These days, it can often feel like every issue — from climate change to a deadly, spreadable virus — becomes politicized. But, contrary to the rhetoric of recent times, the same need not be true for all things immigration.

As fierce advocates for policy that supports the American entrepreneurial ecosystem, we firmly believe that creating a startup visa should, and could, be a bipartisan endeavor.

The current U.S. immigration system does not have a visa category specifically for modern-day startup founders who raise funds from angel investors or venture capital firms for their U.S. based companies. Instead, the current system expects immigrant entrepreneurs to invest their own funds or be an employee. A startup visa category will recognize business practices of the startup ecosystem including funding, revenue generation and job creation. 

The approach has consistently earned bipartisan support over the years. The 2013 comprehensive immigration reform that passed the Senate included a startup visa. In recent years, the Startup Act from U.S. Sens. Jerry Moran, Mark Warner, Roy Blunt and Amy Klobuchar featured a startup visa. In summer 2021, U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren introduced the Let Immigrants Kickstart Employment Act. The California Democrat’s LIKE Act is supported by a coalition of 19 entrepreneurial organizations and more than 300 prominent American entrepreneurs.

Lofgren’s startup visa also has been included in the House competitiveness bill, the America COMPETES Act, currently in conference committee reconciling the House bill with the Senate version. Congress now has the chance to finally pass a long-awaited and much-needed startup visa.

We need a startup visa because the current outdated immigration framework makes an entrepreneurial dream unfeasible for many immigrants. This stifles the economic growth, and resulting jobs, these immigrants and their businesses could create. The limited and uncertain immigration options regularly force entrepreneurs to abandon their innovative ventures in search of employers who can sponsor their visas — turning job-creators into employees in the process.


Other times, immigrant entrepreneurs decide to start their companies in other countries. More than 20 other countries have adopted startup visas to recruit international entrepreneurs. More importantly, the pandemic has accelerated the rate at which startups are growing exponentially within their own countries. Look at Africa and Europe, other parts of the world advancing in technology innovations and creating jobs locally. Overall, the U.S. is losing out on talent, job creation and innovation.

This is a massive loss to the U.S. economy and workers as Congress is focused on our country maintaining its competitive edge. To address this challenge, Congress should make sure to include a startup visa for foreign-born entrepreneurs in this legislation.

Foreign-born entrepreneurs have been an incredible driver of the U.S. economy, despite the challenges presented by the current system. Immigrants are more likely to start businesses than native-born Americans, almost twice as likely according to a recent Kauffman Foundation report. This statistic is readily apparent in the “startup” ecosystem. Although immigrants constitute approximately 17% of the workforce, 55% of America’s startup companies valued $1 billion or more had at least one immigrant co-founder. Immigrants also started 33% of U.S. venture-backed companies that became publicly traded between 2006 and 2012.

We need look no further than the success stories of Zoom or Moderna. Zoom, a $35 billion company founded by Chinese immigrant Eric Yuan, has transformed communication globally, keeping our schools, businesses and almost all aspects of society functioning during the crippling COVID-19 pandemic. Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine has saved lives and is allowing the economy and much of daily life to return to normal. Born in Lebanon, Noubar Afeyan is the company’s chairman and co-founder. He studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and founded or co-founded 38 companies and has more than 100 patents to his name.

Creating a startup visa that will encourage innovative entrepreneurs to come to, and remain in, the U.S. should not be divided down party lines. This makes economic sense for America and can help kick-start our economy at a time when we need it most.