A recent update from the American Immigration Council (AIC) highlights the need for revised visa policies concerning entrepreneurs.  AIC’s latest review sounds the alarm; global competition for talent is growing.

While there is no permanent visa specifically for entrepreneurs, there are entrepreneur-friendly visa options for foreign nationals immigrating to the United States.  In fact, it is better to think of it as investor-friendly visa options.

Having good visa policies can attract entrepreneurial talent instead of repel them.  If procedures are too complicated or the number of visas issued too limited, the U.S. could really lose out on attracting high value immigrants.  These entrepreneurial immigrants could choose to expand in other competitive places like Singapore, Canada, or China.

There is no magic formula for predicting which immigrants will become entrepreneurs upon arrival, but many of the immigrants who move to the U.S. later open up businesses and contribute significant gains for the economy.  They may enter on a student visa but later launch a tech startup.  In which case, we need clear paths to citizenship that help us retain talent once they are here.

The current options for entrepreneurs wanting to expand their businesses to the U.S. are the E-visas as in E-1, E-2, EB-5, and EB-2 but these visas are not permanent solutions.  Immigrants entering on an E visa cannot become lawful permanent residents or citizens.  We need to do better if we are going to be competitive globally.  The L-1 visa is an option for existing foreign businesses to launch operations in the U.S. by transferring an executive or manager to the U.S.  The L-1 visa can eventually lead to the EB-1 multinational manager green card.

There is an exceptional visa option, the EB-5 Investor visa which can lead to residency, however, only 10,000 of these visas are available each year. To qualify for residency, EB-2 and EB-5 visa holders must meet criteria and prove that their business operation is in the national best interest. It’s unclear how USCIS decides who meets the criteria for this thus hiring a lawyer or firm with experience to represent you is good idea. Immigration attorneys are best able to interpret the requirements to meet the high bar of expectations placed on investor visa recipients. The visa application process is lengthy and requires patience and attention to detail. Overall, the U.S. could do more to streamline the visa process in order to attract top talent and maintain and competitive workforce.