The US House of representatives passed an economic competitiveness bill on on Friday February 4 that has a few Immigration related provisions as well.
In the article we throw light on the Immigration provisions within this bill titled, "America Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing, Pre-Eminence in Technology, and Economic Strength Act of 2022’’—or the America COMPETES Act of 2022.
Why the COMPETES ACT?
This bill is intended to boost U.S. competitiveness with China in the semiconductor manufacturing industry. As part of this effort, the bill proposes several reforms to U.S. immigration law.
America COMPETES is the counterpart to a similar bill passed by the Senate in June of last year: the “U.S. Innovation and Competition Act of 2021.” The Senate bill does not contain any immigration provisions. It will be up to a House-Senate conference committee to resolve this and other differences between the two bills.
America COMPETES contains the following immigration provisions.
A new Start-up Visa:
The bill includes a new non-immigrant "W" visa for "Entrepreneurs with ownership interest in a start up entity".
For an owner to qualify:
they would have to possess an ownership interest in the company of at least 10%
play a central and active role in the managing of the company
possess the “knowledge, skills, or experience to substantially assist” the company.
In addition, during the 18-month period before the owner applies for the visa:
The company must obtain at least $250K in investment or
$100K in government grants
The different categories created under this new nonimmigrant visa category are as follows:
W1: The owner of the startup
W2: Essential employee of a start-up entity
W3: spouse and children of W1 or W2
Initially, W-1 visas would be granted for a period of three years. But if the company meets certain growth benchmarks, that could be extended for another three years and, again, for two more 1-year periods.
The number of W-2 visas allowed for each company would depend on the company’s size, and each W-2 could be employed for an initial period of three years with the possibility of one 3-year extension.
Some owners could become “immigrant entrepreneurs” if their companies were successful enough—meaning that they could apply for a green card. The company would be deemed sufficiently successful if it received at least $1.25 million in “qualifying investments” and/or “qualifying government grants or awards”—or generated at least $1 million in annual revenue during the preceding two years. In addition, the company must have created at least 10 “qualified jobs.”
Immigrant Visas for STEM PH. D.s
The bill provides a direct path to permanent residence for immigrants who earn a Ph.D. in a specified field of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM).
The dependent family members of these doctoral recipients also would be able to apply for permanent residence.
Basically what is does is that it exempts STEM PH.D.s from the country cap that has caused immense backlog in the Employment based green card category esp. for Indians.
STEM Scholarships for U.S. Students
The bill would create a new requirement that non-citizens seeking to be classified as “W-1 nonimmigrants, immigrant entrepreneurs, or immigrant STEM doctoral recipients” pay a supplemental fee of $1,000 which would fund STEM scholarships for low-income U.S. students.
Special Status for Hong Kong Residents
The bill would provide Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or refugee status to qualified Hong Kong residents for a period of 18 months after the bill’s enactment. In addition, the bill would provide “special immigrant status” for certain highly skilled Hong Kong residents, for a maximum of 5,000 per year.
The House and the Senate will have to come up with a compromise bill sometime this year. We're not really sure if these immigration provisions will pass in the senate.