Written By: Alizeh Karmali
On February 4, 2022, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the America Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing, Pre-Eminence in Technology, and Economic Strength (COMPETES) Act. This new bill creates a temporary visa for foreign-born entrepreneurs who qualify, as well as exempts individuals with Ph.D.s in STEM fields from annual green card limits. The America COMPETES Act intends to help the STEM workforce grow and allows innovation in these fields to continue thriving in the U.S.
The bill contains the following provisions:
New Nonimmigrant Visas for Non-U.S. Citizens Who Are the Owners or Essential Employees of Start-Up Companies
For an owner to qualify, they must:
● Possess at least a 10% ownership interest in the company, and
● Play a “central and active” role in the management of the company
Additionally, during the 18-month period before applying for the visa, the company must:
● Receive at least $250,000 in “qualifying investments,” or
● Receive at least $100,000 in “qualifying government awards or grants”
There would be three types of visas that come out of this provision:
● W-1: This is for entrepreneurs with an ownership interest in the company. W-1 visas are initially granted for three years, but can be extended for another three years and, again, for two more one-year periods if the company meets specific benchmarks.
● W-2: This is for essential employees of the company. W-2 visas allow someone to be employed for three years with a chance to extend this for another three years.
● W-3: This is for spouses and children of W-1 and W-2 visa holders.
In order for an owner to become an “immigrant entrepreneur” and apply for a green card, their company must have:
● 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 last two years, and
● Created at least ten qualified jobs
Immigrant Visas for STEM Ph.D.s
In order for an immigrant who earns a Ph.D. in a STEM field to get on the path to permanent residence, they must:
● Receive a degree from a qualified U.S. research institution or an equivalent foreign institution, and
● Work in a field related to their degree
Further, the dependent family members of these Ph.D. recipients will have the opportunity to apply for permanent residence in the U.S.
STEM Scholarships for U.S. Students
The bill requires non-citizens who want to be classified as W-1 nonimmigrants, immigrant entrepreneurs, or immigrant STEM Ph.D. recipients to pay a supplemental fee of $1,000. This will go towards funding STEM scholarships for low-income U.S. students.
Temporary Protected Status or Refugee Status to Qualified Hong Kong Residents
The bill will provide this status for a period of 18 months after its enactment. Additionally, it will provide “special immigrant status” for certain Hong Kong residents who are highly skilled.
We look forward to progressive immigration changes such as these to help strengthen our country’s economy and global workforce. Please reach out to Finnan, Fleischut and Associates for any questions on this matter.