June 9, 2012
MOST governments say they want to encourage entrepreneurs. Yet when foreigners with ideas come knocking, they slam doors in their faces. America, surprisingly, is one of the worst offenders. It has no specific visa for foreigners who wish to create new companies. It does offer a visa for investors, but the requirements are so stiff—usually an initial investment of $1m, or half that if the firm is in a depressed neighbourhood—that the annual quota of 10,000 visas is seldom filled.
Other countries are more open (see table). Singapore offers visas to people who invest $40,000; for some, the government provides additional investment. Britain gives visas to entrepreneurs who meet certain conditions and attract £50,000 ($77,000) of venture funding. New Zealand has no specific capital requirement but offers residency to entrepreneurs whose firms are deemed to benefit the country. Chile is wildly generous: its government gives selected start-ups $40,000 without taking any equity in return. All these schemes have been introduced or expanded since 2008.
Where an entrepreneurial visa is not available, other routes may be. Australia and Canada use a points system that emphasises youth and skills. Since 2007 Australia has curbed the total number of permanent-residency visas it issues, but expanded the number of visas for skilled workers and their dependents from 103,000 to 126,000 a year. That is nearly as many as America (140,000), though America’s population is 14 times larger.