Start-Up Launchpad Blog

One Step Closer to Visa Reform for Start-ups and Entrepreneurs - July 16, 2012

Lori T. Chesser

Lori T. Chesser, Immigration Attorney

On July 11, 2012, Senator Charles Grassley lifted his hold on HR 3012, the "Chaffetz bill" that will eliminate the per country caps on immigrant visas, presumably speeding immigration for people from India and China. The bill, which passed the House overwhelmingly, is expected to pass the Senate now that the hold is lifted.


The start-up community pushed for the Chaffetz bill because thousands of would-be entrepreneurs are stuck in the employment-based green card waiting line, tied to employer sponsors for years.  Obtaining a green card allows an immigrant to start a new business as a sideline or full-time economic activity.


Assuming that it passes the Senate and can be reconciled with the House version, this would be the first step in several visa reforms that could help encourage immigrant entrepreneurship.


However, Senator Grassley released his hold only after adding a provision giving more enforcement authority to the Department of Labor over H-1B compliance, including the ability to conduct annual audits.


Depending on the final language and DOL implementation, this provision could help root out "bad employers" who take advantage of the H-1B program or it could be an unnecessary expense and entrapment to "good employers" who use the program correctly.  In the latter event, passage could hamper some start-up companies, while helping others.


The shortage of H-1Bs is again evident with the "cap" being reached this year within about two months.  Perhaps with these additional protections in place (assuming the bill does pass and can be reconciled with the House version), Senator Grassley will be open to discuss raising the annual numerical limitation (the "cap") as another way to help new companies.


Read Senator Grassley's statement about lifting his hold on the bill.