Why Is The US So Hostile To Foreign Entrepreneurs Who Want To Build Businesses Here?

from the let-them-in dept

We’ve talked about just how ridiculous US policies towards highly skilled immigrants and entrepreneurs are for years. We’re driving away the very people who can help create new companies and new jobs within our economy, and handing them, gift-wrapped, to other countries. And those other countries are increasingly aware of the massive opportunity the US is vehemently ignoring, and those other countries are becoming increasingly welcome to foreign high-skilled workers and entrepreneurs. The Economist has a good article highlighting just how backwards US policies on entrepreneur immigration are, especially compared to countries like the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, who are very welcoming towards foreign nationals who want to start companies in their countries. And then there are upstarts like Chile, who go so far as to simply hand large sums of cash to startups that want to set up shop there.

But the US keeps pushing such people away.

The article includes an example — one of hundreds we’ve seen — of entrepreneurs trying to setup a new company and create jobs in the US… only to be forced to do the same thing in another country (in this case, Canada). We’re actively pushing away the job creators at a time when our economy needs jobs.

And, of course, while sometimes these individuals go to these other welcoming countries, some also just head back home. As the article notes, China has actually become pretty aggressive in offering some highly skilled workers who come back from trying to work in the US “not only free homes but also cash to buy furniture.”

Honestly, it’s pretty clear from the Economist piece that whoever wrote it is incredulous that the US would have such policies in place when they clearly harm its own interests. And, of course, the truly amazing thing is that over the years, the various efforts to fix these problems and welcome in skilled immigrants who create jobs always seem to get shot down. As we recently mentioned, the Startup Act 2.0 has been introduced, and even though it offers some pretty simple ways to let in a few more job creators, it’s not clear that there’s enough momentum to push it through (though, you can help change that by telling your elected officials to pass the bill). There are many different forms of protectionism — and almost none of them are helpful. But it’s perhaps worst of all when you’re protecting yourself from job creators.

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Comments on “Why Is The US So Hostile To Foreign Entrepreneurs Who Want To Build Businesses Here?”

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TtfnJohn (profile) says:

A lot of it goes back to 19th Century fears that immigrant workers or entrepreneurs would undercut or fare better than those already in the United States (or Canada).

The entrepreneur class wasn’t broadly popular when it first came in for any number of reasons, including racism, when it first came in in Canada. Too often it seemed like we had become a citizenship of convenience when trouble broke out “back home” where, the feeling was too many of them spent most of their time. The low point was reached when Canada had to rescue a large number of citizens, all dual citizens, the last time Lebanon threatened to melt down.

Mostly, though the major problem was that the Federal Government hadn’t explained to Canadians and to the migrants themselves the benefits and expectations. That’s largely been cleared up now.

Today we’re facing a growing shortage in skilled and highly skilled trades. In part because the Boomers, like me, are retiring even if we’re not exactly leaving the workforce full time.

Also in part because for years it was seen that a university degree was more desirable than a trades certificate. Put badly we’re up to our eyeballs in university graduates but try to find a skilled carpenter, as in cabinet maker. Electricians are becoming scarce, as are high end metal workers, plumbers and more. And let’s not even talk about IT workers. Or the more specialized trades required in pulp and paper, wood products and more that can be lumped in the category of millwright.

These days a trades certificate in a high skill trade will get you more money than 85% of university grads.

So, along with the needed entrepreneurs, we’re also bringing in the high end trades people as fast as we can find them. Most of them have tried the USA but can’t get in for one reason or another despite the US facing the same skilled labour shortage Canada has. So we’ll take them thank you. With the blessing of of our CEOs and Unions.

The 19th Century is long gone and with it the fears of that time. Additionally there’s the reality that apprentices in the highly skilled trades spend as much time in a classroom as they do on the job, if not more. They’re not a place for the semi-literate anymore if they ever were.

So if it’s 19th Century fears and biases that are keeping people out of the States you’re shooting yourselves in the foot. But keep it up if you like. We’ll take them. Silicon Valley will have to deal with Vancouver, just a wee trip north on I-5 instead of right next door in San Jose.

We’re all the better off having them here.

anon says:


They just don’t want competition, but they will learn when the next big start up is in a third world country , or what America calls a third world country. There are enough people now to give America massive amounts of competition if they sort themselves out and get into a country that supports there startups/ I am hoping the UK will entice more people but i suspect it will be somewhere like chile or Mexico or china that develops a search engine and new Facebook and possibly a new operating system that the likes of apple and Microsoft cannot compete with.

For some reason America does not want an educated population, maybe it is because an educated population is harder to control.

Dotcom's hypothetical housekeeper says:

NZ hospitality: rolling out the waiata, kanikani and armed raids....

NZ welcoming? Sure. We like to make a song and dance out of our new residents.

Nek minute….are those helicopters I hear and armed men I see dropping in? Gotta go lock myself in the safe room, you know in case it’s not “law enforcement” (snigger, snigger) this time but a more overtly criminal raid.

And that’s how we treat our highest value immigrants in the land of the long white cloud.

Kia ora.

Anonymous Coward says:

Why are you so against American entrepreneurs?

Mike, you keep writing about this but more articles doesn’t make it any more true that we need more foreign entrepreneurs than the MPAA and RIAA saying that everyone is infringing on their IP.

Foreign entrepreneurs that only have an idea shouldn’t be let in before any other person. There’s plenty of very intelligent American citizens that have great ideas. The issue is money. They have no way of getting start-up capital either because they don’t know how or because they can’t present their ideas well enough to convince someone to help them.

I’m all for letting in foreign entrepreneurs that a) bring their own start up capital from their own country with them, b) that agree to hire US citizens, c) that agree NOT to apply for work VISAs for any non-citizen until they have turned a profit (and paid taxes on that profit for 5 years) or been in business for 10 years, d) agree to do business only with American companies (and none that outsource to their home countries), and e) agree to keep all money in the US for the first 10 years of the business.

I deal with foreigners that now have businesses here in the US all the time in the DC area. Many of them send lots of their profits back to their home countries, outsource work to people in their home countries when they can and hire people from their home countries before US citizens when they can. The owners hold full US citizenship but that doesn’t mean they hold the US as first in their hearts or in their businesses.

I also know of a few that have started businesses here and they are fully committed to hiring/buying/etc. American as much as they can. They came here to better themselves and become American, not to exploit our laws and freedoms to enrich their families and friends back in their home countries.

Is that protectionist? Absolutely and there’s nothing wrong with it. Let’s start propping up American entrepreneurs that have great ideas and that want to build something that is truly good for America before we start letting in more foreign entrepreneurs that may or may not be truly interested in investing themselves and their capital in America.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Why are you so against American entrepreneurs?

So you’re all for it as long as we stipulate to a lost of requirements that would make the US even less attractive than foreign alternatives then it already is? How progressive…

All protectionism is inherently self defeating and even if it weren’t doing it purely over arbitrary nationalism as you are would still be a bad idea. Courgettes my ass, it doesn’t take any courage to be demagogue.

ECA (profile) says:

Lets see..

lets say..

Im a Importer from asia.
I want to setup in the USA to take advantage of USA laws and taxes..(there are some good ones)(import tax is NOT supposed to be on any product WE DONT MAKE(comparable) in the USA).
So that I can UNDERCUT and distribute to Direct customers sales.
The only way for USA corps to fight it, would be to BUY UP all the product for resale..ABOVE what they could sell the same product direct to customer.

Chargone (profile) says:

NZ hospitality: rolling out the waiata, kanikani and armed raids....


though i’ve never quite grasped the obsession with accommodating every cultural foible that doesn’t lead to someone dieing as a direct consequence… i mean, if they came Here, the idea should be to assimilate them into Our culture. if they bring something new and useful, assimilate that too.

all the push for multi-culturalism does is generate enclaves(i believe that’s the word i want) and de facto segregation…

(basically, multi-culturalism is a good thing if it’s an inevitable and transitory side effect of constant immigration and assimilation of said immigrants. as a goal in and of itself it’s a terrible and damaging idea.)

back to your point, if it weren’t for the large number of Other issues that this would raise, i would be all for responding to such raids with gunfire and artillery…
but i know full well that any setup which would allow it would be abused to hell and gone and cause more problems than it’s worth.

i still figure it to be evidence of blatant corruption bordering on treason (undermining the nation’s sovereignty and the rule of law, essentially, reguardless of if that’s the legal definition.) that such things can take place. … my preferred response to corruption (well, assuming a perfect system for accurately determining guilt, which we obviously don’t have) involves tying the person down so they can’t move, sitting large empty chests on top of them, and slowly filling them with coins. cruel? probably. unusual? kinda the point. but it would certainly be a more useful deterrent than the current arrangement which seems to amount to ‘if you’re in a position to behave in a corrupt manner you’re in a position where you’re basically untouchable so long as you don’t embarrass the bosses.’

‘course, it’d be quite easily solved if the GG actually did their damn job… *refrains from engaging in pet rant reguarding the details of that one.* … and no, replacing them with an elected official would not work. it would just render that position vulnerable to the same influences it’s supposed to counter-balance. (the GG isn’t just a president equivalent, the position’s also basically our ‘upper house’.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It is a very narrow view but no one has PROVEN that we need foreign entrepreneurs. We definitely aren’t getting foreign investors because according to that Economist article most of the 10,000 VISAs that are set aside for investors to come aren’t used.

Why should we let people in the country that are looking for handouts? We have enough people already looking for handouts. And try explaining to a family why their parents VISA was denied because the US wanted to let another person in the country that has an idea and that idea MIGHT lead to jobs whereas their parents won’t.

The other big issue that I have is that when you’re talking about technology everyone has ideas and many of those ideas are very similar. We see this all the time and it’s the basis for many patent lawsuits. Why should I let in a foreign entrepreneur above anyone else that has applied for a VISA from his or her country if the idea that they are touting as the reason to come to the country is currently being discussed by other start ups?

There has to be something more than just an idea or it’s not fair to the others that have been following the VISA process. And they need to be willing to put up their own money or find private investors but the US government should never offer to provide funding for their start up projects.

Anonymous Coward says:



It’s not just about startup. The US is also denying access to people that just want to do business. They are making it harder and harder to even visit as a tourist (pay ESTA, fingerprinting, mugshots).

I’m still baffled these issues don’t turn up more often in debates, you can almost see the money that is lost falling by.

The Groove Tiger (profile) says:

There are several reasons the US turns away skilled immigrants and entrepreneurs.

Some examples:
– They took our jobs
– Stealing the American dream
– Remember Pearl Harbour
– Dey turk err jurbs
– Buy American
– Greatest country on Earth
– Truth, justice and the American way
– Durker durr
– U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!
– The hot dog, the Brooklyn Dodgers. Mom’s apple pie.

RickyN66 says:

What a bunch of BS!

The US accpts over 20% of the world’s immigrants, more than Canada, Australia and all of Europe combined. Yet the US is not taking in enough “skilled immigarants.” Is that you Bill Gates? IT departments across the nation are flooded with “skilled immigrant” so much that a native born programmer can’t even get an interview with Google, M$ or Apple. The whole article is so full of holes, half truths and outright lies. We have thousands of unemployed IT pros in this country that can’t find work in their field because there is a so called shortage that we have to import workers. The whole article is just an anti US rant without a single fact. No, the US is not perfect but welcoming immagrants is something the US does better than any other country. For some even this is not enough, they will always find a way to critisize even if there is not an iota of truth behind the critisim.

Gene Cavanaugh (profile) says:

Let's examine this ....

So, rather than coming in illegally, people would just go to the immigration service, swear they were coming in to “create jobs” (and maybe have someone “trustworthy” swear to their veracity?) and we would roll out the carpet for them? Doesn’t sound all that smart to me.
We have laws that allow legitimate entrepreneurs to come in – yes, those laws require they front some finances – but I question just “Oh, a JOB! Come in, my friend!”.

Brad (profile) says:

It gets even better

You left out the really frakked-up part. Say you’re in the UK and want to apply for a US visa. Step #1: call an 09 number.

That’s right. The State Department won’t give you a visa until you call their phone-sex line. And make an appointment, get TSAed, and come to grovel in person. We don’t actually want foreigners coming anywhere near us. Must be cooties or something.

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