Why Silicon Valley Immigrant Entrepreneurs Are Returning Home 16 March 2011

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Why Silicon Valley Immigrant Entrepreneurs Are Returning Home 16 March 2011
The topic for our show tonight is based on an article by Professor Vivek Wadhwa, who lectures at UC-Berkeley, Harvard Law School, Duke University and Emory University.

 
NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw visited Silicon Valley last month to meet a dozen immigrant entrepreneurs. More than half of them said that they might be forced to return to their home countries. That’s because they have the same visa issues that Kunal Bahl had. Kunal Bahl was unable to get a visa that would allow him to start a company after he graduated from Wharton School of Business in 2007. He returned home to India. In February 2010, he started SnapDeal—India’s version of Groupon. Instead of creating hundreds of jobs in the U.S., Kunal ended up creating them in New Delhi.

At a time when our economy is stagnating, some American political leaders are working to keep out the world’s best and brightest. They mistakenly believe that skilled immigrants take away jobs from Americans. The opposite is true: skilled immigrants start the majority of Silicon Valley startups; they create jobs.

Meanwhile, entrepreneurship is booming in countries that compete with us. And more than half a million doctors, scientists, researchers, and engineers in the U.S. are stuck here with an uncertain future. They are on temporary work visas and are waiting for permanent-resident visas, which are in extremely short supply. These workers can’t start companies, justify buying houses, or grow deep roots in their communities. Once they get in line for a visa, they can’t even accept a promotion or change jobs. They could be required to leave the U.S. immediately—without notice—if their employer lays them off. Rather than live in constant fear and stagnate in their careers, many are returning home.

American immigration officials don’t understand the benefits of making it easy for immigrants to start up businesses. They do everything they can to make life miserable for immigrants who want to make the U.S. more competitive and create U.S. jobs. They interpret rules and regulations as restrictively as possible.

Aihui Ong, from Singapore, said that America is under “technology attack”. Everyone wants highly skilled technicians from America. Her home country, Singapore, is working hard to bring people like her back home, as well as to attract skilled workers from other countries. Singapore is giving startup companies four dollars for every dollar they raise. And Mike Montano, the founder of Backtype, said that his home country, Canada, offers major subsidies to startup companies. All of these immigrant entrepreneurs wonder why the U.S. makes it so hard for them while other countries roll out the welcome mat for immigrant entrepreneurs.

Professor Vivek says that from the many problems facing our country, this one is easy to fix. We just need to increase the numbers of permanent-resident visas available for those who have been waiting for such a long time to start a business in the US. This may give the economy a significant boost at no cost to taxpayers.

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Q.1. Is it possible for Vietnamese citizens to get an investor’s visa to open a business in America?
A.1. The Vietnamese and American governments do not have an investment agreement at this time, so investor’s visas are not available to Vietnamese citizens.

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Q.2. Are there any options for Vietnamese citizens who want to start a business in the US ?
A.2. Right now, there is only one option, the EB5 visa. It leads to a Green Card and US Citizenship, but it is expensive. It requires an investment of One Million Dollars for most areas in the US, or Five Hundred Thousand Dollars for an economically depressed area.
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