Immigrants as Entrepreneurs: US Policy Could Have Substantial Impact

Author: Notre Dame ESTEEM

A Kauffman Foundation report estimates that a startup visa for immigrant entrepreneurs could create between 500,000 and 1.5 million jobs or more. Several proposals in Congress would make it easier for people from other countries to start business in the United States. Other nations, including Canada and New Zealand, have already adopted such policies.

The report points out that immigrants are naturally entrepreneurial – they are starting a new life in the United States – and many have founded significant companies, from Alexander Graham Bell to Sergey Brin, the Google co-founder. Immigrants or their children founded more than 40 percent of companies on the Fortune 500 list in 2010.

The rate of immigrant entrepreneurship is already accelerating. The percentage of entrepreneurs who were immigrants in the United States nearly doubled between 1996 and 2012, to 27.1 percent. Immigrants are twice as likely to start companies as native-born Americans, the report says.

Immigrant entrepreneurship has an especially high impact in technology. Between 2006 and 2012, about one-fourth of technology startups had at least one immigrant among their founders. Engineering and technology firms started by immigrants had revenues of $63 billion and provided jobs for some 560,000 people. Immigrant entrepreneurs are also successful at attracting funding – they were among the founders nearly half of the top 50 venture-backed U.S. companies, and their companies employ an average of 150 people.

Kauffman suggests new visa arrangements that would help international students and workers move into forming start-up companies, among other things. Legislation could include funding, employment, and other requirements. The report suggests that one proposed bill could create nearly 500,000 jobs, while an estimate based on trends in immigrant technology entrepreneurship suggests more than 1.5 million jobs.

Entrepreneurship is an increasingly global movement, and Kauffman recommends that the United States should create an attractive environment for talented people from other nations. The report is at