U.S. lawmakers keep trying to make the startup visa happen.
On Thursday, Senators Jerry Moran, Mark Warner, Roy Blunt, and Amy Klobuchar reintroduced the Startup Act, which would create a visa category for entrepreneurs from other countries who want to launch startups in the U.S. The legislation was first introduced in 2017. If enacted, it would make 75,000 startup visas available to international entrepreneurs.
The bill would also establish a visa for 50,000 international students receiving masters or Ph.D. degrees in STEM fields from American universities. Those visa-holders would have the opportunity to obtain a green card and remain in the country after graduating.
Finally, the bill would eliminate the per-country cap on employment-based immigrant visas.
Under current immigration law, there’s no real avenue for entrepreneurs from other country’s to launch startups in the U.S. After immigration reform stalled in Congress, President Barack Obama created a workaround called the International Entrepreneur Rule, allowing founders with startups that meet certain benchmarks of success to grow their companies in the U.S. for a few years. President Donald Trump tried to squash the rule but that effort was challenged in court. The administration lost and the International Entrepreneur Rule remains intact, but its future is uncertain.
Although the Startup Act has bipartisan support, it’s unlikely to advance according to Jeff Farrah, general counsel of the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA).
“The challenge continues to be that legislating a startup visa is tied to the larger immigration reform debate, which appears intractable even to optimists like myself,” Farrah wrote in a blog post Thursday.
According to the NVCA, the U.S. was home to 54 percent of global venture capital last year, down from 95 percent 20 years ago. Supporters of the Startup Act say it would catalyze entrepreneurial activity because of the high rate of immigrants who launch new companies. Researchers at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation found that immigrants to the United States are nearly twice as likely as native-born Americans to launch startups.
“America continues to fall behind in new business development and struggles to retain top talent that could grow our U.S. economy,” Moran said in a statement Thursday. “With a renewed sense of urgency, Congress must prioritize policies that will help recruit and retain highly-skilled students and innovators.”