How US Immigration Can Reinvigorate Entrepreneurship

There are many who view US Immigration policy as allowing illegal immigrants to come in and take the jobs Americans don’t want. Others view programs such as the H-1B visa as allowing higher skilled workers to take the jobs Americans do want. That particular view of immigration actually considers employment as a zero sum game where one group takes employment at the expense of others. Such a narrow immigration policy is actually killing entrepreneurship when the opposite could be true: immigration could be creating jobs.

Immigration Policy
How is that possible? As it turns out, there is are immigrants currently residing the United States on student visas which have both the desire and skillset to start their own legitimate enterprise. By strict legal definition, a legitimate enterprise employs 25 or more workers. However, current immigration policy requires these students repatriate immediately upon completing their course of study. If any of them are allowed to remain the United States, it will be because they get sponsored by a company and subsequently apply for an H-1B visa. Now, there is a narrow path for some immigrants to start up an enterprise via an “optional practical training” visa extension and then apply for an H-1B visa as the company grows. The caveat with this approach is that they will only be allowed to be a minority shareholder in their enterprise. An alternative approach would be the creation of a new visa for those who are capable of starting up an enterprise; it could be called an “EB-1” visa because it is enterprise oriented. This type of visa would have the specific objective of creating additional employment in the United States.

Job Creation
Is it realistic to think that immigration can lead to job creation? According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology the answer is yes. Part of their curriculum to high-tech students is a course in entrepreneurship and MIT has long observed that their expectation is the students completing the course are ready to start up their own enterprise business. Sadly, the immigrant students in the course will not have that opportunity open to them. In fact, many of the immigrants find the US as being unwelcoming to them. This is not the case with other developed nations such as Canada, Great Britain, Singapore, and Australia. These nations have immigration policies that invite these highly educated workers to become a greater part of their economic growth beyond simply taking up employment within an existing company.

In the current immigration environment where stringent measures like immigration DNA testing ensure the biological relationship between the petitioner and beneficiary exists, couldn’t a program be designed to target the entrepreneurs among them and fast track them to a business startup? It isn’t so unrealistic to think. England has just recently created just such an entrepreneur visa program. This could serve as a model in the United States. At this time jobs is a matter of utmost importance in the economy and opening up a door to what will create good paying jobs is certainly worth exploring.

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Derek is a writer of GTL DNA UK company.