Foreign scientists who want to start a U.S. company would have a better shot at doing so under two bills introduced recently in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The bills, which have received broad support from venture capitalists, would create a new path within U.S. immigration law for entrepreneurs who have attracted venture capital for their startup. Immigration reform is a political hot potato, however, so success may depend on convincing Congress that job creation is a non-partisan issue.
On Wednesday Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Richard Lugar (R-IN) introduced the StartUp Visa Act of 2010. A press release explains that the bill would permit an "immigrant entrepreneur to receive a 2-year visa if he or she can show that a qualified U.S. investor is willing to dedicate a significant sum-a minimum of $250,000-to the immigrant's start-up venture." It would create a new visa category, EB-6. Under current law, immigrant entrepreneurs who receive a EB-5 visa must agree to invest at least $1 million in a new business that would employ 10 or more people.
"The EB-5 is for people who have their own money," explains a spokesperson for Kerry. "The EB-6 is for people who have a good idea and can get backing to commercialize it."
On 10 December 2009, Representative Jared Polis (D-CO) introduced a similar bill (H.R.4259) that would expand the eligibility of those applying for a EB-5 visa to include the same group that Kerry and Lugar hope to attract. Polis' bill would allow them to pay double the regular $2500 fee for a 60-day review of their application. Normal processing time can time as long as 2 years, says a Polis spokesperson, by which time many entrepreneurs have decided to go elsewhere.
More than 160 venture capitalists have endorsed the Senate bill, a stand-alone measure that reflects an active campaign by the entrepreneurial community. In addition to his own bill, Polis has also folded his changes into a broader immigration bill, called the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America's Security and Prosperity Act (HR 4321), that House Democratic leaders introduced in December.