In an op-ed in Monday's Wall Street Journal, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called for creation of an entrepreneur visa in hopes that it will promote job growth in the midst of high unemployment.
It has been some time since a prominent figure endorsed a U.S. visa for foreign-born entrepreneurs. Most of the buzz surrounding the entrepreneur visa ? also called the "startup visa" ? cooled off after Congress failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform last year.
While each chamber considered different pieces of immigration legislation, both versions contained a provision that would have granted visas to non-citizens seeking to start a business in the United States. This year, Senators Kerry (D-MA) and Lugar (R-IN) re-introduced legislation that would do the same thing. The Startup Visa Act is a new version of last year's Senate bill, and its proponents hope that the changes it includes will increase its likelihood of passage.
If the bill becomes law, entrepreneurs who are able to secure $100,000 in venture capital investment from an American investor will receive permanent residency if their business creates five new American jobs after two years.
The bill also contains provisions for workers on H-1B visas and graduates of American universities who have an income of $30,000 and receive commitments from American investors. These entrepreneurs must be able to show that their venture has created three new jobs in two years or is generating more than $100,000 in annual revenue. Entrepreneurs whose business generates at least $100,000 in sales from the United States and creates three jobs after two years will also qualify if they meet certain revenue or financing criteria.
Like the EB-5 visa, foreign nationals would have a two-year window during which to create jobs for Americans, but the investment threshold is significantly less.
Even the individual EB-5 visa ? the option in which an immigrant investor operates a business in the United States without investing in a regional center ? requires at least $500,000 in capital investment to qualify. What's more, that money has to come from investors themselves, not American venture capitalists.
Passage of the Startup Visa Act would mean more opportunity for more investors to come to the United States and create more jobs for more American citizens. According to Bloomberg, the U.S. is already way behind in encouraging foreign entrepreneurs to invest here:
Our global competitors understand how crucial immigrants are to economic growth. They roll out the red carpet for entrepreneurs; we have no entrepreneur visa. They heavily recruit our advanced-degree students; we educate them and send them home. [?] [We] erect arbitrary, senseless and bureaucratic barriers to recruitment. And we do all this even as our unemployment rate hovers around 9%.
Startup visa proponents often emphasize the following: Somebody somewhere will start the next Google or Apple. It's only a matter of time before it happens, and there is plenty of global competition to be the country in which a future Steve Jobs decides to run his or her business.
A simple incentive like permanent residency could go a long way in convincing the world's innovators to choose one destination over another.