E-2 Visa Option: A Missed Opportunity

U.S. misses out on foreign entrepreneurs – need to expand E-2 investor visa option for non-immigrant business investors

As Pam Prather points out in her excellent piece in a recent issue of Immigration Daily despite the fact that 29.5% of new business in 2010 can be attributed to immigrant entrepreneurs, the E-2 visa, which is a non-immigrant visa for business investment, is not available for nationals of many countries including India, China and Israel. This is indeed bizarre when Vivek Wadha, a well known authority on immigration entrepreneurs found that:

According to the studies, in a quarter of the U.S. science and technology companies founded from 1995 to 2005, the chief executive or lead technologist was foreign-born. In 2005, these companies generated $52 billion in revenue and employed 450,000 workers. In some industries, the numbers were much higher; in Silicon Valley, the percentage of immigrant-founded startups had increased to 52 percent. Indian immigrants founded 26 percent of these startups-more than the next four groups from Britain, China, Taiwan, and Japan combined. (emphasis added)

Despite the fact that Indian and Chinese entrepreneurs play an important role in founding companies and creating jobs in the U.S, these entrepreneurs could not enter the U.S. on the E-2 visa to start their businesses. They had to find sponsorship through other means. Only later were they able to develop the companies that create U.S. jobs.

The availability of the E-2 (Treaty-Investor) visa is based upon treaties we hold with the applicant’s country. Shockingly, the U.S. does not have such a Treaty with India, China or Israel, so its citizens are not eligible for an E-2 investor visa and cannot use the E-2 visa to start businesses in the U.S. and create jobs.

The U.S. State Department reports that there were approximately 25,000 E-2 visas issued in 2010. That’s 25,000 new businesses, all of which must – by law – have a positive impact on U.S. economy. It’s a win-win situation, and a clear indication that E-2 visas are highly beneficial to the U.S. Unfortunately, the U.S. is missing out on even more impressive numbers, because there is no E-2 visa allowing foreign nationals from India, China and other countries to come to the U.S. to start and invest in a new business.

The Partnership for a New American Economy’s 2011 report concluded with a statement that “[t]o compete, we must modernize our own immigration system so that it welcomes, rather than discourages, the Fortune 500 entrepreneurs of the 21st century global economy. We must create a visa designed to draw aspiring entrepreneurs to build new businesses and create jobs here.” It is worth noting that co-chairs include the CEOs of Microsoft, Disney, Marriot and Boeing, and the Mayors of New York, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia.

One simple solution would be to expand the list of countries whose nationals can benefit from the E-2 investor visa to start businesses and create jobs. The more immigration laws encourage foreign entrepreneurship in the U.S., the more help we get for job creation to shore up our ailing economy.

Article categories: Entrepreneurs and Business Start-ups, Immigration Policy and Legislative Initiatives

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