New Entrepreneur Pathway to Citizenship Proposed by Senate

1110038_dollar_liberty_1.jpgU.S. Senate bill S. 744 proposes a new pathway to citizenship designed especially for entrepreneurs, beginning with the proposed nonimmigrant X visa followed by green cards for investors and founders. The new bill proposes the new X visa for qualified entrepreneurs.

Why is this new visa category important?

If enacted into law, this would be a major breakthrough because under current immigration law, there is no direct pathway for foreign national entrepreneurs seeking to come to the US to invest in a current business or to start a business unless they can make at least a $500,000 investment. Currently, entrepreneurs seeking a pathway to US citizenship must begin with one of several nonimmigrant visas that are not designed for the entrepreneur. These visas are the B-1 visitor visa, F-1 optional practical training, H-1B specialty occupation, L-1 intercompany transferee, O-1 extraordinary ability and achievement, E-2 treaty investor, and the TN NAFTA visas.

What is the current immigration law lacking with regard to entrepreneurs?

There are several drawbacks to these alternate visas that now require the entrepreneurial investor to contort into a pretzel in order to meet the criteria for one of these visa categories. Many of the drawbacks include that some are for a very short period of time, some focus on only those entrepreneurs who are also employees of the US company, some focus on entrepreneurs who already have a foreign business abroad. These criteria do not reflect the reality of the business world concerning entrepreneurs and business startups.

This new legislation is extremely important because if it becomes law it would significantly improve the current state of our immigration laws and create a specific new pathway for foreign entrepreneurs, which are extremely valuable to the US economy and for US job creation.

What is being proposed?

The proposed X visa would be for qualified entrepreneurs. According to the bill, the definition of a “qualified entrepreneur” is an entrepreneur who shows during the prior three-year period, either one of the following:

a. A qualified venture capitalist, super agent, accelerator, government entity or community development financial institution that made a “qualified investment” of $100,000 to the US business, or b. During the prior two years, the business created three jobs, and $250,000 revenue.

The bill proposes that extensions for the X visa must meet the following criteria:

For a three-year extension:

1. Three jobs must have been created by the business, and 2. There must have been a $250,000 validation investment,
3. Or the business earned $200,000 revenue in the past two years.

For a one-year extension:

1. There must have been “substantial progress” toward meeting the three-year extension requirements, and 2. The visa extension would be “economically beneficial” to the United States.

The bill has two proposals for immigrant visas seeking US permanent residence. The first pathway requires the following:

1. The person must be a qualified entrepreneur,
2. Must have spent the past two years in nonimmigrant status,
3. The Person must have a significant ownership in the US business,
4. The business must have created five jobs, and 5. There must have been a validation investment of $500,000 to the business, or the business must’ve had $750,000 revenue within the past two years.

The second proposal for US permanent residence requires the following:

1. The person must be a qualified entrepreneur,
2. Person must have spent the last three years in nonimmigrant status,
3. Person must possess an advanced STEM degree,
4. Person must have a significant ownership in the US business,
5. The business must’ve created 4 jobs, and 6. There must have been a validation investment of $500,000 to the business, or the business must have created three jobs and had $500,000 revenue within the past two years.

“Job creation” is defined as follows:

1. The position must be full-time,
2. The job must be held by an employee of the US business owned by the entrepreneur,
3. The position must have been filled for two years, and by a person other than the entrepreneur and his or her family, and 4. The wage must be 250% of the federal minimum. Note that 250% of the federal no minimum would be approximately $33,000 annually.

When would the new proposed visa category take effect?

When and if the proposed bill becomes enacted into law, experts estimate that this new visa category would not take effect for several months after passage. Rather, it could take upwards of 18 months until it is implemented due to the necessity for new USCIS regulations and policies to define what the procedures will be and how they will be adjudicated.

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