America Needs More Immigrant Entrepreneurs

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 28, 2013 – As Labor Day approaches, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) is spotlighting one of the hardest working groups of Americans: immigrant entrepreneurs. A new CEI study published today takes a look at proposed legislation that would make it easier for immigrant entrepreneurs to obtain visas. Unfortunately, current proposals fall short of offering real solutions—and meanwhile, entrepreneurs are being driven to other countries.

In “America Still Needs a True Entrepreneurship Visa,” Immigration Policy Analyst David Bier outlines the fundamental problem: America, a country with a rich history of immigrant entrepreneurialism, isn’t attracting new entrepreneurs, largely because of the failings of our bureaucratic visa system. However, he says, the “Invest Visa” provisions of the Senate Immigration Bill, which purport to address this problem, are not the answer that hopeful foreign entrepreneurs have been waiting for.

“Unlike the Startup Visa Act (S. 565), an entrepreneurship visa plan introduced in the 112th Congress, the Invest Visa provisions are not for individuals who want to come to the United States to found new businesses,” Bier explains. “Both the immigrant and nonimmigrant visas in the Senate proposal would require applicants to have already founded and operated a U.S. business for at least two years. In essence, it requires businessmen with jobs in the United States to either continue to work full time at that job or operate the business overseas.”

Moreover, the Invest Visa provisions would hold entrepreneurs to difficult bureaucratic standards, requiring them to have levels of qualified investment and revenue that are many times above the average for American start-ups.

Bier also takes a look at a House bill, the Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills (SKILLS) Act (H.R. 2131), which would require even higher investment levels than the Invest Visa.

This isn’t the kind of reform entrepreneurs have been waiting for, Bier writes. “At a minimum, Congress should create a visa that offers a clear path to permanent residency to any foreign-born, venture-backed founder of a new business in the United States—without further restrictions. Such a proposal would finally allow America to compete internationally for talented foreign entrepreneurs rather than driving them overseas.”

Read the full study: America Still Needs a True Entrepreneurship Visa: Senate and House Immigration Bills Fall Short in Attracting Entrepreneurs to America