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A billion reasons to encourage immigrant startups

Two recent studies emphasize the need for an update of current immigration policy.

For a country built on the ingenuity of the immigrant experience and the promise of the American Dream, immigrant entrepreneurs are essential to U.S. economic growth. Immigrants are almost twice as likely to start businesses in the United States as native-born Americans. In 2012, immigrant founders of engineering and technology firms employed approximately 560,000 workers and generated $63 billion in sales.

However, despite their economic contributions, there is no clear pathway for immigrant entrepreneurs to come to the United States to provide jobs and innovation. This barrier prevents economic growth, innovation, and job creation.

That said, how can policy open doors for immigrant entrepreneurs who can significantly impact domestic economic growth? Two recent studies from the National Foundation for American Policy emphasize the need for an update of current immigration policy.

The first paper examines American companies that are valued at $1 billion or more. The study finds immigrants have started more than half (44 of 87) of these high-performing companies. The paper also finds:

  • Immigrants are “key members of management or product development teams in over 70 percent (62 of 87) of these companies.”
  • Immigrant founders have created an average of approximately 760 jobs per company in the United States.
  • The “collective value of the 44 immigrant-founded companies is $168 billion, which is close to half the value of the stock markets of Russia or Mexico.”

Bolstered by the first paper, the second paper provides analysis of the current state of legislative proposals to create a startup visa. The startup visa creates a legal opportunity for a “foreign national to become a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) by starting a U.S. company that creates jobs.” This research highlights the potential impact such a visa could have in terms of job creation. The study suggests:

  • The EB-JOBS Act of 2015 (H.R. 3370) “could create 1 million to 3.2 million jobs over the next decade if enacted into law.”
  • The Startup Act (S.181) “could create 500,000 to 1.6 million jobs over the next 10 years if it becomes law.”

As the Kauffman Foundation seeks ways to restart American economic growth through entrepreneurship, these two papers shed light on the need for better federal immigration policy. Immigrant entrepreneurs want to come to the United States; policy ought to facilitate this entrepreneurial growth that represents our past and future.

To access the full papers, check out the links below:

For more information about immigrant entrepreneurs, check out Kauffman’s Entrepreneurship Policy Digests: