Every once in a while, we write about the ups and downs of the H-1B visa, which enables U.S. companies to hire foreign workers for certain types of jobs (engineering positions are usually the most relevant for the high-tech industry).
But, the other day, while I was browsing The Wall Street Journal, my wheels started spinning when I read
a story about a foreign-born software executive who came to the U.S. with a J-2 visa associated with his wife's academic research exchange program. He founded a company in San Francisco in 2010, now employs 15 people, and was rejected for an H-1B visa. Really? A guy who's creating legitimate high-tech jobs can't stay in the U.S. because of a problem with a stamp in his passport?
The plus side is that the executive is trying to get an E-2 visa. Have you heard about this kind of visa? I hadn't, but was glad to learn about it. At first glance, it looks as if it could not only help high-tech companies and foreign-born entrepreneurs: I think, if it's handled well, it could be the wide-scale jumpstart America needs to get out its unemployment slump. At the very least, it could empower immigrants--many of whom got visas to study at American universities and nurture their entrepreneurial spirits--to remain here and build their businesses in the U.S., thus slowing the brain drain of smart, risk-taking entrepreneurs who are stuck in immigration limbo and may be forced to take their brilliant ideas out of the U.S. and back to their home countries.
The E-2 visa, commonly referred to as the "startup visa," would be for investors from countries that have a treaty to do business with the U.S., have invested a substantial amount in a company, and are in the country to "develop and direct" that business, according to the WSJ article cited above. Lately, more high-tech and corporate leaders and advocacy groups are urging Congress to pass the Startup Act 2.0 bill, a piece of legislation introduced by Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) and co-sponsored by a bipartisan group, including senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL).
The updated bill calls for immigration law changes, including the addition of a new visa that permits foreign-born entrepreneurs to stay legally in the U.S., "if they can raise $100,000 in capital and hire at least two American workers during their first year holding the visa," the newspaper said. There would be 75,000 of these entrepreneurial visas available, if the bill passes, and they would include startups in any industry, not just high-tech.