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New Report Outlines Strategy to "Expand the Pool of Potential High-Tech Immigrant Entrepreneurs"

February 09, 2011

Sixteen percent of all high-impact, high-tech companies include at least one immigrant, according to a new report by the Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings. They survey and consequent case studies found significant trends among immigrant entrepreneurs in the high-tech field. Respondents were found to be heavily rooted in the U.S. — 77 percent of them have become American citizens and almost 75 percent have lived in the U.S. for more than 15 years. In comparison to their domestic peers, immigrant entrepreneurs have much higher educational achievement (almost twice as likely to hold a doctoral degree). These individuals have a similar amount of work experience to their successful domestic counterparts (roughly 10 years). Finally, the number of immigrant entrepreneurs is roughly equal to the total immigrant population (13 percent). However, since 1990 the number of immigrants with a bachelors degree or above in a STEM related field has increased significantly.

The authors contend that their findings point towards the necessity to "expand the pool of potential high-impact, high-tech immigrant entrepreneur." Immigrant entrepreneurs, they contend, will not "crowd out" native-born entrepreneurs. In contrast, case studies indicated that foreign-born entrepreneurs were more likely "to team up with outsiders" (e.g., female and U.S. minorities). If correct, the increase of immigrant entrepreneurs should create a positive effect on long-term on America's economic prosperity. The three policy precriptions include:

  • Clear the employment-based green card backlog: This could include raising the global total of employment-based green cards or developing a criteria based upon country of origin and the potential for high-impact entrepreneurship and other high-growth economic activities.
  • Ease the pathway from student visa to work visa to green card: Upon completion of their degree, immigrants on student visas would have a limited time to find employment in the country. Those that achieve employment would be placed on a "fast track" to receive their green card.
  • Create a "point system" for a limited number of unsponsored green card applications: This policy would develop a point system that uses three selection factors (educational attainment, employment experience and language proficiency) and two social variables (knowledge of civics and family relationships) to grant unsponsored green cards to individuals that have the potential to become high-impact entrepreneurs.
entrepreneurship, policy recommendations