PayPal co-founder: America should support immigrant entrepreneurs, not kick them out

Immigrant-owned countries like PayPal create American jobs.
Immigrant-owned countries like PayPal create American jobs.
Image: Reuters/Beck Diefenbach
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Immigrant Heritage Month, a time for Americans to reflect on our common immigrant roots and to recognize the many contributions immigrants make to our daily lives, is drawing to a close. As an immigrant myself, I understand hard work and passion immigrants bring to our country. I also believe that they bring much more: talent, creativity, entrepreneurship.

Unfortunately, at a time when we should be celebrating the positive impacts of immigration, multiple reports have indicated that the Department of Homeland Security plans to shut down a policy aimed at making it easier for international entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses in the United States.

The International Entrepreneur Rule, a policy championed by the tech industry to make it easier for the world’s best and brightest entrepreneurs to start their own businesses in the United States, would create more jobs for Americans, and ensure our country remains competitive in the global economy. Current law often leaves entrepreneurs from around the world with no option to start their companies in the United States. The International Entrepreneur Rule would provide an opportunity for these talented entrepreneurs to stay in the United States, as long as they can demonstrate how their startup will provide significant public benefit to the American economy–through jobs, revenue, or investment.

Efforts to roll back a policy with clear bipartisan support that represents such a pure value-add to our country make no logical sense. This is the wrong approach—and after nearly three years of thoughtful input from entrepreneurs, elected officials on both sides of the aisle, and other stakeholders, we shouldn’t have to wait another year to make it easier to create jobs here in the US.

The rule does not just benefit Silicon Valley. It will promote ideas and create jobs in communities all across the country–in Wisconsin, in North Carolina, in Pennsylvania. If we want America to succeed, our immigration policies must be designed to welcome entrepreneurs rather than turn them away.

I immigrated to the United States from the Soviet Union when I was 16 years old. I studied hard, took risks, and by the time I had graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, I had already started four different companies. In 2002, I co-founded PayPal, which today employs over 15,000 people. In 2004, I helped start Yelp as its first investor and chairman, which employs nearly 5,000 people. I also founded HVF, an innovation and investment laboratory; Glow, the leading women’s sexual health and fertility app; SciFi VC, where we have invested in more than 100 early stage startups; and Affirm, a financial services technology company where I am now the CEO.

My story demonstrates what the United States gains when it nurtures immigrant entrepreneurs like me. Immigrants are natural entrepreneurs, so it should be no surprise that over 40% of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or the children of immigrants. And over 50% of billion-dollar startups were founded by immigrants.

If the Department of Homeland Security rolls back the International Entrepreneur Rule, they are telling thousands of foreign entrepreneurs to start their companies abroad, to create jobs abroad, to pay taxes abroad, and to invest abroad. They are telling entrepreneurs, who would otherwise gladly start and scale their businesses here, to compete with us abroad.

Of course, the Administration’s plan to rescind the rule is still a rumor. The rule is supposed to go into effect on July 17–less than a month away. But we should not have to wait any longer to create tens of thousands of American jobs. I urge the Department of Homeland Security to  implement the rule, and unleash the potential of international entrepreneurs. We cannot afford for the United States to lose its place as the top destination for the world’s most talented minds. If the administration is serious about strengthening the American economy and promoting job creation here at home, then they must implement the International Entrepreneur Rule.