As part of the America Competes Act of 2022, a group of House leaders is proposing a new W nonimmigrant visa classification and to exempt individuals with Ph.D. degrees in STEM (science, technology, engineering, or mathematics) fields from annual green card caps.

The Bill creates a W-1 visa for foreign-born entrepreneurs and a limited number of W-2 visas for employees essential to the success of the startup entity if the startup serves as the basis for the W-1 status of an entrepreneur. The W-1 visa would be valid for an initial three-year period if:

  1. The individual possesses an ownership interest of not less than 10% in a startup;
  2. The individual will play a central and active role in the management or operations of the startup;
  3. The individual possesses the knowledge, skills, or experience to substantially assist the startup with growth and success; and
  4. During the 18-month period preceding the filing of the petition, the startup received:
    1. At least $250,000 in qualifying investments from one or more qualified investors; or
    2. At least $100,000 in qualifying government awards or grants.

The Bill allows for an extension of W-1 status for an additional three years if:

  1. The individual possesses at least a 5% ownership stake, and will continue to play a central and active role in management or operations; and
  2. The startup has received at least $500,000 in additional qualifying investments, created at least five qualifying jobs, or generated not less than $500,000 in annual revenue in the United States and averaged 20% in annual revenue growth.

The entrepreneur may receive two additional one-year extensions for a total of up to eight years in W-1 status.

An entrepreneur in W-1 status can self-petition for a green card exempt from annual limits if they maintained W-1 status, maintained an ownership interest in the startup, and maintained an active and central role in the startup; and the startup has created at least 10 qualified jobs, has received not less than $1.25 million in qualifying investments, or has generated not less than $1 million in annual revenue in the United States in the two-year period preceding the filing of the petition.

In addition, the Bill would exempt from annual green card limits individuals with Ph.D. degrees in STEM fields from a qualified U.S. research institution or from a foreign institution, if the degree is the equivalent to a degree issued by a qualified U.S. research institution. The bill defines STEM broadly as a field included “within the summary groups of agricultural sciences, natural resources and conservation, computer and information sciences and support services, engineering, biological and biomedical sciences, mathematics and statistics, military technologies, physical sciences, or medical residency and fellowship programs, or the summary group subsets of accounting and related services and taxation.” This broad definition would allow outstanding researchers in many critical industries to qualify, including postdoctoral researchers early in their careers.

The Bill will need to pass both the House and the Senate before it can be sent to the president for signature and implementation. Click here to view past visa bulletins.