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Take Your Business Elsewhere

Take Your Business Elsewhere - American Startup Visa

By Nicholas Greene

These days, more and more entrepreneurs are looking to found start-ups in new locales. The reasons are many and varied: better economy, better market for their products, better IT infrastructure… Even a better climate can play a role.

Now, governments must do whatever it takes to attract new businesses, or risk getting left behind today’s global economy.

To truly thrive in today’s global market; a country needs to be capable of attracting the best and brightest entrepreneurs from around the world.  They need to make sure that up and coming start-ups have an easy time of setting up shop on their soil-or they’ll just take their business somewhere else.

So it should come as no surprise then that many governments are doing everything in their power to attract new start-ups. If they can offer an aspiring entrepreneur enough incentive to start a business in their country, it’s a win-win for both the company and the local government. The problem, though, is that some countries are losing a lot of new businesses–and economic growth–to neighboring nations with more aggressive strategies for enticing start-ups and small businesses. Such companies, of course, can play a vital role in a nation’s economy-at-large.

Canada is one such country that has been losing out. “Canada has fallen behind the pack,” Maura Rodgers of BCBusiness explains. “[Canada’s] existing entrepreneurial immigration programs are outpaced by aggressive new policies from more forward-thinking nations. Since 2006, the number of immigrants in the entrepreneur category applying as permanent residents in Canada has dropped by more than half.

Canada isn’t alone. Many politicians have been arguing that the US is losing out on a lot of new businesses. As the Boulder County Business Report paraphrased Congressman Jared Polis–speaking at a recent open-house on immigration laws and entrepreneurial visas–“Allowing students to come to the U.S. for college or graduate school but then making it very hard for them to remain in the U.S. is essentially subsidizing job creation in other countries.”

Is there a solution? As a matter of fact, there is. That would be the proposed American Startup Visa Act.

The bill, which was introduced earlier this year and is currently languishing in congress, would make it much easier for any immigrant entrepreneur to receive a two year visa if they had a “qualified U.S. investor” ready to put money into their startup.

Senator John Kerry, who introduced the bill along with Senators Richard Lugar and Mark Udall, explains:

“Every job-creating American business started as an idea in the mind of an entrepreneur.  We need to keep and bring more of those ideas to our shores where they can put Americans to work.  Global competition for talent and investment grows more intense daily and the United States must step up or be left behind.”

The American bill was followed by a similar effort from the Canadian government. In August, Canada announced its own program, aiming “to upgrade [the] country’s immigration program by making it easier for prospective entrepreneurs with Canadian investors to launch science and technology companies.” According to Canada Updates, this act is backed by three principles:  The Canadian Venture Capital Association, co-founder Boris Wertz of Growlab, and Danny Robinson of the B.C. Innovation Council.

“We are already falling behind countries like Chile, Singapore, and Britain, who have already upgraded their programs,” stated Wertz, “but I believe we can learn from them and make ours better.”

Canada and the US aren’t the only countries to toy with the idea of a start-up visa. In truth, they’re actually a bit late to the party.

Start-up Chile offers entrepreneurs $40,000 and a year-long residency if they bring their business ideas along for the ride. Britain’s own start-up visa allows any entrepreneur with at least 50,000 pounds of funding from a reputable organization to set up shop on a one-year visa. Singapore has similar requirements for foreign start-ups; requesting that any entrepreneur wishing to set up shop in the country inject at least $50,000 in their company. All three of these programs are already up and running.

Canada and America’s programs, on the other hand, have yet to gain Congressional approval.

It’s a problem. Potential immigrant entrepreneurs frustrated with the difficulty of setting up a business on American soil are seeking alternative locales. At a Start-up Chile event, for example, at least a quarter of attendees said that they would have started in the US, were it not for America’s policies on immigration.

As the global economy becomes more interconnected, immigration programs are going to become more and more integral in securing the best up-and-comers on the market. Until Canada and the US get their act together, they’re going to keep losing jobs and businesses to other nations where conditions are more favorable to foreign entrepreneurs.

Want to send Congress a message? Let them know you support the American Startup Visa Act.

Don’t think the bill is a good idea? Tell us why in the comments below!

Contributor Nicholas Greene is a freelance writer based out of Calgary in Alberta, Canada. Nick has been writing since he was old enough to pick up a pen and has contributed to numerous tech blogs over the course of his career. 

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