We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: many of the greatest obstacles to attracting and retaining tech talent are the result of our country’s broken immigration system. There’s a pressing need for substantial legislative reforms that reach beyond the President’s recent executive actions. So we’re happy to see the new Congress hit the ground running with two high-skilled immigration bills—the Startup and the Immigration Innovation (“I-Squared”) Act, both bipartisan efforts introduced in the Senate this week. These important pieces of legislation propose a number of critical reforms to our immigration system, including increasing the pool of visas available to the high-skilled talent our technology and startup communities desperately need.
The bills vary in their approach, but cover similar ground. On Tuesday, Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) re-introduced the Immigration Innovation Act, (also known as the “I-Squared” Act). The bill would increase the H-1B cap from 65,000 to 115,000 visas, expand worker mobility for visa-holders in-between jobs, and create a number of important exemptions from the Green Card cap for professionals in STEM fields.
The Startup Act, originally introduced in February 2013 (you can read what we wrote then here), was re-introduced today by Senators Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) along with Sens. Jerry Moran (R-KS) Chris Coons (D-DE), Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). Their bill tackles many of the same issues with visa limitations, and goes farther in establishing an Entrepreneur’s Visa to allow founders of new businesses to remain in the United States, launch businesses, and create jobs.
Providing a pathway for entrepreneurs to create businesses in the U.S. is particularly important. Under current employment-based visa provisions, it is exceedingly difficult for entrepreneurs to venture out on their own and create startups which will in turn create new jobs here in the U.S. Immigrants are twice as likely to start businesses as their native-born peers, and failing to provide an easy way for foreign entrepreneurs to start their businesses here is essentially the same thing as shipping jobs overseas.
While both bills are likely to face some real challenges in Congress, the need to make our immigration system more innovation-friendly has become increasingly clear. We urge leaders on both sides of the aisle to support the kinds of common sense reforms found in these bills. The future of our economy depends on it.