Entrepreneurs Letter

Dear Speaker Boehner, House Leadership, and Republican Members of the House of Representatives:

As founders of some of America’s fastest-growing businesses, we call on you to reform the outdated immigration laws that are holding back entrepreneurial business development and undermining American competitiveness. Entrepreneurship is at the core of our nation’s economic success, and some of the world’s best and brightest have come to America with dreams of starting their own businesses. Yet for many entrepreneurs, our current immigration system proves too great a hurdle to success. Every year, the United States turns away hopeful, talented innovators who are left with no choice but to take their skills and ideas elsewhere. It is time to reverse this trend and secure America’s future by modernizing our immigration system to bring it in line with the needs of our economy.

It is no secret that our high-tech and life sciences sectors are two of the key forces driving innovation and job creation in America today. Over the past three decades, new business formation among these sectors have far outpaced the rest of the private sector, which actually saw a nine percent decline in business formation over the same period. In one of the fastest-growing segments of the high-tech sector, information and communications technology (ICT), business formation is up more than 200 percent compared with 1980. These new firms are developing technologies that change the way we live and, in the process, creating new jobs for American workers. In fact, over the past three decades, new businesses were responsible for all net job growth in the United States.

America’s dynamic high-tech sector owes much of its success to the fact that many of the world’s most promising entrepreneurs and innovators still see the U.S. as a land of opportunity where anything is possible. Although the foreign-born are only an eighth of America’s population, a quarter of high-tech and life sciences start-ups have an immigrant founder.

Moreover, Silicon Valley would not be the world standard for technology and innovation that it is today without immigrants, who founded nearly half of the area’s engineering and life sciences technology companies between 2006 and 2012. Nationwide, immigrant-founded firms employed more than half a million workers and generated $63 billion in sales during the same period.

Despite these contributions, the future of American innovation is far from certain. In 2013, less than a week after the application period opened for the H-1B visa program for high-skilled professionals, demand for the annual quota 65,000 visas exceeded supply. In fact, the shortage of visas for skilled workers means that top candidates from countries like India and China can wait nine years or more for a permanent visa to work in the United States. Faced with these untenable delays, many talented workers take their talents to other countries, where they create new products and jobs for America’s competitors. This deeply flawed system is already taking a toll on American competitiveness: For the first time in recent years, in 2009 non-U.S. innovators earned more patents than Americans. Contrast that to 1999, when U.S. innovators earned 57 percent of patents worldwide.

It is hard enough for entrepreneurs to start their own businesses without having to worry that their visas will expire or that they won’t be able to hire all the workers they need to keep up with demand for their products and services. Our high-tech sector and the millions of American jobs it supports cannot remain on standby while eager entrepreneurs take their ideas elsewhere. That is why we are joining the Partnership for a New American Economy, incubators, and the rest of the technology sector, in a month-long #iCodeImmigration campaign to urge Congress to act now and pass immigration reform. We must address the needs of our growing tech sector and ensure that America can attract the talented innovators and ideas that will keep our economy booming and creating jobs for years to come.

About NAE

New American Economy is a bipartisan research and advocacy organization fighting for smart federal, state, and local immigration policies that help grow our economy and create jobs for all Americans. More…