The StartUp Visa Act of 2011, introduced by Senators John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat; Richard Lugar, an Indiana Republican; and Mark Udall, a Colorado Democrat — aims to create a new immigrant visa category for foreign entrepreneurs if they secure at least $100,000 in financing from qualified investors. After two years, the start-up must have at least five employees and $500,000.
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.
A path to permanent residence would be available to qualifying foreign entrepreneurs – including those in H-1B status – in three business scenarios:
1. Entrepreneurs living outside the U.S. - if a U.S. investor agrees to financially sponsor their entrepreneurial venture with a minimum investment of $100,000. Two years later, the startup must have created five new American jobs and either have raised over $500,000 in financing or be generating more than $500,000 in yearly revenue.
2. Workers on an H-1B visa, or graduates from U.S. universities in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, or computer science - if they have an annual income of at least $30,000 or assets of at least $60,000 and have had a U.S. investor commit investment of at least $20,000 in their venture. Two years later, the startup must have created three new American jobs and either have raised over $100,000 in financing or be generating more than $100,000 in yearly revenue.
3. Foreign entrepreneurs whose business has generated at least $100,000 in sales from the U.S. Two years later, the startup must have created three new American jobs and either have raised over $100,000 in financing or be generating more than $100,000 in yearly revenue.
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 really good news is that this enables foreign students and workers who are already in the U.S. to qualify for a visa.
There’s a growing concern in the technology community that the country’s immigration policies are keeping talent out, at a time when China and other emerging markets are becoming more attractive. The bill has the support of more than 160 industry investors, including Brad Feld, who started the Foundry Group; Fred Wilson, a Twitter investor; Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn; and Shervin Pishevar, an angel investor.