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Startup-Friendly Bill Would Remove Visa Caps, Regulations For Entrepreneurs

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A bipartisan group of senators wants to usher in a prosperous new era for domestic startups, and on Thursday introduced a wide-ranging bill that aims to make it easier to form new ventures.

The Startup Act proposes to create 50,000 limited visas for foreign students who obtain advanced science, technology, engineering and math degrees in the United States, helping them get green cards to pursue domestic jobs. It also would also create 75,000 limited visas for legal immigrants starting entrepreneurial ventures domestically and directs federal agencies to dole out government funds for grants to help universities commercialize their research.

The bill, introduced by Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Mark Warner, D-Va., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., aims to rescue the country from historically low rates of business formation and entrepreneurship, Moran said in a statement.

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The Kauffman Foundation, a nonprofit promoting entrepreneurship, concluded that the rate of new ventures dropped to 0.31 percent of every 100,000 adults creating new businesses each month, down from 0.33 percent in 2016.

“Congress must work to reverse these trends and support policies that allow better opportunities for someone to take an idea, bring it to market, and in the process of pursuing that success, create jobs for other Americans,” Moran said in a statement.

Among other actions, the bill would also:

  • Direct all government agencies do to a cost-benefit analysis of any rules that have an economic impact of more than $100 million and determine whether any of those rules are detrimental to forming new businesses.
  • Require the Commerce Department to examine state and local policies designed to help new businesses and to compile a report to be sent to Congress so lawmakers understand the domestic landscape for startups.
  • Funnel more money into an Economic Development Administration’s Regional Innovation program, which currently awards grants to groups across the country building new products, as well as to venture firms funding entrepreneurs.

The bill comes on the heels of national debate about H-1B visas, a class of visas that allows domestic companies to hire foreign workers for jobs requiring specific training and skillsets.

An April executive order from President Donald Trump aimed to roll back the visas for those workers; Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa and Dick Durbin, D-Ill, also reintroduced the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act, which would reduce the authorized admission period from six years to three years, but would also direct U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to prioritize applicants educated in the United States and who have advanced degrees.

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