NJ Business Immigration Coalition Urges Passage of the Immigration Provisions in the America Competes Act

The members of the New Jersey Business Immigration Coalition wish to express their views regarding the conference consideration of H.R. 4521, The America Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing, Pre-Eminence in Technology, and Economic Strength (COMPETES) Act of 2022 and S. 1260, the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA).

We applaud the House and Senate for taking actions to strengthen our nation’s competitiveness through policy changes and increased investments in federal STEM education programs, scientific research, research infrastructure, and innovation programs.

We are especially pleased with the immigration provisions in H.R. 4521, which, we believe, will create important pathways for entrepreneurs and critical STEM talent to enter the American economy. At present, our immigration system provides scarce opportunities for high-skilled immigrants to strengthen our economy.

The Immigrant Startup Visa

The startup visa provision allows non-U.S. citizens who are the owners or essential employees of startup companies (defined as companies having attained a certain level of prior investment) the opportunity to apply for a new W visa. After holding such a visa for a period of time, the entrepreneur can apply for a permanent resident visa if the business generates a certain amount of revenue and creates at least 10 other jobs. The entrepreneur would not be subject to green card backlogs when applying for such a visa.

The provision allows the U.S. to compete with other countries, like Canada, that have implemented similar programs to attract top talent to their countries. The bipartisan National Foundation for American Policy estimates that the startup visa program could create 1 to 3 million jobs over a decade. The National Venture Capital Association believes that this new visa category “will allow the world’s best entrepreneurs to create the next generation of great companies that will ensure the United States remains the global leader in technology and innovation.”

Immigrant Visas for STEM PhDs

The Coalition also supports a provision providing a direct path to permanent residence for immigrants who earn a PhD in a specified field of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM). As mandated in the bill, such immigrants must receive a doctoral degree from a qualified U.S. research institution or an equivalent foreign institution – and work in a field related to their PhD degree.  The House bill also stipulates certain criteria that must be met for a university to be deemed “qualified.” The bill also broadens the definition of STEM to include such fields as computer and information sciences, military technologies, and medical residency programs.

As immigrants make up almost half (46.3%) of all STEM PhDs at U.S. Universities, this provision opens another important door for top talent to enter the country, allowing U.S. employers to gain an important competitive advantage by recruiting, and offering permanent residence, to outstanding STEM specialists from around the world. As with the startup visa program, such individuals would not be subject to annual green card caps. Another benefit of this program would be to reduce current backlogs in America’s over-subscribed employment-based preference categories, because many PhD recipients currently waiting in line would be able to qualify for immigrant visas under the new program.

The New Jersey Business Immigration Coalition believes that these two new programs will be a significant step forward in bringing our outdated immigration system into the 21stcentury, and urges all members of the New Jersey congressional delegation to support their inclusion in the final version of this vital piece of legislation.