Bill Introduced in US House Of Representatives to Create New Visa Program for Immigrant Entrepreneurs, the W-1 visa path to green card.
On July 26, 2021 U.S. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, who chairs the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship, introduced the Let Immigrants Kickstart Employment (LIKE) Act. This bill aims to encourage immigrant innovators to establish and develop their venture capital-backed start-up companies in the United States in order to stimulate economic growth, create jobs for U.S. workers, and to boost competitive advantage of the U.S. economy.
According to the official website of congresswoman Lofren, start-up companies create an average of 3 million net new jobs each year, which is more than four times as many jobs as established U.S. companies. Therefore, the U.S. needs a visa program to attract highly skilled immigrants that can develop innovative and fast-growing start-ups, capable of attracting substantial venture capital funds.
The new bill introduces three new types of visas: W-1 for entrepreneurs with an ownership interest in a start-up entity, W-2 for essential employees of a start-up company, W-2 for spouses and children of W-1 and W-2 nonimmigrants.
The W-1 visa is to be issued for a period of 3 years.
The requirements for the initial 3-year W-1 visa are:
- The applicant possesses an ownership interest of not less than 10% in a start-up company.
- The applicant will play a central and active role in the management or operations of the start-up.
- The applicant possesses the knowledge, skills, or experience to enable the start-up to grow and succeed.
- The start-up company has received at least $250,000 in qualifying investments from one or more qualified investors or at least $100,000 in qualifying government awards or grants in the 18 months before filing the petition.
The W-1 for entrepreneurs can be extended for an additional 3 years if the following requirements are met:
- The applicant still owns no less than 5% in the start-up business.
- The applicant will continue to play a central and active role in the management or operations of the start-up entity.
- During the initial 3 years the start-up has received not less than $500,000 in additional qualifying investments from qualified investors or qualifying government awards or grants or a combination of the two.
- The start-up has created at least 5 qualified jobs or generated not less than $500,000 in annual revenue in the U.S. with an average annual revenue growth of 20%.
If the W-1 visa applicant has not satisfied the requirements for a 3-year extension, the visa can be extended for up to 2 years in 1-year increments.
To do that the applicant will have to still play a substantial role in the management of the start-up, maintain ownership of no less than 10% and be making substantial progress in meeting the requirements for attracting investment and generating growing revenue.
The W-2 visa for essential employees of a start-up company would require an offer of employment from a W-1 start-up entity in order to fill in an executive or managerial role and for the applicant to possesses knowledge, skills, or experience that are essential to the growth and success of the W-1 start-up. The interesting part here is the introduction of numerical limits for W-2 essential employees. These limits start from 2 for a start-up with 10 or fewer employees to a maximum of 5 for a company with more than 70 employees.
The program also envisions a path to permanent residency (green card) for W-1 entrepreneurs. To qualify for that green card the applicant must:
- Be present in the U.S. with W-1 or other nonimmigrant status that forms the basis for employment with the start-up company.
- To have maintained an ownership in the start-up entity since formation and to play an active and central role in its management.
- The start-up business must have created at least 10 qualified jobs and raised not less than $1,250,000 in qualifying investments.
- Or to have generated not less than $1,000,000 in annual revenue in the U.S. during the last 2 years.
This bill introduces a new visa and green card program; however, it has not been voted in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Let Immigrants Kickstart Employment (LIKE) Act seems to be an attempt to build-on the International Entrepreneur Rule which is only an advanced parole program that lacks a clear path to permanent residency (green card). We are hopeful the act will pass congress and be signed into law as it would create a clear avenue for talented international entrepreneurs.
If you are an entrepreneur seeking to develop a start-up business in the U.S., contact us or schedule an appointment to speak to our best immigration lawyer in Miami, Florida USA about your situation. If and until the LIKE act gets passed, our law firm can assist you explore other visa programs available that suit you, your business and your family’s best interests.
Malescu Law P.A. – Business Lawyers