Y Combinator Renews Calls For “Founders Visas”

Y Combinator’s new head macher has taken to the blogosphere to renew a call made roughly five years ago for the U.S. to create a “founders visa.”

Initially proposed by Paul Graham (Y Combinator’s original honcho) as a way to bring 10,000 new entrepreneurs to U.S. shores, Sam Altman is proposing a more modest 100 visas to be granted to Y Combinator to select founders that would be eligible to launch startup companies in the States.

Altman writes:

We’ll continue to take applications for funding from around the world, and work with whatever process you’d like—we just need to be able to get the founders visas quickly (None of the current paths works well enough for this, but a slight reworking of the O1 visa around criteria and timing could be sufficient.). If the test works with us, you could expand it to other investment firms. We’re happy to be the beta tester, and we’re confident we’ll prove that it’s a good idea.

Altman told me that this founders visa got tangled up with the broader number of immigration reform issues. “Where I would like to see us get is to broad-based immigration reform where anyone who wants to work in the U.S. can work in the U.S.,” he added.

But he said he would rather the government take a lesson from startups and get there one step at a time through incrementally easing the restrictions on immigration

For Altman, the road to a broader liberalization of immigration policies is through “leveraging the highest-value pieces,” and a government embrace of the international entrepreneurs who want to create jobs in the U.S.

Y Combinator already accepts a number of international startups to its accelerator program. The most recent batch of Y Combinator startups had over 20 companies from overseas in its crop.

But as Altman notes in his post, if the skills required to be a great entrepreneur are evenly distributed around the world, then the U.S. is home to less than 5 percent of he world’s best founders. Why not allow more to come in? And the 100 visas could yield several successful startups based in the U.S.

“50 new startups a year could be a huge deal. Many will fail, of course, but one could be the next Google, Facebook, Airbnb, or Dropbox,” Altman writes. “Though this is almost an immeasurably small number of visas, it could have a measurably large effect on the number of jobs created in the United States.”

Photo via Flickr user DaveBleasdale