President Biden’s Immigration Reform Bill Needs a Startup Visa

Tahmina Watson
4 min readFeb 20, 2021

On Thursday, 2.18.21, Congress dropped the US Citizenship Act 2021. It has some great provisions, and is a bold step towards immigration reform. I applaud the leaders in shaping the bill as it stands. Here is what I wrote when I saw a summary of the bill prior to its release.

Upon reading the bill, I can confirm that I do not see a Startup Visa provision. The bill includes a brand new and worthy provision to improve regional economic development and sets aside 10,000 visas (see below text). The provision is creative, broad, and progressive. I can see a lot of good use for it. However, we need a startup visa specifically for international entrepreneurs.

The bill states that under a new pilot program, 10,000 visas (green cards) will be set aside for those who are considered “essential to the economic development strategies” of cities and states. It further states that a labor certification will apply to the pilot program. A labor certification means that an employer must first test the US labor market. The employer must then apply for a green card. Here are the problems with this:

  1. This provision is not designed for a startup visa specifically. Startups have their ecosystem and support, and those are not taken into account.
  2. The language is broad enough to cover many industries. This is a great provision and can be useful. As an example, nursing homes or care homes can never find enough staff, this provision could be useful for that category of worker.
  3. A labor certification will defeat the purpose of the startup founder. Testing the market is time-consuming, costly, and inefficient. It takes years to get from beginning to end. Additionally, if a person has ownership in the business, they cannot apply for a labor certification. Startup founders could apply for a green card under the National Interest Waiver, a law that exists already. A founder who needs to be in the US as soon as possible to work on the idea or business will not be able to use this model.
  4. If the pilot program is for 5 years, I am not sure there will be enough data to make good decisions beyond 5 years.
  5. Even though there will be a rule-making option to carve out a startup rule potentially, we saw what the last administration did. Rules can be changed based on the ideology of the administration. We need a law that will be embedded in our system for Startup founders.

I reiterate that I like the provision for the potential broad use it can have. But we need to have a startup visa in the law clearly written for startup founders.

These are my initial remarks. I will undoubtedly be writing more soon. In the meantime, here is a reminder of what the 2012/13 immigration reform bill S.744 included for startup founders and entrepreneurs. Since this S.744 provision did pass in the Senate in 2013, let’s bring it back and insert into the USCA21!

In the meantime, read my book The Startup Visa: Key to Job Growth and Economic Prosperity in America. It is essential reading for those who care about this issue.

More soon- Tahmina

Copy of bill-text

  • Section 203(b) of the Immigration and Nationality
  • Act (8 S.C. 1153(b)), as amended by section 3404, is
  • further amended by adding at the end the following:
  • JUSTMENTS. — The Secretary of Homeland Security,
  • in consultation with the Secretary of Labor, may es-
  • tablish, by regulation, a procedure for temporarily
  • limiting the admission of immigrants described in
  • paragraphs (2) and (3) in geographic areas or labor
  • market sectors that are experiencing high levels of
  • ’’.
  • VELOPMENT VISAS. — Notwithstanding the numerical limi-
  • tations in the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 S.C.
  • 1101 et ), the Secretary may establish a pilot program
  • for the annual admission of not more than 10,000 admis-
  • sible immigrants whose employment is essential to the eco-
  • nomic development strategies of the cities or counties in
  • which they will live or
  • (b) LABOR CERTIFICATION. — The requirements of
  • section 212(a)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act
  • (8 S.C. 1182(a)(5)) shall apply to the pilot program au-
  • thorized under this
  • © DURATION. — The Secretary shall determine the
  • duration of the pilot program authorized under this sec-
  • tion, which may not exceed 5
  • (d) RULEMAKING. — The Secretary, in consultation
  • with the Secretary of Labor, shall issue regulations to im-
  • plement the pilot program authorized under this



Tahmina Watson

Founder@WatsonImmigrationLaw, passionate #immigrationlawyer, #immigrationreform advocate 4 #entrepreneurs, author, blogger, radio show host, speaker mother&wife