The U.S. Economy Needs the StartUp Visa Act
During the pandemic, what would we have done without Zoom to connect us with work, family, and friends? Zoom almost didn’t happen in the U.S. Eric S. Yuan, its founder, applied for an H-1B visa eight times before approval on his ninth attempt. These are eight missed opportunities for innovation and jobs. America cannot afford to miss out on start-ups that lead to technological innovation. It’s time for the U.S. to invest in innovative solutions to reinvigorate the economy. It’s time to create an entrepreneurship-based visa program by passing the StartUp Visa Act.
Immigrant entrepreneurs foster higher levels of productivity through innovation and job creation. Yet, the U.S. still does not have a pathway to permanent residency for immigrant entrepreneurs. Meanwhile, 25 countries including Singapore and the United Kingdom already have start-up visa programs. That is why Congress must pass the StartUp Visa Act in order to implement an entrepreneurship-based visa program. Passing the StartUp Visa Act will strengthen U.S. economic growth, demonstrate bipartisanship on immigration reform and improve tech innovation.
Currently, immigrant entrepreneurs can begin working in the U.S. through the H-1B visa program or the International Entrepreneur Rule (IER). The H-1B visa requires immigrants to work for a U.S.-based company before being able to start their own business – and there is also a long backlog for H-1B visas. Additionally, the International Entrepreneur Rule can only grant a visa for a maximum of 5 years; participants must leave the U.S. if they desire to apply for permanent residency. Neither option provides a sustainable path to empower immigrants to establish long-term business ventures.
Passing the StartUp Visa Act will establish a sustainable entrepreneurship-based visa program and strengthen U.S. economic growth. Empowering immigrants to start businesses in the U.S. will boost innovation and job creation. An astonishing 25% of new businesses in the U.S. are led by first-generation immigrants. In some states such as California, immigrant-led businesses make up more than 40% of new businesses. Granting permanent residency to immigrants will generate new job opportunities for all Americans.
Passing the StartUp Visa Act will generate bipartisan support because it is a targeted approach to immigration reform. It focuses on economic growth and applicants with specialized backgrounds. Although immigration policy is a divisive issue, bipartisan support for an entrepreneurship-based visa program has been seen in recent bills — the StartUp Act and the America COMPETES Act. Immigrant entrepreneurship addresses economic growth and improves the efficiency of the immigration system – both bipartisan issues.
Passing the StartUp Visa Act ensures that the U.S. is actively reviewing opportunities to stay at the forefront of technological innovation. Immigrant-led businesses are 35% more likely to obtain patents than U.S. native-led companies. For decades, immigrant entrepreneurs have introduced breakthrough innovations in the U.S. From Sergei Brin at Google to Jerry Yang at Yahoo!, immigrant entrepreneurs have propelled productivity and job creation with their successful business ventures.
Some Americans may be skeptical of a new visa program if the cost is high, or abuse occurs. However, it is important to note that the StartUp Visa program will actually become a financial benefit to the U.S. government. If the visa program plans to adopt the same fees as the H-1B visa program, this can result in a positive cost recovery. Additionally, the visa program will employ a stringent vetting process and consistent check-ins with sponsored start-ups to ensure that all terms are being met, including job creation.
Immigrant entrepreneurs make a difference in our lives. We ‘google’ every day for information; Zoom meetings are everywhere. The StartUp Visa Act will empower immigrants to establish new businesses in the U.S. They will boost job creation and productivity. They will boost the American economy. It is time for us to innovate immigration policy—so that our fellow immigrant entrepreneurs can create innovations to benefit the U.S. for decades to come.