LIKE Act: A New Start-Up Visa Bill

On July 26, 2021, the Let Immigrants Kickstart Employment Act (“LIKE Act”) was introduced to Congress to establish a new class of nonimmigrant visas for entrepreneurs and essential employees affiliated with start-up entities.

The proposed LIKE Act seeks to amend section 101(a)(15) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to create a new classification of “W” nonimmigrants as follows:

  • W-1: Entrepreneurs with an ownership interest in a start-up entity;
  • W-2: Essential employees of a start-up entity; and
  • W-3: The spouses and children of W-1 or W-2 nonimmigrants.

The W visa would allow certain immigrant entrepreneurs to establish and maintain their start-up companies in the United States. An individual can qualify for an initial three year period of these start-up visas if:

  • the individual possesses an ownership interest of not less than 10 percent in a start-up entity;
  • the individual will play a central and active role in the management or operations of the start-up entity;
  • the individual possesses the knowledge, skills, or experience to substantially assist the start-up entity with the growth and success of its business; and
  • during the 18 months preceding the filing of the petition, the start-up entity received at least $250,000 in qualifying investments from one or more qualified investors; or at least $100,000 in qualifying government awards or grants.

The LIKE Acts provides the start-up founder to qualify for additional extensions up to five years of their temporary status (W visa) if they retain an ownership interest in the entity and specific criteria are met, such as job creation and revenue generation.

This proposed legislation’s provisions also allow the founder to apply for a green card status in the United States if the start-up continues to meet additional criteria demonstrating the founder’s success in their business endeavors.

Carolyn Lee PLLC will closely monitor this important potential enhancement to the U.S. investment immigration landscape.