Why Canada is beating the U.S. in startup visas
    January 25, 2013


    I read the announcement today that Canada has just launched a . By doing so, they are saying to the world, “Welcome, immigrant — please come start in Canada.”

    It’s brilliant, well executed, and modeled after the startup visa movement that a number of us have been since 2009.

    I continue to be really discouraged by the U.S. government activity around the startup visa movement, and more specifically around immigration reform as it applies to entrepreneurs. After trying for the past three years to get something passed, nothing has happened beyond administrative changes to the existing laws.

    While in some cases this has improved the interpretation of the rules, we are still totally missing the boat here in the States. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) continue to implement the rules inconsistently, resulting in regular outrageous situations including tossing entrepreneurs with existing valid visas in jail when they enter the U.S. and banning other entrepreneurs from coming into the country as a result of misinterpretation by CBP of how things should work.

    I hear at least one horrifying story a week, try to help when I can, but mostly am just embarrassed and ashamed of our U.S. policies around this.

    While Canada is plowing forward, making it easy for immigrant entrepreneurs to move to Canada and start companies, the U.S. efforts are now entirely focused on “comprehensive immigration reform.” The first bills for this are supposed to start appearing in a few months, and I expect we’ll see similar dynamics that we saw around Obamacare: Endless political machinations, an ever expanding set of bills that cover all kinds of things in addition to immigration reform, and a complex set of tradeoffs with unintended consequences that no one can understand.

    On top of this, I’ve heard from a number of political insider friends that “the vote math doesn’t work.” I’ve learned this means it is an incredible uphill battle to get anything passed, and the compromise that is going to happen to get certain people in Congress to support the bills means that the “tradeoffs and compromises” (which the more cynical among us — including me — means “the political bribes they need to agree to vote a certain way”) are going to be extensive.

    In the mean time, Canada is shouting from the rooftops about the benefits of the startup visa program.

    • The startup visa program will enable immigrant entrepreneurs to launch innovative companies that will create jobs in Canada, and eventually, compete globally.
    • The program will provide entrepreneurs with valuable assistance in navigating the Canadian business environment which can sometimes prove challenging for newcomers.
    • The program will provide private sector firms with access to a broader range of entrepreneurs, including the best and the brightest minds from around the world.

    Since I believe entrepreneurs should be able to start their companies anywhere in the world they’d like, I applaud the Canadian government for taking action here. And I encourage any immigrant entrepreneur considering moving to the U.S. to also consider moving to Canada given this new program.

    To our friends in Washington, DC: Pay attention. We continue to be less competitive because of our intransigence around immigration, especially with regard to being entrepreneurs. Canada is showing real leadership. Why not just emulate them?



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