Immigrants and Entrepreneurship in the US

U.S. immigrants have an impressive record of starting businesses in this country that benefit the economy as a whole—a trend that flies in the face of immigration opponents who argue that newcomers to this country stifle job opportunities for those already living here.

Denver recently celebrated all things startup business-related at the fourth annual Denver Startup Week (September 28-October 2). The event was a major success, attracting 10,000 attendees to 213 events and providing a wealth of knowledge for those interested in starting and running a business.

Getting a new business off the ground is challenging enough, but there can be additional challenges for foreign-born entrepreneurs who wish to start a business in the United States. Many immigrants wish to start businesses in the United States because the country has traditionally been a hot spot for innovation and entrepreneurship. And statistics show that, when given the chance to run with their ideas, immigrants can substantially contribute to the U.S. economy.

But many would-be immigrant entrepreneurs—including those who are educated in this country—struggle to secure the legal permission needed to work and invest in the United States. Coupled with increasing competition for international talent, the U.S. is beginning to lose out on the motivated and entrepreneurial immigrants that helped establish it as the world’s top economy.

Immigrants and Economics

What do Google and Yahoo have in common? In addition to being multi-billion dollar U.S. tech companies, both were started by immigrants!

So too were Big Lots, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Proctor & Gamble, Goldman Sachs, eBay, AT&T, and Nordstrom, to name but a few. In fact, according to a 2011 report by the Partnership for a New American Economy, 18% of all Fortune 500 companies were established by immigrant entrepreneurs. When the children of immigrants are also included, that number rises to 40%.

These companies do more than enrich their founders. They also create jobs. For example, immigrant-founded Fortune 500 companies employ more than 3.7 million people worldwide and generate annual revenue of $1.7 trillion. In the U.S. alone, immigrant entrepreneurship accounts for $50 billion in annual revenue and nearly 500,000 jobs.

How Immigrant Entrepreneurs Get Here

It’s interesting to note the path—or more accurately, paths—that many immigrant entrepreneurs take to the United States.

A survey by the National Venture Capital Association found that, among immigrant entrepreneurs:

  • 40% entered the U.S. as employment-sponsored immigrants
  • 38% entered as international students
  • 13% entered as family-sponsored immigrants
  • The rest entered through a variety of other visa categories

These statistics speak to the importance of expanding a number of different visa categories that can lead to job-creating immigrants remaining in or coming to the United States.

A 2012 joint report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Immigration Council makes the following policy recommendations:

  • Eliminate red tape that restricts entrepreneurs trying to emigrate to the United States and start businesses.
  • Create a specific category of visa for immigrant entrepreneurs who wish to start a U.S. business and create jobs.
  • Eliminate hurdles that prevent foreign students educated in the U.S. from remaining in the country post-graduation.

A Denver Immigration Attorney Can Help Foreign-Born Entrepreneurs

If you are not a U.S. citizen, you need more than a business plan and investors to start a business. You also need a visa that allows you to legally reside, invest and work in the country.

Denver immigration attorney Catherine Brown can help. Ms. Brown specializes in E-1 and E-2 visas for small businesses, startups, and entrepreneurs. She can also help business-minded foreign nationals explore other visa options and understand their legal options.

To schedule a consultation with the Law Office of Catherine Brown, LLC, please contact us.