Immigrant entrepreneurs are a great asset to the U.S. economy. Foreign-born individuals are twice as likely as their American-born counterparts to start their own businesses in the U.S. According to the Partnership for a New American Economy, immigrant entrepreneurs founded 255 of all U.S. high-tech and engineering companies between 1995 and 2005 and created more than 450,000 new jobs.
There is a long list of immigrant entrepreneurs who chose America to start companies that have employed millions of Americans––Google, Yahoo, Pfizer, and even Ebay. According to the National Venture Capital Association, a third of all venture-backed startups in the last decade were founded by immigrant entrepreneurs.
Sadly, many immigrant entrepreneurs have a difficult time getting the type of visa that would allow them to stay in the U.S. and open new businesses. Most come to the United States initially to study and then stay on to work for American companies before catching the entrepreneurial bug and starting their own businesses. But the search for a legal way to stay in the country and keep their businesses going becomes a big problem for them.
So, why is it so difficult for immigrant entrepreneurs to get a visa to stay in the country, even when they are ready to create American jobs?
Currently, foreign entrepreneurs have few visa options available to them when they want to stay in the U.S. They can apply for the H1-B visa which is a specialty temporary visa for high-skilled individuals. But to get an H1-B visa, you have to be sponsored by a U.S. employer and working for a company that you own doesn’t count. Similarly, an employment-based green card won’t work, because to qualify you must work for a company where you are not an owner yourself.
Immigrant entrepreneurs can also apply for an O-1 Visa for Aliens of Extraordinary Ability. Dubbed as the “genius visa”, the O-1 Visa is awarded to those who can prove that they are near the top of their profession. The bar for the O-1 Visa is set very high and the applicant must have achieved national or international acclaim. But this qualification puts the O-1 Visa out of the reach of most immigrant entrepreneurs.
Finally, there is the EB-5 Investor Visa, but it has very strict requirements and requires an individual to invest as much as $1 million; soon to be increased to about $1.2 million in order to qualify, making it more suitable for wealthy individuals who can prove the source of the funds they will invest.
There are simply too few options for immigrant entrepreneurs to obtain a visa in the United States, but countries like the United Kingdom, China, Canada, Chile, and others offer visas to individuals who want to start businesses and create jobs in their countries. Some even offer incentives as well, such as a permanent visa, thousands of dollars in startup capital and even up to 5 years of free rent for tech entrepreneurs who want to move their business out of the United States.
For governments who want to kick-start their economies, entrepreneurship is a given. But in order for that to happen, the government needs to make sure that talented immigrants don’t take their businesses elsewhere. America, like other countries in the world, needs skilled, motivated entrepreneurs who can think outside the box, combine technologies and change the world. So, if ever there was a time for the United States government to make it easier for skilled immigrants to start businesses in the U.S., it is now.
It’s time that the U.S. make it easier, not harder, for eager entrepreneurs to live, work and thrive in the United States. But until then, many foreign entrepreneurs will have to give up their dream of making it in the U.S. and take the future job they will create and tax revenue they will generate to countries like Canada where the immigration laws are more welcoming to immigrant entrepreneurs. Some relief is in sight .
Contact An Experienced EB-5 Attorney
Our Law firm has an excellent track record representing foreign investors who want to obtain an USA investment visa. We assist with the preparation of all of the documentation and the fulfillment of all requirements in order to ensure the issuance of the initial visa and to increase the likelihood of a renewal down the road. If you would like to learn more about USA investment visas, please contact our experienced EB-5 attorneys today!