LIKE Act would create new visa program for immigrant entrepreneurs

On July 26, 2021, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Chair of the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship, introduced H.R. 4681, also called the “Let Immigrants Kickstart Employment (LIKE) Act.” The bill encourages immigrants to establish and develop startup companies in the U.S. to spur economic growth, create jobs for Americans, and enhance the country’s competitive advantage. For the LIKE Act to become law, it must be approved by the House and Senate and signed by President Biden. At present, it looks unlikely that the LIKE Act will become law.

Purpose of the LIKE Act

The LIKE Act proposes to create a new temporary visa for foreign founders of startup companies. In addition, the Act proposes to provide immigrant entrepreneurs an opportunity to obtain lawful permanent residence if the startup company meets certain statutory benchmarks.

Justification for the LIKE Act 

Startup companies create an average of three million net new jobs per year, which is over four times as many jobs created by established companies that have been operating in the U.S. for 11 or more years. According to Congresswoman Lofgren, immigrants are responsible for much of this growth, and the U.S. would benefit greatly from a policy that encourages foreign entrepreneurs to immigrate to the country. Specifically, according to Congresswoman Lofgren:

  • Immigrants are behind the next generation of high-growth companies. Immigrant-founded startups have grown into some of the most successful companies in the U.S., including Tesla, Moderna, and eBay. 
  • Over half of all current high-growth companies in the U.S. were founded by an immigrant or first-generation American, accounting for nearly two million employees.
  • Approximately 25 countries have some version of the type of startup visa proposed by the LIKE Act, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Sweden, Australia, and Germany.
  • Current U.S. immigration policy pushes away entrepreneurs—this is one reason why the U.S. share of global venture capital has plummeted from 84% in 2004 to 52% in 2019.

Key Details of the LIKE Act

Below are some of the key details of the LIKE Act:

  • To qualify for a three-year temporary visa under the LIKE Act, an individual must possess an ownership interest in a startup, play an active and central role in the operations or management of the company, and possess the skills, knowledge, or experience to substantially assist the company with its success and growth.
  • If the company has met certain statutory benchmarks after three years, such as revenue generation and job creation, the founder can receive additional temporary status extensions (up to five years). If the startup meets certain additional statutory benchmarks, the founder may apply for and receive lawful permanent residence. 
  • A startup may petition for temporary visas for a limited number of employees who will serve in executive or managerial positions and are essential to the success and growth of the entity’s business.

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