- United States: “Startup Visa” Proposed for Foreign Entrepreneurs
- March 23, 2011
- Law Firm: Fragomen Del Rey Bernsen Loewy LLP - New York Office
The StartUp Visa Act of 2011, introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Richard Lugar (R-IN) and Mark Udall (D-CO), would create a new immigrant visa category for foreign entrepreneurs with qualifying start-up ventures that have attracted U.S. investors or with overseas businesses that can demonstrate significant U.S. sales. A companion bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). Senators Kerry and Lugar introduced a similar bill in 2010.
The bill would create a new sixth preference employment-based immigrant category (EB-6). The bill would not provide for additional employment-based immigrant visa numbers, but would draw a certain number of visas from the existing pool of 10,000 for employment-based fifth preference (EB-5) investors.
Qualifying Business Ventures
A path to permanent residence would be available to qualifying foreign entrepreneurs - including those in H-1B status - in three business scenarios:
- Foreign entrepreneurs who have a qualified U.S. investor who has agreed to sponsor an entrepreneurial venture with a minimum investment of $100,000. After two years, the venture must have created five new U.S. jobs and raised at least $500,000 in additional capital or generate at least $500,000 in revenue.
- Foreign nationals currently in the United States in H-1B status or foreign entrepreneurs currently in the United States who have a U.S. advanced degree in science, technology, engineering, math, computer science or “other relevant academic discipline,” provided that they have income or assets equaling at least 250% of the federal poverty level and a qualified U.S. investor willing to make an investment of at least $20,000 in their venture. After two years, the business must have created three new U.S. jobs and raised at least $100,000 in additional capital investment or generate at least $100,000 in revenue.
- Foreign nationals who have a controlling interest in an overseas company that has generated at least $100,000 in revenue from U.S. sales in the preceding 12 months. After two years, the business must have created at least three new jobs and raised at least $100,000 in additional capital or generate at least $100,000 in revenue.
Qualifying U.S. Investors
Qualified U.S. investors would include certain venture capitalists with capital commitments of at least $10,000,000, U.S. citizens who have made at least two equity investments of at least $50,000 in each of three years, and U.S. government entities.
The bill has already garnered widespread and vocal support in the high-tech industry, and comes just weeks before the United Kingdom government - in the midst of a sweeping overhaul of its own employment-based immigration system - is set to implement new and revised visa categories to attract foreign investors, entrepreneurs and persons of exceptional talent.
Fragomen will closely follow the progress of the bill and will issue further client alerts as it advances.
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