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New legislation supported by Biden proposes startup visas to attract talent to US

The Act, among other things, amends the Immigration and Nationality Act to create a new classification of "W" non-immigrants for entrepreneurs with an ownership interest in a startup entity, essential employees of a startup entity and also their spouses and children.

By: PTI | Washington |
January 26, 2022 12:28:02 pm
US President Joe Biden (File photo)

The ambitious America COMPETES Act of 2022, which was introduced in the US House of Representatives on Tuesday, proposes to open up new vistas for talented individuals from across the world with a new startup visa.

President Joe Biden, who supports the legislation, said the America Competes Act, 2022 is an important step forward in advancing legislation that will make the supply chains stronger and reinvigorate the innovation engine of the country’s economy to outcompete China and the rest of the world for decades to come.

The Act, among other things, amends the Immigration and Nationality Act to create a new classification of “W” non-immigrants for entrepreneurs with an ownership interest in a startup entity, essential employees of a startup entity and also their spouses and children.

According to the provisions of the bill released by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the bill when signed into law directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to establish procedures for foreign nationals with an ownership interest in a startup entity to self-petition for lawful permanent resident status as an immigrant entrepreneur if the entity demonstrates a proven track record of success through job creation and significant revenue generation or receipt of investment capital.

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It also directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to establish procedures for foreign nationals with an ownership interest in a startup entity to self-petition for classification as a W-1 non-immigrant and to receive extensions of such classification for up to eight years if the entity meets certain growth benchmarks.

It also provides for a limited number of W-2 visas for personnel who are essential to the growth and success of the startup entity if the startup serves as the basis for the W-1 status of a founder.

The bill exempts from the numerical limits on immigrant visas certain foreign nationals (and the spouses and children of such aliens) who have earned a doctoral degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) from a qualified US research institution or a foreign institution if the degree is the equivalent to a doctoral degree issued by a qualified US research institution.

The bill provides the Secretary of Homeland Security discretion to classify an individual as a W-1 non-immigrant for a three-year period initially if the individual possesses an ownership interest of not less than 10 per cent in a startup entity, the foreign individual will play a central and active role in the management or operations of the startup entity or the applicant possesses the knowledge, skills or experience to substantially assist the startup with the growth and success of the business.

During the 18-month period preceding the filing of the petition, the startup entity needs to have received at least USD 250,000 in qualifying investments from one or more qualified investors or at least USD 100,000 in qualifying government awards or grants, the bill notes.

In a statement, Biden said the proposals laid out by the House and Senate represent the sort of transformational investments in American industrial base and research and development that helped power the United States to lead the global economy in the 20th century and expand opportunities for middle-class families.

“They will help bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States and they are squarely focussed on easing the sort of supply chain bottlenecks like semiconductors that have led to higher prices for the middle class,” he said.

“Building on the historic investments in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that I signed last year — and on signs of progress like last week’s Intel announcement and today’s GM announcement — comprehensive competitiveness legislation will power our economy to create good-paying jobs for all Americans, no matter where you live or whether you have a college degree, and will help tackle the climate crisis,” Biden said.

“Today, the House takes action to transport our nation into the future, with the America COMPETES Act: bold, results-oriented legislation that will strengthen America’s national and economic security and the financial security of families, and advance our leadership in the world,” Pelosi said.

“America COMPETES makes historic investments to strengthen America’s economy, security and global leadership. To compete effectively with the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the legislation leverages our core strengths and values, and presents a positive, whole-of-government agenda that rises to the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century,” said Congressman Gregory Meeks, Chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee.

To bolster economic competitiveness, America COMPETES has provisions to secure critical supply chains, shape the rules and standards that govern global commerce and development, empower American workers and businesses, and invest in science and innovation, he said.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the introduction of the vital America COMPETES Act of 2022 in the House is an important step forward to setting up a conference with the Senate-passed US Innovation and Competition Act, so that they can quickly negotiate a final bill for the president to sign into law.

“We have no time to waste in improving American competitiveness, strengthening our lead in global innovation and addressing supply chain challenges, including in the semiconductor industry,” he said.

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