Should the US offer "start-up" visas?

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Immigration_250x251Paul Kedrosky and Brad Feld make the case in the Wall Street Journal:

Immigrants have not only founded big, well-known companies. Foreign-born residents made up just 12.5% of the U.S. population in 2008. But nearly 40% of technology company founders and 52% of founders of companies in Silicon Valley (are immigrants).

Yet we don't seem to care. We send recent, foreign-born university science and engineering graduates back to their own countries after their student visas expire—unless these creative sorts are willing to spend some of the most entrepreneurial years of their lives working in a big company under an H-1B visa after they finish their studies.

Immigrants who come here to create companies create jobs. We need the jobs.

One good idea to make this process easier is to create a new visa for entrepreneurs, something that is increasingly being called by venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and angel investors a "start-up visa." It might work like this: If immigrant entrepreneurs want to start a company in the U.S. and are able to raise a moderate amount of money (perhaps as little as $125,000) from an accredited U.S.-based venture capital firm or qualified U.S.-based angel investors, we should let them start a company here. It could be a couple of founders with an idea—that's it. We would give visas to the founders and welcome them in to our country.

They also make the case for graduates with science and engineering backgrounds:

We also think science and engineering graduates should get visas stapled to their diplomas. You complete your higher education here, you get to stay so that you can get out and create jobs, innovate, and grow the economy. Uncle Sam wants you, if you're a prospective entrepreneur.

The arguments made by Messrs Kedrosky and Feld are especially pertinent in today's economic climate for two reasons. First, as the the global economy becomes more integrated, regulations restricting the movement of high-skilled workers look increasingly arcane, and are as harmful to host countries as they are to migrants. Canada and Australia have known this for some time, and are succeeding in becoming magnets for skilled migrants.

Second, in spite of the wishes of many, Wall Street continues to attract a disproportionate share of America's top graduates. A recent Washington Post op-ed noted that very few of the nation's Rhodes scholars are able to resist the siren call of high-paying careers in finance. The US is going to have to broaden its talent pool if it wishes to keep its status as the world's leading innovator.  

Furthermore, as Ryan recently noted, skilled migration is not necessarily bad for sending countries. By opening up to the world's most ambitious migrants, Western countries can navigate their way out of the economic doldrums, while giving skilled graduates the best opportunities to succeed.

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