The announcement of the proposed new International Entrepreneur Rule from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) makes me, once again, proud to be an American.
When I arrived in this country about 42 years ago, I knew that the road to the American Dream would not be easy. Today, I am proud of the Obama Administration for understanding the true economic impact that foreign born entrepreneurs have on the U.S. economy.
Immigrants are almost twice as likely to start businesses as native-born Americans, according to research by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. And despite far lower employment numbers overall, immigrants were 27 percent of all U.S. entrepreneurs in 2012, up from 14 percent in 1996.
In Silicon Valley, immigrant founders started 52 percent of companies between 1995 and 2002, a period that has spawned unprecedented growth, productivity and U.S. job creation. Engineering and technology companies started by immigrant founders in 2012 employed 560,000 workers and produced $63 billion in sales. There would, in a word, be no Silicon Valley without immigrants.
This is why business leaders like Mark Zuckerberg, Tim Cook and Bill Gates support immigration policy reform that will make it easier for talented entrepreneurs to start innovative companies, which will in turn grow America’s workforce, create American jobs, and bolster our competitiveness.
Today’s proposed International Entrepreneur Rule is a step forward to strengthen these numbers and ensure that all qualified candidates have a path to starting their business in the U.S. To that effect today the DHS is proposing:
Clear criteria to identify on a case-by-case basis entrepreneurs who would provide significant public benefit to the United States, based on factors including the entrepreneur’s ownership stake and leadership role; the growth potential of the startup; competitive research grants from federal, state, and local government agencies; and investment by qualified American investors. The proposed rule would allow such entrepreneurs to remain in the United States for an initial period of up to two years, followed by one additional period of up to three years contingent on meeting certain additional benchmarks. Once this rule is finalized, it will provide much-needed clarity for entrepreneurs who have been validated by experienced American funders, and who demonstrate substantial potential for rapid growth and job creation. The proposed rule is open for public comment for 45 days, allowing stakeholders to provide valuable feedback to DHS before the final rule is ultimately published.”
As a foreign-born entrepreneur myself, through my work I have had a hand in bringing hundreds of thousands of direct and indirect jobs to Austin. I have watched Austin grow by the genius of geniuses born both here in the U.S and all over the world. It is clear that this combination is the recipe to the great success and robust economy that our city is experiencing.
For this reason, my team and I have been engaged in conversations with the White House, DHS Citizenship and Immigration Services and other institutions to help provide sound and logical input into this proposed entrepreneurial rule. Many communities around the country stand to benefit from the amazing talent that can be sourced from around the world.
Furthermore, I expect the International Accelerator to grow in terms of staff, mentors, investors and entrepreneurs, thus allowing us to become the vehicle to help other foreign-born entrepreneurs to achieve their American Dream… right here in Austin. All of us will benefit from their innovations, technologies, services and employment opportunities
I wholeheartedly believe that this is a no-nonsense approach in continuing to attract the world's best and brightest to create companies, jobs and wealth in America. I believe that this is an economic development tool that, despite the divisive political climate, both Democrats and Republicans should embrace. To that end, I fully support the initiatives of Todd Schulte and FWD.US to bring this issue to the national stage and educate people about its importance.
There is no doubt that we want safe borders and understand the need to comply with our existing labor and immigration laws. However, I join the call of prominent business leaders such as Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg, calling for “a comprehensive immigration reform that begins with effective border security, allows a path to citizenship and lets us attract the most talented and hard-working people, no matter where they come from.” That has been my American dream and I’m glad to have played a role in seeing it realized for others in this great country.
Angelou is the Founder and Principal Executive Officer of AngelouEconomics