The Startup VISA Isn't Stealing Talent… It's Allowing Founders to Follow Their Customers

New changes to the Startup Visa make it more flexible for entrepreneurs to come from abroad, but will they?

Immigration is a touchy subject. Economic positioning aside there are social benefits and ramifications to migrating to another country. While many entrepreneurs are dying to enter the U.S its not because of our overwhelming public benefits, universal healthcare, or promise of retirement stipends – as a fellow entrepreneur recently told me, “Coming from Germany, I’d be much worse off claiming welfare in the US,” yet foreigners still do; they give up everything they know to come here and build their dream.

Why foreign entrepreneurship is suddenly a hot topic is because the Startup Visa Act of 2011 appears to be going through. Recent changes were made allowing for more flexibility and less initial funding required for sponsorship, which also sparked a debate that “India is worried” by Vivek Wadhwa, a researcher for Harvard Law School and scholar for UC Berkeley. On the other hand, some Indian entrepreneurs are pleased with the change, because as it stands “being eligible for a visa is not the same as actually getting a visa.”

THE BIG MOVE: COMING TO AMERICA

To understand why an entrepreneur would come to the U.S you would first have to understand the reasons why entrepreneurs start businesses is to build something, create, and give back to communities. Would the Start-up Visa “steal” talent from countries abroad? Most likely not, but what if you are an entrepreneur who builds something cool and finds all of a sudden your clients and market are in the U.S, how do you come over legally and should you?

TO LEAVE OR NOT TO LEAVE

In the case of my friend, Aditya Sahay, founder of Radbox.me and an Indian native he explained how he had to move to the U.S simply because his product was receiving mass support in the states and the internet economy back home (in India) was still in its infancy. He summed up his interpretation of Indian sentiment towards the Start-up Visa with these two points:

  • “Smart” technical people who move to developed countries for better career and lifestyle, will continue to do so
  • Entrepreneurs focused on Indian markets don’t care about moving to US

On a separate note he also mentioned that leaving India to pursue a dream that may not have been feasible at this current moment in one’s hometown isn’t unpatriotic. In fact Sahay sees opportunity to learn and grow networks which could be brought back home. For more about his thoughts, read here.

FAKING IT ‘TIL MAKING IT

Some founders pretend to live in San Francisco: they take multiple flights a year to visit, go to networking and tech events and try to leverage all the resources there that they need. Sometimes they stay in hotels, sometimes couches, sometimes pay rent in cash but without the working right to pursue a start-up, or rather the legal right to pay taxes and hire, their options are to only take from the U.S without an opportunity to give back. Meanwhile the U.S is generally losing its “you have to be here” status.

Between Skype, Basecamp, instant chat, Dropbox and numerous resources for helping virtual and collaborative teams work together and share information, it almost seems as though the Start-Up Visa is too little too late. By the time the gates open for foreign entrepreneurs they will have already found a way to get what they need. As one European entrepreneur told me, immigration should be to keep people out from receiving social benefits that the region has paid into, but compared on an international level the U.S offers the least amount of social benefits than Europe, Canada, parts of South America and Australia.

So will the Startup Visa steal great minds from other developing countries? Will entrepreneurs be flocking in herds to the U.S?

If you look at any entrepreneur aimed at success they will always get what they want. Lowering the bar for entering the country, should they need to, allows the U.S to be seen as a supporter not another hurdle to overcome. Even so, for long term growth and diversified intellectual collaboration there should be open flow for talent that wants to join the U.S.

The big question: Is the Startup Visa enough to keep the U.S as a leader of innovative? Probably not.