Blog Editor and Contributor: Leigh Cole.  I am a shareholder and director of Dinse, Knapp & McAndrew, PC, a regional law firm in Burlington, VT.  My practice is at the intersection of business, education and the creative economy.  Most of my clients are businesses and educational institutions.  With a national immigration law practice, I advise clients on immigration for international professionals, students and scholars in the United States. Contact me, or visit the Dinse, Knapp & McAndrew, PC, Website >

*Note: Please do not send confidential or privileged information. Sending an email will not create the attorney-client relationship or invoke attorney-client privilege.

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Monday
Mar082010

Proposed EB-6 StartUp Visas for Entrepreneurs

U.S. Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) recently introduced legislation to create a new EB-6 immigrant visa (green card) category for entrepreneurs.  The current EB-5 visa program is for international investors who inject at least $500,000 or $1,000,000 into a U.S. business venture which meets eligibility criteria for factors such as job creation.  Under the proposed StartUp Visa Act of 2010, the EB-6 visa would be for entrepreneurs who are funded by venture capitalists or angel investors.  The minimum EB-6 investment from qualified U.S. investors would be $250,000 (or at least $100,000 per EB-6 visa applicant).  The applicant would have to document a reasonable expectation that the project would meet at least one of the following criteria within two years: (1) create five or more new full time jobs, (2) attract $1,000,000 in capital investment; or (3) generate revenue of $1,000,000 (presumably annual revenue but the bill does not specify that).  To complete the application process, the EB-6 applicant would have to document that the two-year projections actually were achieved.  The EB-6 idea needs to be explored and discussed in detail to understand its benefits and risks, but I believe the concept is sound.  Like the Vermont economy, the U.S. economy is driven by entrepreneurial development and in many cases entrepreneurs are funded by outside investors, not self-funded.  How many graduate students with the next big idea in the high tech industry also have investment capital of $500,000 or more to fund their own new business venture?  Some of the most creative new companies were funded on a shoestring, such as internet based service companies, but many new businesses require a substantial initial investment.  In supporting the EB-6 proposal, a group of 160 venture capital firms from around the United States cite Google, Pfizer, Intel, Yahoo, DuPont, eBay and Proctor & Gamble as "former start-ups founded by immigrants."  It makes sense to offer the creators of new business ventures permanent residency in the United States even if they don't qualify as "alien investors" themselves.  Citing Canadian high tech entrepreneurs who tried to start their company in the United States but moved back to Montreal at least in part because of U.S. immigration barriers, the venture capital firms supporting the proposal point say "we run the risk of losing our reputation as the greatest country in which to start a company."  The EB-6 concept also addresses indirectly the securities compliance challenges faced in the ongoing EB-5 program - ensuring that a qualified (experienced) U.S. venture capital or angel investor is involved in each EB-6 project should support securities law compliance. The EB-6 program could be an exciting development for Vermont, where we have a robust entrepreneurial economy, colleges and universities generating potential entrepreneurs from the United States and many other countries who would welcome the opportunity to make their livelihood in Vermont, and an active group of venture capital and angel investors who seek promising investment opportunities close to home.