Editor’s note: Max Levchin is the CEO of Affirm, co-founder of PayPal, Chairman of Yelp & Glow, and Director at Yahoo and Evernote.
We often hear that America is a nation of immigrants, but some members of Congress have forgotten the simple truth – immigration is our country’s single greatest competitive advantage in a growing global economy.
The primary driver of the U.S.’s position as the worldwide leader in innovation and entrepreneurship is due to tireless, talented, hardworking immigrants coming to our shores over the years to live their dreams and build better lives for themselves and their families. I know it, because I’ve lived it. But I worry that our current broken immigration policies are hindering America’s chances of success for future generations.
We are at a critical juncture of our country’s future. The opening of the high-skilled H-1B visa lottery each year on April 1 is an acute reminder that we often fail to ensure that talented immigrants are able to create jobs and build their businesses here. We hurt our own success.
When I immigrated to the United States in 1991, I held the same aspirations as many young people across the country: I wanted to go to college, start a successful company, and create jobs for others. I worked incredibly hard, and I was fortunate enough to fulfill those aspirations. Other talented immigrants who come to the U.S. want the same thing — to have a shot at the American dream.
Unfortunately, many immigrants are not granted the same opportunity I was. It can be a daunting and expensive task to extend a visa, and the process is frequently so difficult that many don’t even try. Even for those who are allowed to stay and work here, something as minor as misplaced paperwork can result in deportation – a nightmare that has become a crushing reality for several of my employees.
The H-1B visa lottery leaves to chance what we should want to guarantee for our economy: that the best and the brightest innovators contribute to our country’s success, instead of being forced out and likely given little choice but to go create jobs for our global competitors. At nearly every company I’ve been a part of, there has been at least one heartbreaking story of a hardworking immigrant being sent back to his or her home country.
There is overwhelming consensus on the positive economic benefits that immigration reform will provide to the U.S. economy: over 3 million jobs could be created in the U.S. and $330 billion added to the economy in the next 10 years if Congress passed reform legislation.
Right now in the U.S. Senate, there is a bipartisan jobs bill – the Immigration Innovation (or “I-Squared”) Act – that would increase the outdated cap on the number of H-1B visas granted each year to talented, highly skilled immigrants looking to grow their businesses here and create American jobs, and it would help companies to hire these skilled workers, too – providing a ripple effect of additional economic benefits and job creation for local communities.
I hope other members of the tech community across the country will join me in calling on our elected representatives to support this common-sense legislation, because our competitors aren’t waiting on the U.S. to fix our broken immigration system – they recognize this weakness, and already use it to their own advantage to build immigrant-friendly policies while we waste time and lose out on jobs. That’s why I joined FWD.us: to work toward a legislative solution that fixes our badly broken system.
I owe everything to this country. I want others to dream big, come here to start their businesses, and create American jobs. Increasing the arbitrary and outdated H-1B cap will help to ensure that talented immigrants have the opportunity to grow our economy here at home, and that the best and the brightest put their talents to work in the U.S., which will be absolutely critical to ensuring our continued global economic success.