During this election season, candidates for all levels of office are debating the merits of policies to expand job growth and boost the American economy. One simple, pro-growth reform that candidates from both parties should champion is the launch of a start-up visa for immigrant entrepreneurs who want to build their companies in America.
Entrepreneurs create new firms, and new firms drive job growth in the U.S. Despite this, the American economy lacks a straightforward visa option for foreign entrepreneurs ready and willing to bring their business ideas to our country. This hurts American workers who would benefit most from these new jobs.
All signs point to Congress reigniting the immigration reform debate in 2017 after a new Congress and president are ushered in. Lawmakers should immediately seek to move forward on a start-up visa and remove the unnecessary restrictions preventing job creators from coming to America.
Other countries around the world, including Canada, Australia, and Germany, have adopted startup or entrepreneur visas to help fuel economic growth. While these nations benefited from the extension of legal migration opportunities for entrepreneurs, the impact in the U.S. could be even larger considering the huge network of dynamic city centers home to business creation.
A start-up visa has been introduced multiple times in Congress by a bipartisan group of lawmakers. Analysis of these bills suggests that such a visa could create hundreds of thousands of new jobs within the first decade after launch. Research suggests more recent proposals could create over 3 million jobs in that time.
However, until Congress decides it’s time to move on immigration reform, a start-up visa will remain in the category of great ideas that lacked needed political push. But the silver lining is that some solutions to the issue of immigrant entrepreneurs have sprouted up since the startup visa failed last time on Capitol Hill.
Universities in Massachusetts, Colorado, Alaska, and New York have begun to use their H-1B visa cap exemption to employ foreign entrepreneurs in graduate programs. These entrepreneur in residence (EIR) programs retain foreign students in the U.S. and keep their company on our shores. Such programs lead to growth in both low and high skilled jobs in local areas. Until a startup visa is adopted broadly, these programs should be expanded with more schools and more cities.
Last month, the Obama Administration also announced a new rule aimed at offering parole to international entrepreneurs. The policy change is narrow and complicated, but marks a positive step forward in the overall reform of high-skilled immigrants.
But the type of comprehensive reform needed to give international entrepreneurs a real option in coming to the U.S. must be approved by Congress, and that won’t happen in 2016.
Restricting immigrant entrepreneurs from working in the U.S. doesn’t help the American workers looking for jobs which can be offered by start-ups, and certainly doesn’t benefit potential consumers of the innovative products and services those startups can provide.
Those looking to “put Americans first” in our globalized economy should recognize that relying on foreign job creators does just that. Our history is rife with examples in which the U.S. economy infused new ideas and products from immigrants to power our economy.
For proof of this, look no further than the short-list of immigrant-founded companies includes Google, AT&T, eBay, IBM, McDonald’s, Boeing, Home Depot, and Budweiser.
Immigrants are more than twice as likely to start new companies than natives and those companies creates more jobs along the way. Attracting and retaining the best talent from overseas should be a top priority for all policymakers.
This aspect of economic reform has largely been absent, despite its potential bipartisan support. Let’s reform our strict high-skilled immigration restrictions and allow the smartest and most forward-thinking entrepreneurs from around the world to innovate and generate wealth here in the most productive country, creating jobs for the American people along the way.
The Silicon Valley ethos in America is the product of immigration. Keeping our doors open to those with dreams of becoming the next Steve Jobs is crucial to keeping the U.S. economy strong in the 21st century.