By: Troy Brown
The modern day American economy is largely influenced by startups and small businesses. These types of businesses are not only the most common; they also create the most jobs. Immigrants play a large part in the creation of these sorts of businesses. Some of the most influential U.S. businesses, such as AT&T and Kraft, were started by immigrants.
However, even though there are countless benefits of allowing immigrants to come here to start new businesses, U.S. immigration law continues to reject immigrants looking to start up new businesses that could create numerous jobs for Americans. While there are two categories, E-2 and EB-5, which allow for some business owners to enter the United States, there is no true entrepreneur visa for immigrants.
The EB-5 and E-2 visas were meant to invite immigrant owned business. However, the restrictive nature of the categories often lead potential entrepreneurs to take their business elsewhere. For instance, the EB-5 visa allows for immigrant investors to enter the United States, but the potential immigrant has to invest at least $1,000,000 in startup capital. Most startups do not start out with anywhere near a million dollars in startup capital; therefore this is not the ideal path for a majority of potential immigrant business owners.
Additionally, the E-2 category, which grants temporary residence to foreign business entrepreneurs that intend to invest in U.S. businesses, has its own set of issues. First, this type of visa is restricted to people only from countries that have a treaty with the United States. This eliminates many countries immediately, leaving many people unable to pursue this path of entry into the United States. Even for those that can pursue this path, it is not the most enticing mode of entry for people seeking to start a business. This visa only allows for two-year residency periods, and even though the amount of renewals are unlimited, it does not allow for a path to permanent residency. The risk and expense of constantly renewing a visa every two years tend to drive away some potential business owners.
With the importance of bringing in new business owners, the need to reform our current immigration law for non-citizen entrepreneurs is clear. One possible solution is the creation of a true entrepreneur visa that has a reasonable capital requirement and allows for permanent residency. This would tackle the two main issues with the EB-5 and E-2 visas. However, whatever the solution may be, it is clear that something needs to be done.
Yasser Killawi, ARTICLE: PRESERVING AN ENTREPRENEURIAL AMERICA: HOW RESTRICTIVE IMMIGRATION POLICIES STIFLE THE CREATION AND GROWTH OF STARTUPS AND SMALL BUSINESSES, 8 Entrepren. Bus. L.J. 129 (2013).