Congress Aims to Encourage Foreign-Born Entrepreneurs in the U.S.

This past week, Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Chris Coons (D-DE) introduced a bipartisan bill they’ve dubbed the “Startup Act 2.0”. The primary focus of the act is immigrant visa reform through the creation of two new types of visa: the first, a type of STEM visa, which would allow foreign-born students in advanced degree programs in science, technology, engineering, or math to continue to stay in the U.S. to work in startups; the second, an “entrepreneur’s visa”, would encourage foreigners to come to the U.S. to start businesses (a similar type of visa is already in use in several European countries). The bill also eliminates country quotas for employment visas, creates new tax credits for startups, and eliminates capital gains taxes on startup equity held for at least five years.

The bill’s sponsors point to the hundreds of thousands of math, science, and engineering jobs, particularly in startups and small companies, that continue to go unfilled due to a lack of qualified talent here in the U.S., caused in part by foreign-born students in U.S. universities leaving to go home once they’ve completed their degrees. The sponsors hope that their bill will jumpstart the growth in high-tech startups and small businesses through an infusion of foreign-born talent and encouraging people to come to the U.S. to start their businesses — for example, in 2006, immigrant-founded high-tech businesses generated $52 billion in revenue and employed 450,000 workers.

In my own experience I know this bill will help out many high-tech startups. I have had several founders come to me with the issue of wanting to hire highly-qualified foreign students and graduates in technical jobs; in those cases, I’ve had to refer them to immigration lawyers to handle the delicate and oft-involved and confusing process of having their desired talent authorized to work here in the U.S.. Hopefully this new legislation will make it easier for startups and small businesses to hire the qualified talent they need.