Introduced by Zoe Lofgren in the US House of Representatives, the ‘Let Immigrants Kickstart Employment (LIKE) Act’ aims to spur economic growth and create jobs for American workers by encouraging immigrants to set up venture capital-backed startup companies.
“For the world’s best and brightest innovators seeking a home for their companies, America used to be the top destination,” Lofgren said in a statement. “Sadly, that has changed. Today, the technology sector in Canada is growing at a faster pace than it is in America, and it is almost entirely because of restrictive US immigration policies that do not benefit our economic interests.”
“Congress can change that. We can make the United States more prosperous by passing bills like the LIKE Act that stimulate the economy, curb brain drain, create jobs for American workers, and restore our country’s standing as the number one choice for the next-generation of entrepreneurs worldwide,” said Lofgren, who is also the chair of the house subcommittee on immigration and citizenship.
At least 25 countries have some version of a startup visa including Canada, the UK, Australia, Germany and Sweden. Over half of the current crop of high growth companies were founded by an immigrant or by a first generation American, accounting for approximately 1.9 million employees.
An individual must have ownership interest in a startup entity, which has received a stipulated amount of qualifying investments or government awards or grants, play a central role in the management or operations of the entity and possess the knowledge, skills, or experience to substantially assist the entity with its growth and success in order to qualify for a three year visa.
After three years, if the founder retains ownership interest and the entity has met certain growth-related benchmarks like job creation and revenue generation, the founder can receive extensions up to five years on their temporary status. Following this, if other criteria are met, the founder can apply for and receive permanent residence. The startup should also have raised at least $1.25 million or generated $1 million or more in annual revenue in the two-year period prior to filing the green card application. The bill will have to be passed by the House and the Senate before it becomes a law.
These founders would be able to hire a certain number of immigrant workers on temporary visas as well, according to the statement. The LIKE Act is supported by the National Venture Capital Association, Center for American Entrepreneurship, FWD.us, Engine, TechNet, New American Economy and the Federation of American Scientists.