Startup Visas Would Ignite U.S. Economy and Job Creation

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Bobby Franklin

WASHINGTON, DC – After years of advocating for a Startup Visa, the National Venture Capital Association was thrilled to see the introduction of the Let Immigrants Kickstart Employment (LIKE) Act by Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA).

The legislation would establish a Startup Visa allowing foreign-born entrepreneurs to launch high-growth companies and create jobs in the United States.

“Making America the world’s best place to start a new business is a win for job creation, economic growth, innovation and U.S. global competitiveness,” said Bobby Franklin, President and CEO of NVCA. “Immigrant founders have built some of the most iconic American companies, including Moderna and Pfizer that have delivered lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines to the American people. Current immigration policies push foreign job creators away while other countries are rolling out the welcome mat. The U.S. share of global venture capital investment has shrunk from 84 percent to 51 percent in just 17 years.”

NVCA thanks Congresswoman Lofgren for her leadership on this issue and her forward leaning legislation. We look forward to working with the Congresswoman and other policymakers to advance this bill and make the Startup Visa a reality.

Background

A Startup Visa is needed because there is no dedicated visa category for foreign-born entrepreneurs. Company founders must instead use visa categories that are not built for entrepreneurs, such as the O-1 visa for individuals with extraordinary abilities. These visas present challenges to company founders and therefore many immigrant entrepreneurs are not able to launch their company in the U.S. Alternatively, founders frequently work at larger companies under an H-1B visa that does permit the founder to start his or her own company until a green card is obtained. U.S. immigration law pushes talented foreign-born entrepreneurs away from the U.S. and toward the more than 20 other countries that have created a Startup Visa. The Let Immigrants Kickstart Employment Act would fix this by creating two types of Startup Visas for immigrant entrepreneurs:

Nonimmigrant Visa

Available for an initial three-year period to a foreign-born founder who owns at least 10 percent of the startup, plays a “central and active role” in the company, and has raised at least $250,000 in qualifying investment. There is no numerical limitation for this visa. Multiple co-founders per company may qualify. A three-year extension is available if the founder continues to meet equity and outside investment qualifications, and additional one-year extensions may be available.

Immigrant Visa

Available to a foreign-born entrepreneur who was admitted under the above non-immigrant visa, or another nonimmigrant visa connected to the startup entity (e.g., O-1 visa). The entrepreneur must maintain an ownership interest in the company, play an “active and central” role in the company, have created at least 10 qualified jobs, and either have raised at least $1.25 million or have generated $1 million or more in annual revenue. There is no numerical limitation for this visa. Multiple co-founders per company may qualify.

Nonimmigrant visa for essential employees

The legislation also creates a nonimmigrant visa for essential employees at companies that are founded by individuals who have obtained one of the two Startup Visas created by the LIKE Act. The number of employees that may use this nonimmigrant visa are limited by the number of employees at the company. This visa category is needed because startups are disadvantaged in using high-skilled visa categories like the H-1B visa.

NVCA report on immigrant entrepreneurs

Earlier this year, NVCA released a report entitled Immigrant Entrepreneurs Can Drive Economic Growth in the Pandemic Recovery. The report discusses the importance of foreign-born entrepreneurs and the need for a startup visa.

The National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) empowers the next generation of American companies that will fuel the economy of tomorrow. As the voice of the U.S. venture capital and startup community, NVCA advocates for public policy that supports the American entrepreneurial ecosystem. Serving the venture community as the preeminent trade association, NVCA arms the venture community for success, serving as the leading resource for venture capital data, practical education, peer-led initiatives, and networking.

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