Lofgren Introduces Legislation to Create New Visa Program for Immigrant Entrepreneurs to Spur U.S. Economic Growth

July 26, 2021
Press Release
The Let Immigrants Kickstart Employment Act encourages the establishment of start-up companies in America

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Chair of the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship, introduced H.R. 4681, the Let Immigrants Kickstart Employment (LIKE) Act, a bill that encourages immigrant innovators to establish and develop their venture capital-backed start-up companies in the United States to spur economic growth, create jobs for American workers, and enhance our competitive advantage on the world stage.

Start-up companies create an average of 3 million net new jobs per year, more than four times as many jobs as mature companies. Despite widespread evidence that high-skilled immigrants are fueling the next generation of high growth companies, our current immigration laws don’t provide a viable visa option for such individuals to start a new venture. The LIKE Act creates a new temporary visa for founders of start-up entities, as well as the opportunity for lawful permanent residence if the start-up entity meets certain growth-related benchmarks that demonstrate the founder has a proven track record of success in business development.

“For the world’s best and brightest innovators seeking a home for their companies, America used to be the top destination. 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 U.S. 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 Chair Lofgren.

Click here for a one-page summary about start-up visas.

Click here for a section-by-section summary of the LIKE Act.

Click here for full text of the LIKE Act.

Background

Startup companies are fundamental to U.S. job creation. They are responsible for virtually all net new jobs created over the last couple of decades.

  • Start-up companies create an average of 3 million net new jobs per year—that’s more than four times as many jobs as mature companies that have been operating for 11 or more years.
  • Immigrants are fueling the next generation of high growth companies. Numerous immigrant-founded startups have grown to become some of America’s most successful companies, including Moderna, Tesla, and eBay.
  • Over 50% 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.
  • At least 25 countries have some version of a startup visa including Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, and Sweden.
  • U.S. immigration policy that pushes away entrepreneurs is one reason why the U.S. share of global venture capital has fallen significantly over the last 15 years—from 84% in 2004 to 52% in 2019.
     
  • Source:  National Venture Capital Association, Immigrant Entrepreneurs Can Drive Economic Growth in the Pandemic Recovery (Mar. 2021), https://nvca.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/NVCA_Visa_Reforms_book_FINAL.pdf

LIKE Act Details

To qualify for the LIKE Act’s three-year temporary visa, an individual must:

  • possess an ownership interest in a start-up entity that has received the requisite amount of qualifying investments or government awards or grants;
  • play a central and active 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.

The LIKE Act stipulates that after three years, if the founder retains an ownership interest in the entity and the entity has met certain growth-related benchmarks, such as job creation and revenue generation, the founder can receive additional extensions—up to five years—of their temporary status. If the start-up entity meets certain additional benchmarks that demonstrate the founder has a proven track record of success in business development, the founder can apply for and receive lawful permanent residence. 

The LIKE Act also includes provisions allowing the start-up entity to petition for temporary visas for a limited number of additional personnel who will serve in managerial or executive positions and are essential to the growth and success of the entity’s business. 

Support

The LIKE Act is supported by the National Venture Capital Association, Center for American Entrepreneurship, FWD.us, Engine, TechNet, New American Economy, the Economic Innovation Group, and the Federation of American Scientists.

Related Hearing

On Tuesday, July 13, 2021, the Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship held a hearing titled “Oh, Canada! How Outdated U.S. Immigration Policies Push Top Talent to Other Countries.” Click here for the full video, witness testimonies, and supporting documents from that hearing.

###