The StartUp Visa Act of 2011 and the EB6 Visa Classification for Sponsored Entrepreneurs

The StartUp Visa Act of 2011 is a proposed amendment to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) that would create a new employment based visa category. The EB-6, Sponsored Entrepreneur, visa classification is intended to open a path to permanent resident status for immigrants with innovative business plans who do not have sufficient funds to qualify under the EB-5 classification. Much like the EB-5 classification it is modeled after, the EB-6 classification is intended to help spur the economy by increasing job opportunities for United States Citizens and other authorized workers, and increasing revenue in U.S. markets. The StartUp Visa Act of 2011 would not create new visas, but would split the existing number of visas allocated to the EB-5 visa category.

The Act would amend section 203(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act to add the classification of sponsored entrepreneur to the list of immigrant visas allocated in the section. Immigrants may qualify for the EB-6 visa classification in one of the following three ways: [1] An applicant may prove that his or her business model has received an investment from a qualified venture capitalist, super angel investor, or qualified government entity of no less than $100,000; [2] An applicant may be someone in possession of an H-1B visa; or graduate level degree in science, technology, engineering, math, (STEM), computer science, or other relevant academic concentration, earned from an accredited United States college, university, or other institution of higher learning; or [3] An applicant may be a person who has a controlling interest in a foreign company. For more information on the qualification requirements please see StartUp Visa Act of 2011 §(2)(a)(2)(6)(A).

After meeting the primary qualifications listed above, the applicant is issued a two year conditional resident status. Within this time the applicant must meet the secondary qualifications involving increased capital or revenue, and/or job creation. If the applicant fails to meet such qualifications within his or her two year conditional residence, the Secretary of Homeland Security is to terminate his or her status no later than three years after the date conditional residence was conferred. Id. at §(2)(b)(3).

Summary: If passed, the StartUp Visa Act of 2011 would create an opportunity for immigrant entrepreneurs to bring their innovative business plans to the United States. It would add to the number of immigrant visas issued every year, but would draw from the number of visas already allocated to the EB-5 visa classification. In recent years, only half of the yearly allotment of visas in the EB-5 category has been issued. In theory, the implementation of the Act would help stimulate the U.S. economy by attracting a greater number of talented entrepreneurs who may not have qualified for immigrant visas before due to financial limitations.