With the passage of the $15 billion jobs bill in the Senate last week, job creation is certainly at the top of the Congressional priority list. As a way to further stimulate the economy, Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Richard Lugar (R-IN), introduced the Start-Up Visa Act of 2010 last week which incentivizes job creation through the promise of legal residence status—that is, “drives job creation and increases America’s global competiveness by helping immigrant entrepreneurs secure visas to the United States.”

The proposed Start-up Visa Act of 2010 creates a two year visa (EB-6) for immigrant entrepreneurs who “can raise a minimum of $250,000 (with $100,000 of support from qualified venture capitalists or angel investors).” If, after two years, the immigrant entrepreneur creates five or more jobs and collects an addition $1 million in investment or revenue, he/she can obtain a green card.

This bipartisan legislation, as the Washington Post points out, is not a new concept. It’s a more accessible version of the existing EB-5 Immigrant Investor visa program which grants legal permanent residency to immigrants who can prove that their investment (of at least $500,000 to $1 million) in a U.S. business preserves or creates at least 10 U.S. jobs after two years. Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) proposed an earlier version of the Start-Up Visa Act (H.R. 4259) in the House back in 2009, but that bill was subsequently tucked into Rep. Luis Gutierrez’s immigration reform bill, CIR ASAP.

According to Sen. Lugar:

Our country should strive to attract to the United States the most talented and highly skilled entrepreneurs. We should channel the power of innovative thinkers from around the world and American investors towards creating jobs and encouraging economic growth and future prosperity.

Making the connection between immigration and job growth is not a difficult line to draw. According to the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA), immigrants have started 25 percent of U.S. public companies that were venture-backed—including Google, eBay, Yahoo!, Sun Microsystems, and Intel. The NVCA also estimates that immigrant-founded venture-backed public companies currently employ 220,000 people in the United States and more than 400,000 people globally.

Just last week, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke testified before a Senate committee about how current immigration policy affects America’s bottom line:

I think our immigration policy which restricts severely the number of highly-trained skilled immigrants is a problem because bringing those kind of folks in helps our high-tech industries develop more competitively — become more competitive.

Needless to say, creating a new visa category to facilitate job growth is certainly one way to go about an economic stimulus—but lawmakers might also want to focus on fixing the immigration system we already have. Studies show that reforming our current immigration system to include a path to legalization for undocumented workers “would yield $1.5 trillion to the U.S. GDP over a ten year period, generate billions in additional tax revenue and consumer spending and support hundreds of thousands of jobs.” For a Congress so focused on fixing our economy and creating new jobs, those numbers are hard to ignore.

Photo by forumepfl.