Amid the global economic slowdown, the U.S. and Canada are competing to attract new entrepreneurial talent into their borders. Through the StartUp Visa Act, the U.S. hopes to drive job creation and increase America’s global competitiveness by making it easier for immigrant entrepreneurs to secure U.S. visas. The StartUp Visa Act proposes amendments to the current Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), creating a new EB-6 category that will allow immigrant entrepreneurs to receive a two year visa provided he or she has a qualified U.S. investor willing to invest in the immigrant’s startup venture. Then after two years, the visa can be converted into permanent residency (green card) provided certain conditions are met.
The StartUp Visa Act would offer immigrant entrepreneurs three options:
1. Entrepreneurs living outside the U.S. can apply for a StartUp Visa if a qualified U.S. investor sponsors their venture with a minimum investment of $100,000. After two years, their business must have created 5 new jobs and raised at least $500,000 in additional capital investment or $500,000 in revenue.
2. Workers on H-1B visa or graduates from U.S universities in the STEM areas can apply for a StartUp Visa if: (1) they have an annual income of at least $30,000 or have assets totaling at least $60,000; and (2) have a qualified U.S. investor sponsor their venture with a minimum investment of $20,000. After two years, their business must have created 3 new jobs and raised at least $100,000 in additional capital investment or $100,000 in revenue.
3. Foreign entrepreneurs can apply for a StartUp Visa if their foreign business has generated at least $100,000 in revenue from sales in the U.S in the last 12 months. After two years, their business must have created 3 new jobs and raised at least $100,000 in additional capital investment or $100,000 in revenue.
Across the border, Canada has begun its own movement towards a “start-up” visa program to recruit people “rich in ideas,” especially in the information technology field. Not to be outdone by their American neighbors, Canada’s “start-up” visa initiative looks to simplify and expedite visa processing for entrepreneurs. Proposals include lowering the minimum assets requirement from $300,000 to $150,000, and enabling immigrants to partner with pre-approved local investors to accelerate work permits. Similar to the U.S. proposals, Canada’s “start-up” visa programs would also require the immigrant-entrepreneur to create at least 3 fulltime jobs over the course of 2 years.
Recognizing the importance of innovation and entrepreneurship is the first step in driving job creation and stimulating the economy. The best way to bring the smartest and most entrepreneurial individuals in the world to the U.S. is through proactively targeting such immigrant-entrepreneurs with attractive StartUp Visas. By easing their path to the U.S. and helping them stay to invest in their ideas, more Americans can be put to work and the U.S. can remain globally competitive.