Create a startup visa to encourage innovation and US job creation

These days, from climate change to deadly, spreadable virus – become politicized. But, contrary to the rhetoric of recent times, the same need not be true for all things immigration.

As a fierce advocate for policy that supports the American entrepreneurial ecosystem, we firmly believe that creating a startup visa should, and could, be a bipartisan endeavor.

The current US immigration system does not have a visa category specifically for modern-day startup founders. Instead, the current system expects immigrants to invest their own funds or be an employee. A startup visa category will identify the business startup ecosystem including funding, revenue generation and job creation.

The approach has consistently earned bipartisan support over the years. The 2013 comprehensive immigration reform that passed the Senate included a startup visa. In recent years, the Startup Act from US Sens. Jerry Moran, Mark Warner, Roy Blunt and Amy Klobuchar featured a visa startup. In summer 2021, U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren introduced the Let Immigrants Kickstart Employment Act. The California Democrat’s LIKE Act is supported by a coalition of 19 entrepreneurial organizations and more than 300 prominent American entrepreneurs.

Lofgren’s startup visa has also been included in the House Competitiveness bill, the American COMPETES Act, at present. Congress now has the chance to finally pass a long awaited and much-needed startup visa.

We need a startup visa because the current outdated immigration framework makes the entrepreneurial dream unfeasible for many immigrants. This stifles the economic growth, and resulting jobs, these immigrants and their businesses could create. The limited and uncertain immigration options are available for employers who can sponsor their visas – turning job-creators into employees in the process.

Other times, immigrant entrepreneurs decide to start their companies in other countries. More than 20 other countries have adopted startup visas to recruit international entrepreneurs. More importantly, the pandemic has accelerated the rate at which startups are growing exponentially within their own countries. Look at Africa and Europe, other parts of the world advancing in technology innovations and creating jobs locally. Overall, the US is losing out on talent, job creation and innovation.

This is a massive loss to the US economy and workers in Congress is focused on maintaining our competitive edge. To address this challenge, Congress should make a visa for foreign-born entrepreneurs in this legislation.

Foreign-born entrepreneurs have been an incredible driver of the US economy, despite the challenges presented by the current system. Immigrants are more likely to start businesses than native-born Americans, almost twice as likely as a recent Kauffman Foundation report. This statistic is readily apparent in the “startup” ecosystem. While immigrants constitute approximately 17% of the workforce, 55% of America’s startup companies are valued at $ 1 billion or more at least one immigrant co-founder. Immigrants also started 33% of US venture-backed companies that became publicly traded between 2006 and 2012.

We need look no further than the success stories of Zoom or Moderna. Zoom, a $ 35 billion company founded by Chinese immigrant Eric Yuan, has transformed global communications, keeping our schools, businesses and virtually all aspects of society functioning during the crippling COVID-19 pandemic. Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine has saved lives and allowed the economy and much of daily life to return to normal. Born in Lebanon, Noubar Afeyan is the associate chairman and co-founder. He studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and founded or co-founded 38 companies and has more than 100 patents to his name.

Creating a startup visa that will encourage innovative entrepreneurs to come, and remain in, the US should not be divided down party lines. This makes economic sense for America and can help kick-start our economy at a time when we need it most.

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