New Bill Welcomes High-Tech Entrepreneurs to the U.S.

New Bill Welcomes High-Tech Entrepreneurs to the U.S.

After the JOBS Act legalized crowdfunding-based investments in new businesses, the startup community set its sights on a new legislative goal: granting visas to foreigners who are pursuing a high-tech degree or building a business in the United States.

The Startup Act 2.0, introduced to the Senate this week, would create two new types of visas: a “STEM visa” for foreign-born students earning advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and math in the U.S. and an “Entrepreneur’s visa” for foreigners starting businesses in the country.

Both visas would give foreigners a new path to American citizenship so long as they continue working in STEM or expanding their business for three to five years.

Additionally, the bill would eliminate the per-country quotas currently in place on employment visas, create new tax credits for startups and eliminate capital gains tax on the sale of startup stock that’s held for at least five years.

Republican Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) worked together with Democrats Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) on the bipartisan legislation, which they believe will spark job creation and economic growth in the United States.

“To get America’s economic engine roaring once again, entrepreneurs -— both American and foreign-born -— must be free to pursue their ideas, form companies in the United States, and hire employees,” said Sen. Moran in a joint statement. “Startup Act 2.0 will create jobs for Americans by creating a circumstance in which entrepreneurs can succeed.”

AA recent studyA found that immigrant-founded high-tech businesses made $52 billion in sales and employed 450,000 workers in 2006 alone. However, many of the foreign-born students who earn advanced, high-tech degrees at American universities end up leaving to work for or start businesses that compete with U.S. firms – a situation the bill’s authors believe they may be able to reverse.

“Startup 2.0 offers smart, common-sense steps to support and encourage America’s innovators and entrepreneurs,” said Sen. Warner. “Working together, we have put together bipartisan proposals that will help us compete and win the global contest for talent.”

The bill has a steep hill to climb on its way to becoming law. Any legislation that includes immigration reform often finds opposition in Congress, and that problem is exacerbated in an election year.

Steve Case, co-founder of AOL, member of President Obama’s jobs council and supporter of the Startup Act 2.0, statedA that the key to getting it passed will be keeping the discussion of high-tech immigration removed from that of illegal immigration.

“It’s important to separate the debate over illegal immigration and legal immigration,” said Case. “A lot of the emotion is around illegal immigration, but there’s fairly broad support for changes in high-tech immigration.”

AnotherA high-tech immigration reform planA currently being debated in the Senate would create a new non-immigrant visa for STEM students. Currently, some foreign STEM students are able to work in the U.S. for 29 months on a student visa after graduation before being required to switch to an employer-sponsored visa.

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~Dawn Krovicka