Getting technical and entrepreneurial talent into the U.S. may be a lot easier very soon if a bipartisan group of senators manage to get the Startup Act 3.0 passed. Unfortunately, versions 1.0 and 2.0 died slow and silent deaths.
The group, led by Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), wants to make it possible for foreign entrepreneurs who will employ at least five full-time workers — who are not family members — to stay in the U.S. for up to three years. Applications would be open to holders of the H-1B or F-1 visas as long as they’ve already raised at least $100,000 in funding and are employing at least two people currently.
“Entrepreneurs who have an idea, who are wiling to invest money here, ought to be welcome here,” Moran told Hillicon Valley.
In addition, the bill would create a new five-year visa for foreign students in STEM disciplines who get a job in a technical field. Students would then have the right to become a legal resident and possibly a citizen after that five years.
Apparently, the senators are tired of educating the world and then exporting all that talent back out.
The first Startup Visa was birthed in 2010 by Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) but died stillborn. Another version in 2011 is still not resolved, and probably never will be, which makes it worth wondering if the same fate will befall the third triplet in this trio of surprisingly entrepreneurial legislation.
Existing visas such as the H1-B, which are designed for technical employees, don’t really fit the bill if you’re a founder, as Anda Gansca, CEO of Knotch, recently discovered:
“This solution just made me uncomfortable — I was starting a company, and all of a sudden I had to become someone else’s employee just to run it?”
Will the bill pass, or even get to a vote?
Vivek Wadhwa, the VP of innovation and research at Singularity University and author of a book titled The Immigrant Exodus: Why America Is Losing the Global Race to Capture Entrepreneurial Talent, is skeptical that government will solve immigration. He said in December that “if we get any immigration reform at all, it will be unpalatable to both sides. It will take months or years to negotiate and will be messy. And while the political battles rage, tens of thousands engineers, scientists, and researchers will return home and Silicon Valley will suffer.”
Hopefully the fact that this is a bipartisan bill will help it move forward.