Startup Visas

I'm in London for Seedcamp 2009 and I've been spending the day with entrepreneurs and technologists from all over europe. It's a reminder that the world is full of great entrepreneurs and technologists.

I started my day in a board meeting with one of our companies that was started in Europe. It turns out one of the founders of that company, one that is growing and hiring in the US, cannot get back into the states right now because of a Visa issue.

That is infuriating to me and to the founder in question. His risk taking and the innovations of him and his partners and team members are creating a business in the US and creating jobs and wealth that will largely stay in the US. And he cannot even get into our country right now.

This is nuts. I've got an issue with our immigration policies generally, but specifically we should modify our rules around Visas for founders and key team members of startups that are at least partially based in the US, particularly if they have been well financed by angels and VCs.

Fortunately, there is a growing political movement called The Startup Visa movement and there is real momentum behind it. If you are close to your legislators, particularly representatives and senators, please bend their ear on this issue. Though I am not close to the politics around this issue, I suspect this is not a hard issue to get behind politically. Nobody is losing jobs because entrepreneurs around the world are starting companies that are based, at least partially, in the US.

We should make it easy for these people to get back and forth into our country. And with your help, I suspect we will.

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#Politics#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. David Smuts

    Hi Fred- we have a similar problem in the UK. I’m a political/business advisor to the British government through my involvment in I have been campaigning on similar issues albeit with some success. I am also co-ordinating the formation of a non-political non-profit entity which will facilitate dialogue between VC, Entrepreneur, Angels, Government, Communities, LPs and Legal together. I’ll be interested to connect with my fellow Americans (I’m dual citizen by the way) on this. Please get in touch so we can make this a transatlantic effort.

    1. fredwilson

      you can send me an email by clicking on the contact link at the upper right of this page. happy to help

  2. briankanter

    The Startup Visa movement to modify work authorization rules for startups in the United States

  3. Elie Seidman

    This country was built by immigrants. We should be doing everything we can to increase our competitive advantage and that should start with proactively recruiting the best and brightest to come work here. An acquaintance of mine – with a PhD in Physics from Stanford – who is originally from Mexico City remarked to me that it would be far easier for her to come to this country to pick vegetables in the fields of central California than it has been for her to be here legally post graduating from Stanford. That’s truly backwards.Let’s start by giving citizenship to any foreigner who graduates from an accredited university and let’s not stop there. We have to figure out a way to brain suck the rest of the world.

  4. RichardF

    Fred I’m interested to know if this puts you off investing in companies started by European founders even if the company is based in the US and recruiting US citizens. Do you think it would put other US VC’s off ?

    1. fredwilson

      i don’t think so. VCs are attracted to the best teams and the best ideas regardless of where the founder is from

  5. Chris Swan

    Fred, whilst your in London perhaps you can buy Kirk Wylie a pint and get his side of why he thinks founder visas are a bad idea – http://kirkwylie.blogspot.c

    1. fredwilson

      i wish i could do that

      1. KirkWylie

        Buy me a pint that is? I’m an easy enough bloke to find when there’s a pub involved (when I can drag myself away from the startup building that is). 🙂

    2. dave

      Completely agree with Kirk’s post on this topic. I have nothing against immigration reform when it serves the good of the country, but a Startup Visa exemption is catering to elitist special interests. This kind of BS has to stop.

      1. fredwilson

        it is not elitist. it is practical. we can fix this one. maybe we can fix more. ideally, we’d totally blow it up and start over. but that’s not possible.

        1. dave

          It’s the very definition of elitist — select or favored group. But I’m not going to argue with you. We can agree to disagree.

      2. KirkWylie

        To be fair, I don’t object to the Startup/Founders Visa on elitism grounds. In fact, I’m very much in favor of immigration reform where proving that one is a net benefit to the country is the key distinction, which is why I linked to the Australian and British Highly Skilled programs, which are inherently elitist in that they discriminate based on abilities and skills and achievement.I object because I think it’s targeting the immigration problem from an edge case, and has policy implications that aren’t necessarily fully thought through, and when US Immigration is concerned, those policy implications, and the various vested interests, tend to come to the foreground far more than for other types of policy decisions.

        1. fredwilson

          I really wish I had time to grab a pint and discuss this live with you while I am in london. You make some interesting points

          1. KirkWylie

            If not this trip, then either your next one or my next trip to NYC (when you’re doing a financial technology startup, you can’t avoid those).I’m a pretty easy guy to find on the internet as well. 🙂

          2. fredwilson

            Excellent. I’d love make a face to face connection

    3. Melissa Thelemaque

      I definitely see Kirk’s point about protecting foreign entrepreneurs from bloodsuckers. Granted, I don’t know much about H1 work visas, but I imagine that employees coming from overseas currently face a similar problem in this way — isn’t it possible that their salaries are lower than a US citizen’s salary would be because of any actual and fake costs the employer incurs for pursuing the visa? The difference is that one squeeze may happen at the end and the other happens from the get-go.Just a thought.It makes me say why not have a founders’ visa. Clearly, I’m biased because I love the start-up space.

      1. KirkWylie

        Depending on whose survey and methodology you use, H1-B visa holders either earn less than, more than, or the same as citizens.However, much of that methodology comes down to the added administrative and legal burden of employing them, which isn’t trivial.And the morass over the H1-B issue shows exactly how emotive US Immigration Policy actually is, and how difficult it can be to get the simplest solutions passed.

    4. fredwilson

      Chris, I left a comment on Kirk’s blog post. He is right . the immigration system in the US sucks on many levels. but fixing it completely is really hard, maybe impossible. so we should fix what we can fix now and keep working on it.

      1. Jason Crawford

        I sympathize with Kirk’s concerns, especially since government incentives often cause distortions in the market (as tax breaks have done in health care and housing). But I agree with Fred: fix what we can now. Personally, I support this not as an isolated policy, but as a small step on the way to broader reform and towards free and open immigration.

  6. Glenn Gutierrez

    Great post. We definitely need to support people who are building a better economy here. First step though! Find out who your representatives are if you don’t already know:

    1. David Binetti

      Better suggestion: go to to add your name to the movement. It is affiliated with , finds your representatives and contacts them automatically. Also does voter-authentication to give your opinion some real clout. BTW – I *created* nine years ago. is the next (and better, frankly) step in this evolution of citizen-centric government.

      1. Glenn Gutierrez

        That’s great to hear. I’m not heavily involved in the visa issue so I’m happy there’s something that can provide a more direct impact.

  7. Mark

    Why the need to invest offshore? Fred’s firm could not identify equally or more promising U.S.-based ventures to back?

    1. fredwilson

      we wish we could invest all over the world. the US does not have a monopoly on the “most promising” startups. that said, we don’t think we can invest in asia very easily because it is just too far for us. london and many parts of europe are not much further from NYC than SF, however.

  8. Dave

    If he was as risk taking and innovative as you claim he would just go to Canada and sneak in. Surely he already knows how to pack his own parachute.

    1. fredwilson

      i know people who have done that and spent the last 20 years regretting it.

  9. Marcosardi

    I don’t understand your problem Fred. I myself came from Europe years ago, and had to find my way through the immigration system in the US. It was painful, time consuming and difficult at times. But these days, H1 quotas are not even fully committed yet. So either your founder already spend 6 years in the US and cannot apply for a new visa, or he can:- apply for an H1. By paying about $1,000 he can get an accelerated procedure and get his visa in around a month- apply for an L1 if he has been employed by his company more than a year in the UK- if he is really that phenomenal, he can apply for an O1 visa, no work certification required, it takes about a month too.So, perhaps all you need is a good immigration lawyer here? I’ll pass, I am a software engineer…

    1. AndreaF

      Not sure where you get your data from but as far as I know every year there is between 2 and 3 times more H1 visa requests than visas available. And Obama, contrary to common sense, has actually tightened on this.I think this is a big issue primarily for the US but also for other countries and one that needs as much lobbying as possible.I can’t help directly but I’ll sign any petition in favour of opening up borders to workers.

      1. Marc

        I take my data from real life. A friend of mine was awarded an H1 visa last week. She filed a month ago. Your comment about H1 being oversubscribed is perfectly correct: she will get the visa itself on October 1st.What you describe is the situation that was prevailing for the previous years.We definitely need to do something not to be trapped once our economy is back. But I was replying to Fred’s comment, so commenting the situation this year.

      2. Edward Walters

        AndreaF: that was true for FY 2005-09 but this year (FY2010) there are still available visas. October 1st is the Federal Government’s start of the fiscal year and thus, that is the day they can start on a H1B.Obama has not done anything with respect to the allocation of H1Bs. The ‘cap’ was put in years ago to lower the numbers from the early 2000s. The simple fact that the H visa numbers remain available are a testament to the fact that the market drives this process. There simply is not a large enough demand for them today.

    2. davemc500hats

      if you’re applying for H1 or H1b, then you’re working for someone else beore you can strt your own business. you can’t sponsor your own H1 as far as I know.that’s inefficient. we should let people who are fundable / have funding start companies, and thereby create new products & creat jobs, as soon as possible.

    3. fredwilson

      he’s doing that. he’ll get it done soon. but the whole thing is crap. why apply any friction at all?

  10. Ev

    Oh please… if you want to start a company in US, just do it – nothing should stop you. I came here on H1b, my brother applied and got his H1b this year and a bunch of people I worked with – it’s not a freaking rocket science.There were maybe 2-3 years during the last decade where H1b quotas were much smaller than demand, so what – it just took some folks a bit longer. I don’t know anyone who wanted to relocate here but couldn’t due to visa issues. Lack of a healthcare system is what actually scares people away, yes even young ones.I’m all for erasing borders, promoting “citizens of the world” thing, whatever. But there are so many real issues we need to solve right now, that visas for founders seems like an aid for lazy.We all know a famous saying/advice for first-time CEOs/entrepreneurs: “if you can’t get an introduction, you probably won’t be able to run a company”, similarly it can be said “If you can’t get into the US you probably won’t be able to start a business”.

    1. davemc500hats

      as noted above, if you go the H1 or H1b route then you’re working for someone else, not starting your own biz. you can’t sponsor your one H1.thus really it’s the USA not the immigrant that’s being lazy here… we should make the US more competitive in enabling entrepreneurs to strt businesses in the US, not necessarily because we’re helping them, rather because we are creating jobs & new businesses.

      1. ShanaC

        Dave, I think the noted above thing is going to have to change- disqus changes the local of popular subthreads. Oy.

      2. Mike Su

        Why not just create a program for the lead investor to be able to sponsor someone for a H1 or H1b visa? A separate quota from the normal employee quota..I’m sure the VC community would be able to figure out some way to qualify who gets fast tracked (i.e. greater than X valuation, age of the business, VC’s fund size or some other metric). In fact, the quota for founders should be greater than the quota for general employees as they are not potentially displacing a job, but rather coming to create more jobs.

        1. fredwilson

          That is a decent idea. But we need to expand this to all investors not just VCs and we need to allow them to sponsor members of the team who are not founders

  11. martinowen

    “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”The power of diversity built your country – not nationalism/patriotism.

    1. Dave Pinsen

      What built Japan and Sweden into enviable first world countries then, “the power of homogeneity”?Diversity is like the parallel postulate of public discourse in America: it’s assumed to be axiomatically true that diversity is great, and the more of it the better, but there seems to be little empirical evidence to support this and anecdotal and empirical evidence to the contrary.

      1. ShanaC

        I wouldn’t say parallel. They run intertwined. The “salad bowl metaphor” of US culture is new.I would say this: It’s easier to work with someone when you work with someone similar to you- it’s harder to find great solutions when you are not challenged by a diversity of viewpoints. Sometimes that’s hard to find without a diversity of experiences.

        1. Dave Pinsen

          I wouldn’t say parallel.I don’t think you caught the reference. Look up “parallel postulate” and you might have a different take on the simile in that sentence.

          1. martinowen

            I think it is a mistake to view either Japan or Sweden as homogeneous. Japan is famously described as “closed” however it was very influenced by China and Korea in the past millenia (where did Zen Bhuddism come from? where did porcelain come from? In the last century they benefitted from both imperialist looting and Japanese products – produced by their now famous manufacturers- were considered “copies” in the 50s and 60s.Swedish design can only be considered innovative from the “outside”. It is in fact a development of its venacular.Even Viking long boats had extra safety features (always on oil lamps and side impact bars).

          2. Dave Pinsen

            Both countries are ethnically homogeneous (the Japanese moreso). That doesn’t mean they have never been influenced by outside cultures.

          3. Fountains of Wayne

            Not to, you know, through “facts” into the discussion, but Japan ruled Korea from 1910-1945 and was thus was able to use Korea as a vehicle to build Japan’s economy, etc. So I’d say that using Japan as “empirical evidence” to support any of your points is pretty tenous.

          4. Dave Pinsen

            By the same specious reasoning, I assume you’ll point out that Sweden was united with Norway from 1814 to 1905, so therefore my point that Sweden’s homogeneity hasn’t impaired its enviable economy or standard of living is “pretty tenuous”. It’s interesting how resistant people are to acknowledging that countries can be economically successful and be attractive places to live without much diversity.

          5. Fountains of Wayne

            Specious reasoning? Is it not true that Japan ruled Korea during that time period? Is it also not true that Japan used Korea as a tool for Japanese economic development? Is it also not true that Japan and Korea are different ethnicities? Therefore — since they are all, in fact, true — what is specious about what I’m saying? And of course, if we want to talk about the post-1945 Japanese economy we would have to talk about the importance of post-war US economic assistance. So again, I’d say that using “homogeneity” as the driver of Japanese economic growth is tenuous.

          6. Dave Pinsen

            Yes, specious reasoning, and sophistry to boot. Sweden and Japan our homogeneous countries. That’s a fact. It’s also a fact that they are enviable first world countries. That’s what I pointed out initially, and you pointing out that Japan occupied Korea for a time (it also occupied Manchuria, etc.) doesn’t not refute that, as I’m sure you know.

          7. Fountains of Wayne

            I hope your use of specious and sophistry is a form of satire; you know, the use of homogenous words in an attempt to cut down the validity of my responses to your assertions about homogeneity. Alas. I guess we’re arguing different points. I mistakenly thought you originally asked what drove Japan to economic growth. And I mistakenly thought you were implying that it was mostly due to the country’s “homogeneity.” And my response was that a reasonable person would say that Japan’s rule and use of Korea (and other lands) for its own economic ends and then Japan’s reliance on US economic aid after it lost WWII (and it’s rule over Korea) and, now that we’re discussing it, Japan’s reliance on US economic aid during the Korean War, has been a bigger economic driver than “homogeneity.” But you must have been making some other point. I’m not sure what the point was, but your well thought-out points have persuaded me: Japan is an enviable first world country mostly through homogeneity.

          8. Dave Pinsen

            Sorry you’re having so much trouble here. Let me try to help you out.The original commenter I responded to claimed that the U.S. was built by “the power of diversity”. By asking, facetiously, whether it followed that Japan and Sweden were built by the “power of homogeneity”, my point was to highlight the fatuousness of the the original commenter’s statement. Neither homogeneity nor diversity were the key ingredients in the economic development of these three countries. The key is to have an intelligent and industrious citizenry. All three countries benefited from having that.

          9. ShanaC

            Remind me to ignore the staid people and have more fun. I don’t do the suit thing well anyway. I really don’t….

          10. Dave Pinsen

            Sure thing. Just let me know which are the suits and which are the staid folks.

          11. ShanaC

            I’m just in a mood, Blogging about it. Don’t like admitting there will be a period in my life where someone will stick me in a suit.

          12. Dave Pinsen

            With 10% unemployment, no one will be sticking you in anything, and you’ll probably have a better shot of wearing a Starbucks apron than a suit when you graduate.

          13. ShanaC

            I’m a big believer of “we’ll see how life turns out.” Oddly, I can say that posting here has been good for me: Promotes teamwork, I’m running around like a maniac learning a lot, and I’m more easily Googable for something positive which I am passionate about. You really never know.

          14. fredwilson

            And she’s got a few ppl who will help her end up in something other than a starbucks apron. Not saying that won’t happen. Its rough out there. But she’s smart and doing stuff to reduce the chances of that

          15. ShanaC

            Thank you for the high complement. I try. Life’s a journey where you don’t really always know where you’ll end up. You just better bring a first aid kit and a water bottle along the way, and look around. That’s pretty much what I’ve figured out.

          16. ShanaC

            Joy of being here, It’s like also knowing that quoting that line of Emma Lazarus’s has a kind of unconscious irony to it (only to the right crowd though)

  12. Mike Su

    Agreed. If all those politicians are so concerned about losing jobs offshore, then why not do some on-shoring? Seems like if we could modify the current work-visa model, where instead of an employer, a lead VC investor could sponsor someone and incur some of the expenses of sponsoring someone to work stateside, we could get this off the ground fairly quickly, no? And as the metrics prove themselves out, then increase quotas.

  13. visacuriuos

    What’s the specific issue you’re running into? I’ve read about horror stories in blog comments but actually have not seen any problems in real life. The startups I worked with over the past three years actually did not have any problems getting people visas. We’re talking just about 20 engineers on TN1 or H1B from China, Canada, Spain, France, Australia and Germany. Also my sister’s husband had no issue getting a visa, either.

    1. AndreaF

      Ok, I had both problems.1 – Working for a US subsidiary of a UK company trying to hire people to work in our NY office; I had trouble transferring one person from London to NY with a H1 visa; his application was rejected, he is hungarian; a second hire managed to get the H1 but only becasue we applied in the first day valid and it still was a lottery; other people’s applications in different departments of the business were rejected. I am talking about 2004-2006 period.2 – Incorporated a start up in NY in 2007, myself being Italian and I cannot sponsor myself so I need to rely on my partner (Turkish but with an H1) to handle that side of the business; I can only go there on my tourist visa.

  14. Krishnan

    I know Fred Wilson is nice guy compared to most VCs. But I still find this post laced with elitist arrogance. So we change the immigration rules cause you found some white kid who remind you of yourself and you want to fund him. Typical of the “Harvard & VC mafia” which runs this country and now has run it aground. They also viciously fund their likeness – white & preppy. There are many talented or more talented in US who can’t get the funding cause they are not part of this “network”. So how many people of “color” has your firm funded ? I rest my case.

    1. Dave McClure

      actually, the proposal would actually reduce the “elitist arrogance” you’re talking about.the current EB-5 visa only allows people who have $1M (or $500K) to get it.the proposed change would allow people who *DON’T* have the money, but are talented enough to attract funding so that they can start a company, build a product, and create more jobs.thus, it’s exactly not elitist — if you can get people to invest in you, then you’d be eligible.

    2. fredwilson

      how do you know he is white?

      1. ShanaC

        Fred, let this one go, this person is trying to Neg out someone by calling out the fact that the person doesn’t act like that that person is from his home culture -with the assumption that by acting like you, and educated, he loses a sense of interior self that comes from being parts of other places.Been there, done that. Ignore it. I’m flagging.

        1. Krishnan

          I lost you. Sure you the White Goldman crowd are the judge, jury, banker and executioner in this country. It is your party and you can ignore us as has been done for a long time. Classic redneckism.

          1. Dave Pinsen

            If you want to get a rise out of people, you’re going to have to work on your trolling skills.

      2. Krishnan

        You still have not answered how many people of color have you funded ?

        1. KirkWylie

          This is absurd. Have you ever worked in Silicon Valley? Many of the most senior executives at VC-backed firms are from India and China. The statistics for immigrant-led startups attest to this. Risk Capital providers (like VCs) deal with early stage companies all the time; they don’t have any room to play the race card because it will screw their returns and they know it.I don’t know how many people of color Fred Wilson The VC has funded. But it’s ridiculous to think that there’s some type of racism going on against non-white immigrants in the risk capital space.

        2. fredwilson

          How many people of color work in the 30 startups we have funded? And what does ‘of color’ mean. Do you include asian, latin, indian, middle eastern??

        3. tony

          Since everybody in technology does nothing all day except sit in front of a computer monitor, often in their parents’ dark, dank basement, technically nobody in the industry has any “color.” it’s actually a pretty big health concern. Thanks for raising awareness of the issue

          1. ShanaC

            You are awesome! This is the correct way to answer trolling.

  15. Melissa Thelemaque

    Just stumbled upon this article about GeeksOnAPlane, and it mentions the Founders Visa.

  16. Adam Berkan

    The lack of a founders visa also keeps potential entrepreneurs working day jobs at big companies just to keep their immigration status.It’s kinda like staying at your job for health insurance. If the US could fix those two big walls, a lot more people would be willing to take the leap to entrepreneurship.

  17. Mihai Badoiu

    I believe visas for foreign students graduating from a US university who decide to stay in the US is a good idea.For many, the time to start a business is right after college, when you’re single and with very little responsibilities. This may prove very hard for foreign students, undergrad or grad, due to visa issues. Even after you get an h1b, you can’t have a start-up unless you prove it brings money (I believe you need to show that you employ 10 Americans or that you invested more than 1 million). This is just not the case in the early phases of high tech startups. Realistically you need a green card to take that step. In top schools, there are lots of foreign students. At MIT for example, the foreign student ratio is about 9-10% for undergrad and 40% for PhDs. Very few of these students manage to start a company after graduation, and visa status is part of the problem. After graduation, not all companies will allow them to apply for a green card soon, and they may get stuck for years. Friends from wall street and consulting companies that already worked for 4-5 years, are still under h1b. They have a deal, that when their company applies for a green card for them, they have to work for the same company for at least 2-3 years after they get it. With the delays that these companies add to the process on purpose, this locks my friends in their current jobs for at least 5 more years. Luckily in tech, there are companies that allow you to get a green card fast. Google is the best that I know of, and they will apply for you right after you join. (the whole process will take about 1 year on eb2) In Microsoft and Yahoo, you have to wait 6-12 months to apply. Apple sucks — they will never apply for you.It seems that US doesn’t do enough to take advantage of the talent coming out of their own universities. Things are much more complicated politically. At the end of the day, these people are in minority, and interests from others would be more visible, say for example, the Hispanic caucus who are incidentally blocking any immigration reform (such as increasing the h1b quota) unless it’s comprehensive reform (read amnesty). So, don’t expect much to be done on this front.PS I do have a green card. Thank you, Google. :)–mihai

  18. Pau Sabrià

    I am a Spanish student at Columbia, starting our own company with two more Spaniards and we are facing the consequences of the immigration policy in the US. Most of us will most likely end up in part-time employers just to be able to stay here and keep developing our start up at nights… it’s sad to be wasting our time like that…

  19. David Binetti

    You don’t need to be close to your legislators. Startupvisa is using to put weight behind the movement. Supporting (and opposing) opinions are tallied and sent to your specific representative. It’s particularly powerful if you’re a registered voter since that is included with your message. Sign it here: Takes less than a minute.

    1. fredwilson

      agreed. is terrific. but i think a phone call from each of us to our elected officials, particularly if they know us and have received contributions from us, will help

      1. David Binetti

        Can’t disagree! Of course, they aren’t mutually exclusive. Call it an “air game” (those who have existing relationships, in smaller numbers) and a “ground game” (those who do not have personal relationships, in larger numbers.) They complement each other quite well.

  20. Vidli

    Freddie Dub thanks for posting this – let me make this real simple for everyone else. Current immigration laws are like a frying pan to the head. I going out on a line here but I can because I’m a bird with blue feet. Crossing the boarder is way easier on foot these days…

  21. kidmercury

    well, you guys chose this. you deny 9/11 truth, and thus you must now accept airport security (aka transportation restrictions).only the truth can set you free.

  22. ShanaC

    I’m thinking about this while unpacking-A) The reverse is somewhat true as well. It’s difficult for Americans to go pick up and start companies elsewhere because of long term visa restrictions and immigration restrictions. I’m guessing that’s why local areas have the startup culture that they do.B) When we talk of immigration we should also remember we also talk about changing particular local cultures. People fear and dislike that. Too much freedom of movement I guess would cause a homogonizing effect on culture. Which is sort of boring…Do I really want to go see the same thing over and over again, all over the world? Not that I am saying we should not bring educated people who want to invest in the economy in the US, or visa versa, that’s how you build economies. But when you build an economy, you also build the culture of what goes in it, and sometimes I want to say “be careful for what you wish for, it might come a little too true.” It might be better to ask what makes for a good qualifier so that we can have broader gates that make more cultural sense.

    1. Mihai Badoiu

      Shana, this is a very interesting point you raise, and it goes beyond immigration policies. I view your comment as: Is it right that politicians judge their performance based solely on economic metrics?Obviously, we concentrated too much on improving economic metrics. This is true for most countries as well. However, other metrics are much harder to measure, in this country it runs the risk of being seen elitist. For example, the argument can be made that the money put into arts benefit mostly the rich and wealthy. This will not be popular with most people. Hence, no reason for politicians to ever mention this.–mihai

      1. ShanaC

        I think we are a little over-concentrated on economic metrics. it’s hard to say how though. They do give us a clear view on how much of something is happening-I’m always reminded that like most metrics they should be considered correlative, not causative.That creates problems- we want to think it’s a great way of judging the world, because they should be showing us value neutral facts. If they are correlative, we’re actually interpreting them with our jaundiced moral eyes. We want to see certain sorts of facts: and that brings in value and background issues. I’m fine with that, I just wish we were all more up front with them: It would give us a clearer picture of the absolute nos and yeses in society.A good example for me would be that we protect foods in different countries (including the US) via different laws. These kind of protections are always hot button issues because food is not only macro- and micro-nutrition, it also speaks a lot about meet and enjoy each others company. it also speaks about climate, etc. All sorts of issues come up with the act making a meal in different contexts. If we stated to begin with that we have xyz values about food, it would be a lot easier to make a legislative structure, or a corporate structure, to begin with, rather than trying to fit into too many boxes as we do now. (There is boxed organic mac and cheese in Whole Foods. Think on that. It says something about food in the US.)

  23. jeffreymcmanus

    This movement is not going to go anywhere as long as you keep calling it a “Startup Visa” and talking about how VC-funded startups should get the special exception. It just looks wrong, politically, and it’s going to make people think that you can buy a visa to get in to the US.How about calling it a Job Creation Visa and opening it up to any business owner who is directly responsible for creating a certain number of (US-based, full-time) jobs? Make the job-creation quota non-trivial (like 20 jobs) to prevent people from gaming the exception by hiring a masseuse and a butler.

    1. fredwilson

      it started as founders visa, the startup visa, maybe something else is better. clearly there is an “elitist backlash” from looking at this blog comments.

      1. Mihai Badoiu

        Yes, isn’t it funny how in this country in politics it’s better to look/sound “non-elitist.” I think this is part of the issue. Other countries like Canada judge potential immigrants on elitist values. They give points based on expected benefit/drag they can put on the country. (for education, age, etc) In US, it’s much easier to marry a US citizen (instant green card, and can divorce in 2 years), than h1b-green card route.–mihai

        1. ShanaC

          It’s part of the culture here, we want people to beleive that anyone can get ahead. It’s one of our founding myths. Whether that actually is true is a whole other story. It is something that is important to American Culture though- and it permeates the legal system as a result.

        2. jeffreymcmanus

          It’s not funny at all. Equality is right there on page one of the United States of America Software Development Kit.

          1. ShanaC

            Yet we didn’t directly elect our senators until 1913. Our founding fathers were not pro “mob rule” – they were a bit weird on the idea of equality- I think a lot of it is we were equal before the law.

          2. Dave Pinsen

            I don’t think the founders’ intent with having senators elected by state legislatures was to prevent “mob rule” but to preserve the power of the states relative to that of the federal government. After the direct election of senators, and the extension of the franchise to women, power has increasingly centralized in the federal government. The post World War II state of militarization has been a factor here too.

        3. Dave Pinsen

          Canada and Australia have immigration systems that make a lot more sense than ours. What drives our current immigration system isn’t really non-elitism though. In fact, the status quo is preferred mainly by elites in both major political parties.Republican elites like unskilled immigration because it lowers labor costs for Chamber of Commerce restaurateurs and other small businessmen who employ unskilled labor. Some Republicans (e.g., McCain, Bush) also harbor delusions that unskilled immigrants from Latin America are a natural GOP constituency for cultural reasons. These Republicans ignore copious empirical data which demonstrate that these immigrants and their descendants tend not to be net tax payers, and, consequently, are poor candidates for a party that ostensibly espouses entrepreneurship, small government, lower taxes, etc.Democratic elites like unskilled immigrants for a more clear-eyed reason: they realize that when these individuals become citizens, they will tend to be net recipients of government resources, and, consequently, likely to be a reliably Democratic constituency. Democrats have yet to explain how they can reconcile their preference for expanding the welfare state while importing more poor people who will be dependent on it and who will consume more resources than they contribute in taxes.

    2. ShanaC

      I second this.

    3. Dave Pinsen

      There already is a visa similar to what you describe, the little-used EB-5 Visa, which requires the creation of 10 jobs. It should be politically feasible to expand these sorts of visas, and authorize the start-up visas Fred describes, if advocates support a comprehensive immigration policy that acknowledges and addresses the challenges of globalization to the non-rich.Specifically, a common sense immigration policy would restrict the immigration of unskilled workers, who consume more in government resources than they pay in taxes, and instead select for immigrants with higher levels of human capital. While unemployment is high, as it is now, immigration should perhaps be further limited to foreign entrepreneurs who have the capital and intent to start businesses here and create jobs for American workers. If our medical licensing regulations could be changed so that qualified foreign physicians would no longer have to repeat their entire residencies here, then perhaps we could import more foreign physicians too, which should help control health care costs.I elaborated on some of these points on my blog a few months ago, in this post: Lesson’s from the European Parliament Elections

      1. jeffreymcmanus

        So why is the EB-5 visa little used? Seems like this completely solves the problem we’re discussing.Unless VCs backing international entrepreneurs are trying to buy visas with less than $1M investments, in which case we’re really just haggling over price.

        1. Dave Pinsen

          That’s a good question. I don’t know the answer to it. Maybe Fred can have his attorneys look into it, at least to see if it can be used to fulfill his portfolio companies’ needs.

          1. fredwilson

            we are working on it

  24. Mihai Badoiu
  25. Jason Crawford

    I support the Startup Visa (and I’ve shown my support through @2gov). I think our immigration restrictions are arbitrary, and anyone should be able to enter this country (assuming you’re willing to pay your own way, and most immigrants are).In that context, I don’t think this is “elitist” at all. It’s one small step towards more freedom for everyone. And giving that freedom to a few people doesn’t hurt or take anything away from anyone else.I just think it’s sad that in today’s political scene, you can’t justify freedom of immigration based on individual rights. Programs like this are usually justified based on a notion of collective good. So the guy who can start a company might get a visa, but the guy who just wants to work a job and provide for himself and his family can’t.

  26. Jim

    Today’s is a bad post. I find it offensive when you say – “Visas for founders and key team members of startups that are least partially based in the US, particularly if they have been well financed by angels and VCs.”You are implying that VC’s and funding are what makes a company worthwhile – I think you’re forgetting that this world and especially this country is what it is today because of entrepreneurs and not because of financiers.In case you haven’t seen it, there’s more on this topic –…Maybe I’m in a bad mood today but the title and ideas in your post asked for this.

    1. fredwilson

      Ideally you’d not have any criteria for a founders visa other than being a founder. But then opponents will say that anyone can get into our country by claiming to be a founder. So you need some requirement. Obtaining investment capital is one way to do that. Its not the only way. Instead of getting cranky maybe it would be better to discuss alternative ideas for that requirement

  27. Carl Rahn Griffith

    Don’t even start me on it. Personal experiences discussed in past topics here.Great initiative!

  28. Farhan Lalji

    While I totally agree with the founders visa movement and as an aspiring entrepreneur I really hope it happens, I’d be in NYC tomorrow if this was available.However, I do think founders need to get on with it, create business and venture capital will happen. The fact that Fred has invested in Zemanta shows that the capital will go where the businesses are. Sure it would make things easier to have the founders visa sorted, but would also be great to invest in video conferencing and get around borders. Personally I think the more cross border investment there is the better.

  29. jengroff

    Couldn’t agree more. Our H1-B policy is idiotic.

  30. Guest

    Sounds diametrically opposed to Sect’y of Commerce Locke’s first public announcement to Becky Quick this morning on CNBC concerning a new agency. A Department of Entrepreneurship with the ability to cut through the bureaucratic and financial red tape that has inhibited great ideas from making it off the ground in this country was platformed. Mention of the talks as well as the continuing search for VC’s and private equity firms/individuals in this country to be part of the program was a strong part of the message. Significant correlations in several aspects?

  31. peterwguy

    It’s a great idea in theory, but because it is focused on founders it’s flawed. I am a Canadian based in NYC helping to build another start-up (7th of my career). However because I’m not strictly the founder, the “Startup Visas” movement would actually keep out in favor of someone selling lipstick online.

    1. fredwilson

      I hear you on this point. What kind of visa do you have right now?

      1. Edward Walters

        Under the current system, dependent specialized workers, are also permitted to enter under the E2. Again, the disadvantage is that it can be difficult to adjust status to that of a green card and not all countries are signatory to the treaty.

      2. peterwguy

        Fortunately the nature of my work allows me to be here on a NAFTA visa, though that will not be forever and I will need so seek alternatives.

  32. MikeK

    Startups are not a monopoly of the US. This gentleman can get his web company up and running without having to be in the US. Fred, I think that you need to take the emotional part out.

    1. fredwilson

      His company is up and operating outside of the US. He has ten developers working in his home country. But his customers are in the US

      1. MikeK

        So he really doesn’t have to be in the US personally full time.

        1. fredwilson

          No. But he needs to be able to travel back and forth often and the company has done much better when he is here

          1. Pat

            Let me see. All the work is going overseas. No U.S. jobs. And this guy should get a special visa just for him because…..?Sorry this just infuriates me. Fix the H1B visa so that it is not tied to a specific company. That will solve more problems than this stovepipe solution.

          2. fredwilson

            Because his company is creating jobs in the US. Got a problem with that?

          3. Pat

            Hmm — you said “His company is up and operating outside of the US. He has ten developers working in his home country.”Is he now moving his company to the U.S.? If yes, then great. If he is NOT moving the company to the U.S. and hiring people already here ( no citizenship requirement ) then the argument about U.S. jobs is ethereal.Any arguments about “trickle-down jobs” is bogus as NAFTA and many other “free” trade agreements have demonstrated.Right now all you have said is that “But his customers are in the US”. If this is the case he should just apply for an E-1 ( http://immigration.lawyers…. )

          4. MikeK

            Pat — you are so right on.

          5. fredwilson

            He is hiring in both places which what great companies do these days. A national border is irrelevant to a great company. Do you think google cares where the brilliant engineer lives and wants to work? Hell noBut the fact that they hire him or her in romania means they hire more sales and customer service people in NYCHolding onto your slice of the pie never works. Grow the pie is the only sustainable way forward

  33. John Boddie

    Singapore has tackled this problem through a specialty visa called an Entrepass (ie. Entrepreneur Pass). They have modified the terms of the pass over the last year based on first round results. An overview of the pass system is available via the Singapore Ministry of Manpower at (shortened) Despite administrative differences with the US, Singapore’s experience might offer pointers for implementation and pitfalls.

  34. Edward Walters

    As a business immigration attorney, I have done my fair share of EB5s and it’s non-immigrant cousin, the E2 visa. The reason they are not widely used is due to the extreme cost and complexity of the visa. Our submissions are typically well over 4 inches and there is a high likelihood of receiving a Request for Evidence invariably asking for information that was already provided for. We typically instruct our clients to utilize a pilot program for EB5 if they can swing it financially. If not, the visa is roughly 75% business/corporate law and 25% immigration. Unfortunately, there are not many attorneys who have expertise in both areas. I was fortunate enough to be in a firm that had this exact mix and was exposed to them. Had I not I would not have touched them with a ten foot pole. The E2 investment visas on the other hand are far simpler. We often do them for capital investment of $50,000 with $50k+ on a promissory note without difficulty. E2s are a creature of Treaty and so there are many countries that are conspicuously absent (i.e. India). However, if one is in an E2 country, they are a very useful vehicle, not subject to caps such as the H1B (although for FY2010, that does not seem to be a problem). They also do not have a restriction on the total number of years one can be on the visa unlike the H. Lastly, there is no requirement that the applicant have specialized knowledge. All it takes is vision articulated in the form of a fairly comprehensive business plan with 5 year proformas. If you are ever interested, I can point you to the national experts on the EB5 with respect to policy. I encourage your discussion as our clients now employ thousands in the US; all based on entrepreneurial spirit.

    1. fredwilson

      This is a great comment. I hope the people working on this consult with immigration attorneys since you are on the front lines

    2. bfeld

      Edward – thanks for the info on E2. I’ve explored this some and my understanding is that the E2 is a classic case of a “bought” visa – the visa is for the investor that controls the company they are establishing. If my understanding of this is wrong, please tell me.The idea of modifying the E2 instead of the EB5 is a good one – I’ll add that to the list to consider.I’d be happy to have you involved in the StartupVisa effort along with any links to national experts on policy you think we should be talking to. We do have strong immigration attorney’s involved in the effort at this point but are open to more.

  35. derrinyet

    Definitely see why you support the founders/startup visa specifically, but if you’re fighting this battle you may as well fight the larger war for more open immigration policies.My parents got into the US because it was a political win for the US to have people from (then-Communist) Eastern Europe coming to this country. They didn’t start a business right away, but within a couple of years they had one going that employed 20-50 people for a decade. A startup visa wouldn’t have worked for them, but a (politically neutral) immigration policy that recognized the value of hard-working decent people no matter where they were from would have.

    1. fredwilson

      I agree. I’d like to see us open this country way up. But that is a much bigger fight that will take years to bear fruit (if it ever does)

  36. Vidli

    Hey Fred,Great post ya got here…We created a comedy and rundown about the Startup Visa called Lord of the Visa.Lord of the Rings geeks please stand up.Got you and Brad down as some of the good guys helping out us Hobbits.…Enjoy…