Editor’s note: This post was republished with permission from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation’s Growthology blog.
Entrepreneurship is a driver of innovation and economic mobility. However, fewer Americans are taking the plunge to become entrepreneurs. In response to this decline, the Kauffman Foundation established the New Entrepreneurial Growth (NEG) agenda. The NEG is a rich source of new ideas related to economic trends, entrepreneurship policy, technology, and many other topics.
One central policy component of the NEG agenda is immigration policy. Throughout American history, immigrants have provided a fantastic entrepreneurial spark, starting and growing companies at rates well beyond that of native-born Americans. As a country that believes fiercely in equality of opportunity and in the American Dream, it is paramount to shape policy that provides avenues for entrepreneurs of all types to contribute.
Three NEG contributors have outlined ways where policy or practice changes can boost immigrant entrepreneurs.
- Brink Lindsey, of the CATO Institute, advocates for a change in immigration policy that creates space for high-skilled immigration.
- Dane Stangler, of the Kauffman Foundation, expands on Lindsey’s suggestion with possible immigration policy solutions.
- Anthony J. Luppino, of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, suggests that law schools need to train its students to be better tapped into the needs of entrepreneurs and to be more entrepreneurial themselves.
Lindsey argues the restrictions on high-skilled immigration are one example of regressive regulation that “works to erect barriers to entry.” He explains that the failure to allow high-skilled immigrants into the United States keeps potential entrepreneurs out, preventing innovation. From Lindsey:
“Immigrants are a major catalyst of U.S. entrepreneurship and innovation. According to one study of a large sample of engineering and technology companies founded between 1995 and 2005, 25 percent of those companies had at least one foreign-born founder. Yet current immigration laws make it very difficult for such highly talented individuals to live and work in our country. Out of roughly one million permanent resident visas awarded each year, only about 70,000 go to individuals based on their work skills or economic value. Temporary visas allow about 650,000 high-skilled workers to reside in the United States at any given time—a mere 0.4 percent of the workforce.”
But an immigration policy that understands how immigrants contribute to the entrepreneurial spirit and dynamism of the United States does not end at visa policy. Dane Stangler highlights a variety of ways to encourage immigrant entrepreneurs, citing immigrants’ high rate of entrepreneurial activity. Stangler suggests that immigration reform should include:
“…new pathways for immigrant entrepreneurs, including a startup visa program. The federal government also should encourage and support the early-state experimentation using H-1B visas for ‘resident entrepreneurs’ that has occurred at universities in Massachusetts and Colorado, and clarify administrative rules regarding Optional Practical Training (OPT) and Curricular Practical Training (CPT) opportunities to ensure that they can include entrepreneurship.”
American universities are the envy of the world and often breed the next generation of wildly successful entrepreneurs. But immigration policy needs to provide avenues for that talent, which often comes from abroad, including an avenue to help foreign-born talent contribute to American entrepreneurship.
How Law Schools Can and Should be Involved in Building Ecosystems that Foster Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Growth by Anthony J. Luppino
Luppino outlines a variety of legal areas that affect entrepreneurs, from tax code, intellectual property, and immigration policy. He suggests that, in order to discover exactly where entrepreneurs run up against the legal barriers to starting a business, “law faculty and law students … would benefit from involvement in interdisciplinary teams working with entrepreneurs in planning their ventures.” For example, Luppino has co-authored a paper on how immigration law can be altered to allow foreign students studying in the United States to participate in entrepreneurship through an extension of the CPT/OPT programs. A closer collaboration between lawyers and entrepreneurs, especially related to immigration policy and practice, can provide mutual benefit.
Immigration and entrepreneurship is just one component of the New Entrepreneurial Growth agenda. To read more about how to generate new entrepreneurial growth, check out the collection of essays by experts here.
Emily Fetsch is a research assistant in Research and Policy for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, and assists in the processing of new grants including grant research, grant write-ups, setting deadlines, and reviewing financials. She also assists in writing literature reviews and informative briefs, and conducts quantitative and/or qualitative analysis on the economy, policy, and entrepreneurship.