June 9, 2012
BOTH political parties in America claim to love entrepreneurs. Barack Obama waxes lyrical about “a society that empowers the inventor and the innovator; where men and women can take a chance on a dream.” Mitt Romney, who once started a company himself, says much the same. Yet America’s immigration system is strangely unwelcoming to foreign entrepreneurs, even as other nations roll out the red carpet.
For plenty of historical and cultural reasons, the home of Hollywood and Silicon Valley is frequently still the first choice for people who want to start a business. But not at any price. The tale of Claudio Carnino, a young Italian who wanted to create games for mobile phones that other firms could then use to advertise their products, is fairly typical. Investors in Rhode Island were willing to back him, but only if he could stay in the country. Mr Carnino discovered that he was likely to be refused a visa, and that even if he got one, he would face a long wait—in which case his games would probably be out of date before he got it. So he took his idea to Chile instead. He was granted a visa in two weeks, and is now on his second start-up, running a firm called FanChimp that helps companies find new customers through Facebook.