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January-February 2012

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CAPITOL BEAT by Paul Herzog Recent Developments Could Spur Economic Growth, Job Creation immigrants to spur economic growth and job cre- ation. This is good news for immigrant entrepre- neurs and the economy. According to an October 2, 2011, article by C.S. Tager in Crain's New York Busi- ness, "Immigrants Drive Small Business in NYC," in cities such as New York, foreigners account for nearly half of all small business owners. This, followed by a Washington Post article on October 6, by V. Wadhwa, "We Need to Stop America's Brain Drain," stating that foreign-born individuals established more than half the companies in Silicon Valley. T More Opportunities to Start a Business In March 2011, Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Richard Lugar (R-IN) introduced the Start-Up Visa Act. This legislation would expand eligibility for the EB-5 in- vestor green card by decreasing the minimum investment to $100,000. This allows foreign graduate stu- dents and professionals holding advanced degrees in the sciences to qualify for the green card and encourages entrepreneurs to relo- cate their businesses to the United States. It also says that noncitizen entrepreneurs who have secured venture capital funding from U.S. sources can qual- ify. This legislation is important because it benefits those who actually want to start a business in the United States. In addition, by providing benefits to those with advanced degrees in the sciences, math- ematics, and engineering, it particularly encourages investment in those high-value industries that have Sen. Kerry Sen. Lugar 12 VOICE he dismal state of the economy has prodded Congress and President Barack Obama's ad- ministration to re-examine the potential for the greatest promise of generating high-wage jobs. Until recently, this legislation had been languish- ing amid the partisan rancor in Washington and because the Obama administration preferred to sup- port a comprehensive immigration reform bill. But during a September 14, 2011, hearing on "the Inves- tor Visa Program: Key to Creating American Jobs," House Republican Lamar Smith (R-TX) commented favorably about the role of the investor visa program in creating jobs. As discussed below, the Obama ad- ministration is striving to make the existing immi- gration machinery more job-friendly. This indicates that bipartisan support for the bill may be emerging. Positive Changes Involving H-1B, NIW, and EB-5 Categories On August 2, 2011, U.S. Citizenship and Immi- gration Services (USCIS) announced new guide- lines allowing noncitizen entrepreneurs to sponsor themselves using the H-1B category. U.S. companies mainly use H-1B visas to employ foreign workers in professional specialty occupations, such as engineer- ing and the sciences. This updated guidance allows noncitizens who establish their own companies to be sponsored by those companies for the H-1B visa. This is a limited expansion of the options for immi- grant entrepreneurs—they must still abide by the many requirements of the H-1B program, such as paying a salary that meets prevailing wage require- ments for the profession, and performing job duties that are related to their degree. This policy carved out an exception from earlier guidance, which had restricted the use of the H-1B visa. It remains to be seen how this policy will be implemented by front- line bureaucrats, who tend to be skeptical of applica- tions filed by small firms. USCIS also has issued guidance stating that entre- preneurs could apply for lawful permanent residence

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