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

Immigration helps many sectors of the economy, including the high-tech sector. The US high-tech sector routinely relies on foreign investment and foreign workers with specialized skills. As a result, that segment of the economy has been one of the loudest to advocate for streamlining and simplifying the immigration process to allow more skilled workers into the US. Recently, the JOBS Acts permitted crowdfunding-type investments for new business. Now, a new piece of legislation will make it easier for foreign-based students pursuing high tech degrees to use their skills in the US.

The Startup Act 2.0, as the new legislation is known, would allow for the creation of two new visas for entrepreneurs and students. The visa for entrepreneurs would allow foreign investors to start businesses in the US while the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) visa for students would be designed for non-US students seeking advanced degrees in high-tech industries in the US. The Startup Act 2.0 was introduced into Senate recently.

Both visas created under the Startup Act 2.0 would allow visa holders to seek US citizenship eventually as long as they continued working in science, technology, engineering and math or continued to grow their business for three to five years. If passed, Startup Act 2.0 would also create new tax credits for small companies and get rid of capital gains taxes on start up stock sales, as long as the stock is held for five years or more. The bill would also get rid of the per-country quotas that are now in place for employment visas.

The bill is intended to help the US economy. Certainly, statistics suggest that foreign-born workers can help. Some research has found that high-tech businesses founded by immigrants generated $52 billion in sales and hired 450,000 employees in 2006 alone. While immigrant labor and skills are needed for the US economy, however, many experts feel that current laws prevent the US from capitalizing on non-US skills. Many non-US students who earn high-tech degrees in the US, for example, end up working in other countries and using their US-acquired skills to enrich other nations. Startup Act 2.0 is designed to address some of these issues.

While many support Startup Act 2.0, however, many immigration reform bills do have a hard time passing Congress, and that may be even more so during an election year. Some experts have suggested that the key to getting the new legislation passed would be to emphasize that it has to do with high-tech jobs rather than undocumented immigration, which is a far more controversial topic.