With the economy on its head, the United States is in desperate need of talented entrepreneurs who can create new jobs. Yet ironically, despite an ever-increasing number of foreign entrepreneurs all eager to create new businesses in the U.S., immigration laws make it difficult for foreigners to obtain and maintain a U.S. visa.
At least that's what a recent National Public Radio report suggested. As one example of an entrepreneur who would have liked to stay in the U.S., Australian-born Andrew Nicol graduated from law school in the U.S. and was granted an employer-sponsored work visa allowing him to stay at his job in New York.
But he wanted to start his own business, which meant losing the work visa.
Frustrated with U.S. visa policies, Nicol got involved with Start-Up Chile, a government-sponsored program that gives entrepreneurs a Chilean visa and $40,000 to start a new business.
"I'm basically leaving New York to come to Santiago to start a business that targets New York consumers ? just because it's so much easier to do it from here, and there is so much more support from the government here," he told NPR.
Vivek Wadhwa of the University of California-Berkeley told NPR that 150 companies whose owners initially had their sights set on America, are now fulfilling their business dreams in Chile instead.
"Chile has been taking advantage of American stupidity," he said. While the White House did recently take steps to make the process of qualifying for a visa easier, many experts feel the changes are inadequate. In an interview with NPR, Rob Atkinson, President of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation in D.C. hinted that the country needs to do more, saying that he thinks the U.S. needs to attract more skilled entrepreneurs with specialized skills.
"These are scarce talents, and they are valuable talents," he said. "And they end up leading to the creation of a lot of growth companies that end up hiring thousands and thousands of workers."
However, known early-stage investor Brad Feld, who has had personal involvement with ten foreign entrepreneurs trying to obtain visas, reported earlier this month that while the changes being made (including enhancements to the EB-5 immigrant investor program) don't make attracting immigrant entrepreneurs as easy as they should, are at least a step in the right direction.
To further improve the current visa situation, economic development experts are now pushing for new legislation called the Startup Visa Act. Robert Litan, Vice President of Research and Policy at the Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurship, told NPR that he would advise officials not to worry about the politics of immigration reform and instead do what they can to create more jobs in a troubled economy.