Immigrant Entrepreneurs Overlooked in Immigration Policy Debate

The government is set for another shutdown this Friday.  As Congress and the White House continue to wrangle over a border wall, no one seems to pay much attention to a significant group in the immigration policy debate: immigrant entrepreneurs.

How do immigrants matter to the U.S. economy?

According to the National Immigration Forum, immigrant-owned businesses generate more than 19 million jobs and $4.8 trillion in revenue.  This substantial economic contribution is revitalizing declining neighborhoods, cities and regions.

Immigrants supply skilled labor for the U.S. tech industry, as well as low-cost labor for family farms and retail businesses.  Moreover, they are creating key new enterprises.  A recent study shows that immigrants make up about 28% of small business owners in the U.S.  On a more lucrative level, 55% of America’s ‘unicorn’ start-ups (valued at $1 billion or more) have at least one immigrant founders.  On average, each of these companies create more than 1,200 jobs in the U.S.

Why are immigrants more inclined to become entrepreneurs?

Immigrants are twice as likely to start their own businesses than American-born individuals.  According to Prof. William Kerr of Harvard Business School, one of the reasons driving immigrant entrepreneurship is their daring and risk-averse nature.  “[Immigrants] were brave enough to migrate here and tolerate change.  Many come to the U.S. specifically to start a business.  Others face discrimination in the job market and opt to become business owners.”

What challenges do immigrant entrepreneurs face?

Simply put, current immigration policy is not favorable to immigrant entrepreneurs.  For instance, there are only 85,000 available H-1B visas for foreign workers with specialty occupation, a cap that doesn’t meet job demand.

Furthermore, there is technically no visa status for immigrant entrepreneurs.  The U.S. immigration system awards legal status in two tracks: family and employment.  The only exception is the EB-5 investor visa, the so-called millionaire visa.  It allows a foreigner to be admitted based on a $1 million business investment, or $500,000 in a rural area.

Under President Obama, an International Entrepreneur Rule was created allowing start-up founders to grow their companies in the U.S. for a few years, so long as these enterprises are meeting certain benchmarks of success.  However, under the Trump administration, the future of this rule remains uncertain. If you, or someone you know, are interested in starting a business in the U.S., schedule a consultation today with one of our experienced attorneys to discuss your immigration options.  Don’t put your American Dream on hold!

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