NVCA’s Role in Immigration Reform

In the last several weeks the buzz around high-skilled immigration reform has noticeably increased with many groups across the country contributing to the campaign to enact meaningful change in this area.  We, at the National Venture Capital Association, are extremely encouraged by the public support and momentum around an issue that we have long supported.  Each and every group has a role to play as the debate moves forward.  For the NVCA’s part, we do our best work in Washington D.C., often out of the public spotlight, helping to frame and advocate for those provisions most important to the venture capital industry and the companies in which we invest.  These efforts, combined with more public campaigns from other coalitions who share our goals, will continue in earnest as immigration reform moves through the Senate, and eventually, hopefully through the House of Representatives.

We are proud that long-standing parts of our policy platform, such as improvements to the H-1B visa system were included in the comprehensive Senate package. Similarly, we are proud of the creation of the INVEST Visa category as a result of the work we have done.

  • For nearly a decade, NVCA has been educating lawmakers about the contribution of foreign born nationals to entrepreneurship, innovation and job creation. Our 2006 American Made report was the first of its kind documenting this phenomenon and, thanks to your efforts connecting us with your companies, we will be in a position to issue an update to this critical report in the coming weeks.  The timing will coincide with Senate action on the bill.
  • Given our constituency, the NVCA is often asked to testify on issues critical to the startup community and immigration is no exception.  The testimony of members like Jason Mendelson of Foundry Group and Shervin Pishevar of Menlo Ventures who addressed the last Congress paved the way for more recent hearings where Deepak Kamra of Canaan Partners and Jeffrey Bussgang of Flybridge Capital Partners were instrumental in building the case for an “entrepreneurial” or start-up visa for foreign-born founders who come to the U.S. to start and build companies.
  • In the last few months, NVCA has met regularly with Democrat and Republican members of the Senate Gang of 8 and provided input on the Invest Visa provision.  We have also worked with Sens. Mark Udall, Mark Warner, and Jerry Moran, whose startup bills helped plow the ground for the Gang of 8 Invest Visa.  The devil is always in the details and our focus has been on ensuring that the rules will allow the right entrepreneurs to take advantage of this important category.  This involves educating legislators on the important role of incubators and qualified startup accelerators, typical funding levels for first time entrepreneurs, the process of syndication among more than one firm, and reasonable milestones to track progress.  We are confident our efforts resulted in a provision that will be meaningful and workable should the full bill pass.
  • Deepak Kamra’s testimony created interest on the start-up visa front among Republican leaders on the Judiciary committee which may lead to the inclusion of positive provisions in any House package.  While stalwarts like Reps. Zoe Lofgren and Jared Polis have been long-standing backers of this concept, garnering the attention of the majority party is critical to seeing this included in any product ultimately produced by that Chamber.

So where do we go from here?  Much work remains before we can declare victory.  The Senate will begin a series of procedural votes and maneuvers this week, that will measure support and which will hopefully begin the debate on the underlying legislation in earnest.  If the bill survives the procedural hurdles, there will be several weeks of debate on amendments before a full vote is taken.  During that time, NVCA will be engaged on this issue, meeting with legislators and pushing hard for a favorable outcome.

The path that the House of Representatives will take in tackling immigration reform is less clear.  At this point, both the Judiciary Committee and the broader Republican majority have signaled their intent to move multiple smaller measures rather than one comprehensive proposal.  Ultimately strategy in that Chamber is likely to be strongly influenced by the outcome in the Senate.  As that plays out, we will be consistently building the case for reform.  Of course, high-skilled immigration reform is but one of many provisions in this bill.

Significant challenges around other provisions are much more controversial, and passage of a comprehensive immigration bill is the end game. This is not a sprint but a marathon to be sure.  A more detailed explanation of how the INVEST Visa works can be found here.

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