Foreign Entrepreneurs: U.S.’s Loss is Canada’s Gain, Says CNN Money

In June 2013, the Senate lobbed its comprehensive immigration bill squarely into the lower chamber of Congress, where it bounced several times before reaching a dead stop. And there it remains to this day. Most have concluded that immigration reform is, in the best-case scenario, more than six months in the future. Practically speaking, there are very few days left for Congress to meet before the November elections. And when they do meet, all indications have been that they have no intention of discussing immigration reform.

Not great news for us, but a competitive windfall for every other industrialized nation that would like to attract the world’s best and brightest workers to its shores. While Congress dithers on the sidelines, other countries are upping their game, happy to take advantage of U.S. inaction, happy to scoop up top talent from overseas when that top talent gives up on getting into or staying in the United States – all because our immigration system has not caught up with the needs of our economy and the realities of global competition.

In fact, CNN Money reports that some foreign entrepreneurs are taking their promising new business ideas to Canada, and launching startups there, instead of in the U.S., because they find Canada’s immigration system easier to navigate. [See U.S. Losing Tech Talent to Canada, by Sara Ashley O’Brien, CNN Money, 30.Jul.2014.] CNN Money featured stories of three young entrepreneurs who started businesses in Canada due to immigration problems here. One was an Indian electrical engineer who recently moved to Toronto after years in the U.S. tech industry, and another was an American who moved to Montreal to found a new tech company with a French business partner who was having problems getting a U.S. visa.

As CNN Money points out, the U.S. Senate passed a startup visa bill as part of its immigration reform package, but that bill suffered the same fate as the rest of CIR. By contrast, it says, Canada “has been courting entrepreneurs and paving a way for citizenship through a startup visa program that launched in April 2013.” Although the Canadian program is relatively small at this point – 2,750 such visas are available annually, according to CNN Money – it has the virtue of being relatively uncomplicated.

On the other hand, CNN Money reports that, “U.S. regulations make it incredibly difficult for entrepreneurs to stay in the country, which is costing the U.S. revenue and jobs. According to a recent study by the Partnership for a New American Economy, H1B denials in 2007 and 2008 resulted in a loss of 231,224 tech jobs, translating into $3 billion in lost earnings for those would-be workers.”

It is high time for the United States to make the most of its competitive advantages, and allow more of the world’s top talent to contribute to our prosperity. Foreign workers have many incentives to come here already: we have a huge, robust, and cutting-edge high-tech industry, and a critical mass of forward-looking entrepreneurs – the very people who ushered in the digital age, and are continuing to build on this new paradigm. We need a new immigration system that welcomes foreign innovators, a system that doesn’t put up needless roadblocks to progress. Once election season is safely in the past, Congress should lose no time in making the reforms that are long overdue. But we realize that numerous election seasons have come and gone since discussions of immigration reform in the U.S. first began – a less than heartening fact.

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