04 January 2010

Silicon Valley lobbies for new American visa for entrepreneurs

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A proposed overhaul of the American Immigration system in 2010 could see a new visa introduced to encourage foreign entrepreneurial start-ups in the Silicon Valley

Congressman Jared Polis has proposed a new American visa to entice foreigners to start up the next Google or Yahoo in the valley, where half of all technology company founders are immigrants.

Congressman Polis says this new American Visa will mean the American immigration system can attract talented, technologically-savvy professionals, and keep them. Already, there are similar programmes in Canada, the UK and Australia to attract the of the world's talent.

"Every day the American economy is losing ground - not to mention high-tech jobs and technologies - to India and China because foreign-born entrepreneurs cannot secure a visa to stay in the US," he said.

The proposed start-up visa will streamline the EB-5 visa system, which was initially introduced in 1990 to attract foreign capital. Each year 10,000 EB-5 visas are available for applicants able to invest US$1 million and create 10 full-time jobs.

The new visa will be part of a new class of eligibility, and would be granted to foreign entrepreneurs if their business plan attracts either $250,000 from a venture capital operating company that is primarily US based or $100,000 from another investor.

Other proposed requirements will be that they must also show that the business will create five to ten jobs or generate a profit and at least $1million in revenue.

All of these requirements will be debated, and may be changed,  when the bill goes to committee in the next few weeks.

Critics of the proposed new visa have said making it easier for entrepreneurs to start up new businesses will take jobs away from Americans,  but proponents say that far from taking away jobs new jobs will emerge that were never there in the first place.

Estimate figures released by YouNoodle, a company that monitors the start-up sector, shows that if ten thousand start-up visas were made available over 3000 additional new innovative and funded companies would be based in America every year, generating more than 10,000 jobs on average every year.

In the first 10 years that would add up to over 500,000 highly-skilled new jobs.

The American Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people make American Visa applications to the American Embassy.

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