America Competes Act Introduces Startup Visa & Removes Green Card Cap for STEM Doctorates

The ‘America Competes Act, 2022’ has been passed by the US House of Representatives and aims to boost manufacturing, streamline supply chains, and also contains a number of proposed immigration reforms.

It creates a new ‘W’ class visa (non-immigrant) for foreign entrepreneurs and their families, as well as ‘essential workers’ in their enterprises. The visa also makes provisions to allow family members to gain work permits too. Furthermore, W-Visa holders face the opportunity of a pathway to a green card and citizenship.

W-Visas for Startup Owners

While other factors are involved, the basic rules stipulate that the applicant holds at least a 10% stake in the startup, and at least $250,000 in investments from US citizens or organisations, or at least $100,000 in government awards or grants.

The U.S. joins the likes of Canada and the U.K. who already run startup visa programs which have been successful in luring talent to their shores. Currently, the International Entrepreneur Rule exists which enables certain overseas investors to come and stay in the U.S. for two-and-a-half years, after which it can be extended.

Green card eligibility on the W-Visa comes after one year. However, conditions around funding, revenue, job creation and the ongoing ownership requirement must be met.

STEM Degrees and More for Hong Kong Residents

In addition, the new act would allow for the issue of an unlimited number of green cards to foreign citizens (and their immediate families) who have earned a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) doctorates or PhDs from a U.S. institution or equivalent foreign establishment.

On Hong Kong, the bill would provide Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or refugee status to qualified Hong Kong residents for at least 18 months after the bill’s enactment, and would provide “special immigrant status” for certain highly skilled Hong Kong workers, with a limit of 5,000 per year.

The legislation is the House of Representative’s response to the Senate’s bipartisan U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, which was approved back in June 2021. The House and Senate will now begin to reconcile the two bills with a goal to move a final legislative package.

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