Study: Immigrants Founded 51% of U.S. Billion-Dollar Startups

A new non-partisan 2016 study on entrepreneurship supports the belief that America benefits from robust immigration.

The study, from the National Foundation for American Policy, a non-partisan think tank based in Arlington, Va., was reported in the Wall Street Journal on March 17.  It shows that immigrants started more than half of the current crop of U.S.-based startups valued at $1 billion or more.

These 44 companies, the study says, are collectively valued at $168 billion and create an average of roughly 760 jobs per company in the U.S. The study also estimates that immigrants make up over 70% of key management or product development positions at these companies.

The three highest valued U.S. companies with immigrant founders include car-hailing service Uber Technologies Inc., data-software company Palantir Technologies Inc. and rocket maker Space Exploration Technologies Inc.

Stuart Anderson, the study’s author and the foundation’s executive director, says the findings show that the U.S. economy could benefit from the talents of foreign-born entrepreneurs even more if it were easier for them to obtain visas.

The process to secure a visa is lengthy and cumbersome. The visas are capped at 85,000 per year.  In 2015, the lotter to obtain a visa hit capacity within one week, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The USCIS said it received nearly 23,000 H-1B petitions during the filing period.

While bills to address these issues have been introduced, they have failed to gain traction due to the overall standstill on immigration policy.

According to the study, founders of billion-dollar startups most often hail from India (14), followed by Canada and the U.K., with eight each, then Israel (7), Germany (4) and France (2).  Two brothers, the co-founders of payments startup Stripe, are from Ireland.