneur visa proposed
Immigration reform is a stated priority of the current congress. In February, a group of both Democrat and Republican senators introduced a bill that would create a special visa for entrepreneurs and provide green cards to students graduating from American universities with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degrees.
The details of the proposed visa are interesting and dovetail with the push to create more jobs as unemployment remains relatively high. Currently, an Immigrant Investor Program or EB-5 visa is available for investors and entrepreneurs. International business leaders who want to start up or invest in new commercial enterprise can take advantage of this visa. The partnership, joint venture or corporation must create or preserve at least 10 full-time jobs for qualifying U.S. workers generally within a two-year timeframe.
The proposed immigrant-entrepreneur visa is broader than the EB-5 visa. It is a part of Startup Act 3.0, whose main author is Senator Jerry Moran. An aim of the bill is to generate employment opportunities by encouraging foreign investors to start businesses in the country.
Available to immigrants already in the country
The proposed visa would be available to immigrants who are already in the U.S. on a nonpermanent H1-B or F-1 visa. There would be 75,000 immigrant-entrepreneur visas available each year.
To make the switch to the new visa, an immigrant would need to start a new business and hire two non-family member employees at wages that are "comparable to the median income of employees in the region." The entrepreneur must also invest or raise $100,000 to put into the business.
After the first year, the business needs to add one employee per year, so that after three years there would need to be five employees. If the criteria are satisfied, then the immigrant qualifies for a green card and a normal path to citizenship.
The new visa would create more opportunities for those employed on H1-B visas to go out and form their own companies.
The other idea contained in the bill is to keep more STEM students in the U.S. after they graduate from college. The proposal would grant up to 50,000 green cards to foreign STEM students provided they stay in a STEM field for five years.
The bill still has a long road and will need to pass the Senate and the House of Representatives before it will make it to the President's desk for signature. There is, however, a need for skilled workers evidenced by a recent plan by several entrepreneurs to post a cruise ship 12 nautical miles off the coast of Northern California that might become a hub for foreign entrepreneurs within commuting distance from Silicon Valley.
If you are interested in starting a company in the United States, there are currently options available. A consultation with an experienced immigration attorney is one way to strategize which visa might best fit your individual situation. In some cases, waiting to see how current reform proposals play out may also be necessary.