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Senator prods Congress to move on Startup Act 2.0

The U.S. immigration system is broken and needs to be fixed to allow more entrepreneurs and engineers to stay in the country, Senator Jerry Moran tells reporters at CES today.

Other countries have changed their laws to lure startups, Sen. Jerry Moran said, while the United States has "done nothing."
Other countries have changed their laws to lure startups, Sen. Jerry Moran said, while the United States has "done nothing." Declan McCullagh/CNET

LAS VEGAS -- It's time to fix a broken immigration system that encourages smart engineers to study at U.S. universities but prevents them from staying afterward, a Republican senator said at the Consumer Electronics Show.

Sen. Jerry Moran from Kansas said here today that he was disappointed Congress hadn't acted on his legislation, called the Startup Act 2.0, which was introduced last spring but has languished in committee.

Engineers and other people in science-related disciplines who are "foreign-born but U.S.-educated" should be allowed to remain here, Moran said. Chile and other countries "have changed their laws" to attract startups, he said, while the U.S. has "done nothing."

Startup Act 2.0 is not intended to be a traditionally partisan bill. It's backed by Democrats Mark Warner and Chris Coons and Republicans Moran and Marco Rubio. Its goal: up to 50,000 U.S.-educated foreigners with a "master's degree or a doctorate degree" in a science, technology, or math-related field could remain in the country.

A separate section of the legislation authorizes 75,000 "entrepreneur visas." It sets significant hurdles: the startup must hire at least two U.S. employees right away, it must raise at least $100,000 in funding, and it must expand to at least five full-time employees within a few years.

Supporters of the Startup Act 2.0 include Google, Microsoft, the Consumer Electronics Association (which organizes CES), TechAmerica, Compete America, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, TechNet, and the wireless providers' CTIA trade association.

Moran said that "my hope was that after the election," Washington could come together on this kind of targeted immigration reform, but that didn't happen.

It's unclear whether the Startup Act 2.0 will become part of broad immigration reform, which the president has said he'd like to do in his second term, Moran said. "That remains to be seen."