Lofgren’s New Act Offers Start-Up Visas To Immigrant Entrepreneurs

On July 26, Zoe Lofgren, a Democratic politician representing California, introduced H.R. 4681, the Let Immigrants Kickstart Employment (LIKE) Act, a measure intended to provide start-up visas to immigrant entrepreneurs. The US never had a visa category for immigrant entrepreneurs. However, this bill would provide a three-year visa to foreign entrepreneurs, who own at least 10 percent of a US company and play a major role in its management. 

Also eligible for a start-up visa are foreign entrepreneurs who raise at least $250,000 in qualifying investments from one or more qualified investors, or $100,000 in qualifying US government awards or grants. In case another $500,000 is raised by the start-up from US investors, or at least five jobs are created, the visa can be renewed for an additional three years. While minor children and spouses would receive the same visa, the spouses would get immediate work authorization. 

Introducing the measure, Lofgren, who represents portions of Silicon Valley and chairs the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship, said, “For the world’s best and brightest innovators seeking a home for their companies, America used to be the top destination. Sadly, that has changed.” 

“Today, the technology sector in Canada is growing at a faster pace than it is in America, and it is almost entirely due to restrictive US immigration policies that do not benefit our economic interests. Congress can change that,” she said. 

“We can make the United States more prosperous by passing bills like the LIKE Act that stimulate the economy, curb brain drain, create jobs for American workers, and restore our country’s standing as the number one choice for the next generation of entrepreneurs worldwide,” Lofgren added. 

The Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship on July 13 held a hearing titled, “Oh, Canada! How Outdated U.S. Immigration Policies Push Top Talent to Other Countries”. 

Indian-American venture capitalist Vish Mishra, venture director at Clearstone Venture Partners, has always supported a start-up visa program for immigrant entrepreneurs. The International Entrepreneur Rule was created by the administration in 2016, during the last year of former President Barack Obama’s tenure. With this rule in place, if an entrepreneur provided a significant public benefit, they could be granted parole for up to 30 months by the Department of Homeland Security. “Parole” in this context refers to temporary permission to be in the United States. 

However, this rule was not a start-up visa, because only Congress can create new categories of visas. 

Although former US President Donald Trump’s administration tried to suspend the rule, it continued as a court order allowed it. There were, however, very few applicants. On May 10, the rule was revived by President Joe Biden’s administration. 

Expressing support for Lofgren’s bill, Mishra said, “The impact will be immense.” 

In support of a start-up visa, the National Venture Capital Association submitted testimony during the July 13 hearing. Bobby Franklin, president and CEO of NVCA, said, “The failure to create a start-up visa is the most prominent example of how immigration policy pushes talent to other countries.” 

The organization noted that under current law, “foreign-born entrepreneurs must fit ‘square pegs in round holes’ by using visas that are not built with the entrepreneurial model in mind. This leaves many foreign-born entrepreneurs behind and pushes them away to the countries that roll out the red carpet for entrepreneurs.” 

“A start-up visa will allow the United States to continue to be a global technology leader and the preferred location to launch a new business in an increasingly competitive global economic landscape. Without a Start-up Visa, the United States will fall behind in the global competition,” the organization stated. 

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