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Study: Immigrants Founded 51% of U.S. Billion-Dollar Startups (wsj.com)
462 points by mavelikara on March 18, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 226 comments

In a slightly older thread concerning this topic, at https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11306290 I made some objections to this analysis.

I think there's a fundamental problem in how to interpret this analysis. It says that a company is founded by an immigrant if there is at least one immigrant founder. This means that if 1 of 10 founders is foreign born, then it classified as immigrant founded. An aggregate calculation like this is very likely to give a number which is higher than the more important number, the over- or under- representation of immigrant founders relative to the immigrant population.

For example, if every company has 10 founders, and every company has 1 immigrant founder, then by the given definition, 100% of the companies would be founded by an immigrant. However, only 10% of the founder population would be an immigrant. As immigrants make up about 13% of the US population, this would mean that immigrants would be proportionally less likely to be founders of $1B valuated startups than non-immigrants.

Curiously, and I believe significantly, the study does not give this population information, and it makes it difficult to determine that ratio.

I did not find an explicit count of the number of immigrant founders. Table 4 has a list of all of the name, and Table 3 has a count of immigrants from a given country, so it's possible to figure this out. I am perturbed that the first contains 60 people and the second 61. Perhaps I have miscounted, but I believe there is an error in the report. (I double checked the report by searching for "60" or "61", but found no explicit total of the number of immigrant founders.)

I did not find an explicit count of the total number of founders, which means I have to compute that myself from the list of companies. I did not find an explicit list of companies, which means I have to go to the original WSJ data source.

Which I did, though my count was off by one from the report's count. It would have been much better if the report included the explicit list of companies and founder counts.

I took the current WSJ list of 106 companies and picked a few in the top, middle, and bottom range. (Statistical sampling would have been better, I know.) I found founder counts of 65 of them before tedium kicked in. I found 161 founders.

This gives an estimated total founder size of 161/65x87 = 215.5, and implies that about 60/215.5 = 28% of founders are immigrants.

This number, while twice as large as expected from the general immigrant population of the US, is also around half of the eye-catching 51%.

The next step would be to do a sensitivity analysis to give an idea of error bars. I do not know anything beyond basic statistics, but will point out that 60 is a very small number compared to the number of foreign visa, and hardly representative.

Speaking of statistics, while 28% is twice as large as 13%, there's likely also a form of p-hacking, or "garden of forking paths" going on. With enough sampling, you will be able to find very unrepresentative subgroups in your data. Why was this population of $1B startups chosen? Do the results change with $2B? Do they change for companies that go public?

For a more specific example, last year there was an analysis going around which pointed out that "Most high tech companies are founded by founded by First/2nd gen immigrants". This is definitely in the same vein, though with different measures. See https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9085970 for my observation that this is almost exactly what you would expect given the immigrant population in the US.

Since I can point to two reports related to the topic, how many more negative and thus unpublished correlations are there?

Finally, the report includes the suggestion that diversity among the founders helps improve the success of the company. If that were the case, then should we not exclude companies where the all founders are from the same foreign country, as in Nutanix where all three founders are from India?

I'm jaded. But stories like this are planned to divert to things like what IBM are doing or job shops like Tata,etc.

"Oh look at what immigrants are contributing in entrepreneurial sense, but ignore how big companies are moving jobs overseas."

IBM and Disney, iconic US brands are at the for front of outsourcing local jobs using H1B scabs as the route.

Well, there are two groups of companies. Companies that can't find the talent that they need in this country, and companies trying to save money.

There definitely is a STEM shortage, and you are being really dishonest if you say there isn't. Ask any hiring manager at a tech company. Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and many, many other companies do not underpay or maltreat their visa-holding employees in any way. It is primarily this class of companies that are asking for an expansion in the number of visas.

Several bills have been introduced in Congress that would have (further) restricted the ability of the less-nice companies to underpay immigrants or displace native-born workers. For example, S.744 from the 113th Congress.

It is wrong to paint all companies with the same brush.

No, there is not a STEM shortage because "STEM" is a nonsense term. The companies you mentioned don't want to hire anthropologists, general relativity theorists, large animal biologists, nuclear power engineers, differential geometry experts, meteorologists, pharmaceutical chemists, or most of the other diverse fields in STEM.

No, the shortage is only in from a much smaller subset of primarily programming related skills.

If there were a real shortage, FB and others would start their own training program, give people scholarships to attend for a year and get up to speed, then hire the best candidates from that pool. We are nowhere near there because it's cheaper to get people to pay for their own education (or get the government to pay for it), and hire from that.

Historical, that's similar to what happened when there were real labor shortages. After all, it's not like all the women welders during WWII came in knowing how to weld.

> No, the shortage is only in from a much smaller subset of primarily programming related skills.

Heh? Have you tried hiring quants, materials scientists, fluid mechanics experts, RF engineers, supply chain experts, etc.? I have, and know friends who have been on both sides of the job hunt in these areas. It is often quite likely that you can only find international people for a job opening. Then, given how shitty H1B and green card systems are, you come up against the same problem: you invest tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on the person and put yourself at the mercy of an arbitrary visa.

Given any specialized skill with enough demand in the job market, there will likely be shortages because there are so few specialists. Also, if 10 people apply for a job, you interview 3 of them, 1 of them is an international and that international performs better than the other 2, as a company looking for talent, wouldn't you want to necessarily hire the best candidate? The immigration system is full of unfair and arbitrary roadblocks to hiring international candidates for legitimate jobs, while enabling semi-legitimate gaming of the system by mass-recruiters such as Indian software services companies.

The market is not as elastic as you think as say, for a commodity like steel, to talk so naively and inexactly about supply, demand, and shortage. Supply-demand-shortage dynamics is more like specialized drugs, luxury items, and so on: where you have very specific needs on the demand side (i.e., hiring companies) and very specific issues affecting the supply side (candidates with specialized training and skills)

Do you think that "STEM" is a meaningful term for setting national policy? I don't. Rather, I don't see it as any more useful than saying there's a "PhD shortage."

It can take a while to hire someone for a history department position. If a department wants to hire someone with expertise in, say, Bhutan history during Jigme Dorji, and it takes two years to fill that position, and the best candidate is from Argentina, would you say there is a general shortage of history majors and we need to change immigration policy because of it?

No, I don't think you would, because you realize that "Given any specialized skill with enough demand in the job market, there will likely be shortages because there are so few specialists".

"The immigration system is full of unfair and arbitrary roadblocks"

Totally agree. But I still say that "STEM" is a nonsense term which should not drive the change to that policy.

What's worse is that "STEM" means two different things. I think you'll agree that a paleontologist who studies whale evolution is solidly part of the "S" in STEM. There's one group of people who look at STEM broadly, as a way to encourage others to enter a complex and challenging field. They might say, "you should study whale evolution because STEM is important." This comes out the liberal arts and humanist tradition. I am more a member of this group, except I don't limit myself to STEM appreciation.

There's another group which sees STEM more in terms of the subset that can be applied to business problems, like quant, materials science, and fluid mechanics, and be very confused about why someone would want to travel to India to dig up whale fossils, much less why the government should pay for it.

I believe most policy makers are in the latter group, and more concerned about STEM helps business. This leaves out most of the "S" fields in STEM, and likely most of the "M" fields.

The idea that good programmers are as easily trainable as good welders is ridiculous. If that were the case, we wouldn't have a shortage.

My company actually does try to train people. We hire people who come out of coding camps like General Assembly -- and we actually pay these camps when we hire them. Students attend these camps for free.

After that, we pair program with them, and painstakingly explain various concepts to them. We hold them by the hand, and literally teach them. I found it amazing that my company had to do this, and shocking that they literally could not find good developers. My company is just looking for developers that can get shit done. We are not looking for rock stars, or master algorithm puzzle solvers. Just people who can build decent, functioning non-broken software.

FYI, I graduated very recently with a B.S. in Computer Science, and my total comp (incl. bonuses) is slightly over $150,000. And, at my company, the typical workday is from 10 am to 6 pm. I am not over-worked, or under-paid.

It is clear that you've neither been in a position of hiring developers, nor have an idea of what good programming skill is.

That explains why you have so little knowledge of labor history that you don't know what a "scab", is nor know of the strikes by people in a STEM field. You have neither the training nor the experience.

What you might take from that is that, while you are neither "over-worked, or under-paid", you are under-educated about history, and more specifically labor history.

Your last line continues your tiring practice of name calling. Please stop.

> practice of name calling

There is a time and place for everything. When a person makes remarks that are beyond a shadow of doubt hateful and xenophobic, naming those things (specifically) and calling them out is absolutely the right thing to do.

It would be morally wrong, cowardly, and reprehensibly politically correct not to do so.

Jesus said to the Pharisees: "You snakes, you brood of vipers, how will you escape being condemned to hell?"

So, no, I absolutely will not stop speaking the truth, and naming and calling out evil when I see it.

I have experienced an incredible amount of hate here. You hate me and despise me because I immigrated to this country (that too, legally). Your hatred and your contempt is based solely on the fact that I wasn't born here.

You believe that I deserve a lesser shot at life, and fewer rights and freedoms than you have, simply because I wasn't born here.

That is a disgusting, contemptible, elitist, and entitled set of beliefs. Especially considering that the families of most people in this country immigrated in the last few hundred years.

You and your ilk are a shame and a disgrace to this country, like the KKK. You do not embody the American spirit. Nor do you understand the values and principles this country was founded on. Specifically, you and your ilk embody the spirit of Andrew Jackson, and not that of Abraham Lincoln.

And what of your professed morality gives you the right to say that I don't "have an idea of what good programming skill is"? What evidence justifies that name calling? Or do you justify it because you have concluded I am the despised Enemy who deserves no better?

It's easy to dress yourself in the clothes of righteousness. The feeling of moral outrage is powerful. But your call to "ich kann nicht anders", used so profoundly by Martin Luther King Jr. while in the Birmingham jail, no more justifies your conclusion than it might justify King's namesakes' 'Von den Juden und ihren Lügen'.

I tell you again I AM AN IMMIGRANT. MY FATHER WAS AN IMMIGRANT. Your shots are clearly wild and disconnected from reality. You appear to believe that anyone who disagrees with you in the slightest is "beyond a shadow of doubt hateful and xenophobic".

Isn't life so clear when you live in a absolutist world of black&white world, and work on the side of Jesus? Too bad for you that that's not the real world. Nor is it world I aspire towards. I don't want to be subject to the whims of people who ignore evidence counter to their conclusions.

How is labor history relevant here?

I'm talking about the developer shortage I've witnessed and dealt with myself first-hand, and heard about from many people.

You haven't said a word about the shortage, instead you resort to ad hominem attacks criticizing me of not being "educated in history".

Paul Graham, Sam Altman, and many other respected figures in industry have said many of the same things I have. You also clearly hold a deep belief in the lump of labor fallacy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lump_of_labour_fallacy

This just goes to shows that your "no shortage" argument is a pure fiction that you obstinately refuse to let go, even when confronted with reality.

"How is labor history relevant here?"

It isn't relevant here per se. It's a merger with a cousin thread where you did not know what "scab" meant and didn't know about any STEM-related strikes, when I had heard of some, and was quickly able to find several such examples.

"haven't said a word about the shortage"

Do try to read what I wrote rather than what you think I didn't write. In the g'g'parent comment to this one I said that STEM is a meaningless term, and that "the shortage is only in from a much smaller subset of primarily programming related skills." - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11311160 . I explicitly acknowledge that developer shortage is meaningful, even though I reject that STEM shortage is meaningful.

"ad hominem attacks"

Says the person who claims that I do not "have an idea of what good programming skill is".

Says the person who claims that ones_and_zeros is advocating a "very nativist, xenophobic, extremely right-wing and anti-progressive" view.

The Wikipedia entry for 'ad hominem' points out "Ad hominem reasoning is not always fallacious, for example, when it relates to the credibility of statements of fact." Let's go back to your statement "I've never heard of strikes occurring in STEM fields." If you had deep knowledge on the topic then that would be meaningful. If you had shallow knowledge then it carries little weight. In that thread I pointed out your apparent lack of knowledge. Now I pointed out the reason for it. This means I know to attach less weight to future statements you make. My attempt to assess your credibility is one of the non-fallacious uses of ad hominem reasoning.

"lump of labor fallacy"

Interesting. I'm saying that STEM is a meaningless term because it lumps people together too much. Where is the increased financial and political support for evolutionary linguistics, urban anthropology, and palynology, which are all part of the "S" in STEM? Since by my reading, most people at the policy level equate "STEM" fields with the subset of science, technology, engineering and math that helps solve more business-oriented problems.

How you turn that into a belief that I believe in a fixed lump of labor is beyond me.

It is clear that you've never been through an entire market cycle.

The need for software doesn't vanish during the low point of a cycle.

The dot com bubble primarily wiped out companies with vacuous valuations.

Companies that generate useful value will continue to do live.

The best developers keep their jobs through the market cycles.

There is not a STEM shortage according to many academics who study the issue and scientific research.

What you are claiming is a shortage is a lot like me claiming there is a shortage of Mercedes vehicles because I can't afford the ones on the market.

Supply will meet demand and I wish employers were encouraged to train already well educated people that are in this country already than lobby for the expansion of immigration, because to me the expansion of immigration just really looks like employers not willing to pay market rates.

There is also no anthropogenic climate change according to the scientists that many GOP congressmen love to cite.

There are an overwhelming number of organizations, companies, universities, and other institutions that have talked about the benefits of a less restrictive immigration system. You willfully chose to ignore all of them, and pick the ones that fit your false, preconceived, prejudiced beliefs.

Do you realize that what people like you are advocating is exclusion and severe restriction of immigration? It's very nativist, xenophobic, extremely right-wing and anti-progressive. Most of your ancestors would not have made it into the United States under the current system.

I've commented in more detail about this here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11312557

Whoa easy with the name calling.

I'd personally love a less restrictive immigration system. But OPT and H1B are very restrictive and benefit employers much more than they benefit society. The government and those that control the immigration system serves the people and I think they sometimes forget that and come up with policies that are very beneficial to employers at the expense of the middle class. I think this is part of a major systemic issue that is leading to the squeeze on the middle class.

One of these days I'm going to write that blog titled something like "How to take a position against current immigration policies and not be called a xenophobe".

Even with all their flaws, these visas are extremely beneficial to the immigrants themselves, above anyone else. The rare and lucky opportunity to build a life in the United States and become a citizen of the United States is priceless, and just a dream from most.

This dream is out of reach for most people who would like to come here, and the few that do make it here use one of these visas. That is why people like me freak out when people on HN (and elsewhere) rail against these visas. If these visas were harder to get (than they already are), most of us (including me) wouldn't be here -- or worse, the ones of us already here would get deported.

There are two groups of people:

(1) those that call for a better system where companies cannot displace native-born workers, where the visa holders cannot be exploited, and have more freedom and an easier route to a green card

(2) people that call for a shutdown or massive reduction of all immigration, both legal and illegal; people that say there is no labor shortage whatsoever, so we shouldn't let anyone in

It is the second group that worries me.

Most Democratic lawmakers, and at least a third (to half) of the republican lawmakers take the earlier (1) view. They make me happy. E.g. Chuck Schumer.

It is just that there are a few lone voices in the mainstream media who hold on to the (2) view. Like the Tea Party. Their reasons have less to with jobs and wages, and much more to do with "preserving American culture and values".

What is shocking and sad is that I find many here on Hacker News, a place I expect to be fairly progressive, holding the same extreme anti-immigration views as the far-right.

You are not entitled to come to the US and work no matter how much you dream of it according to US law. You are young, make average $$ (and yes, at 150k total comp you are underpaid for a software developer in relation to the value you create), and you don't have skills that don't already exist within our borders or that can't be taught. I'm not too concerned about you not being here because you are actually displacing the best and brightest that I'd rather have immigrate here. The spirit of the H-1B program when it was introduced was to import the truly talented, not your average software developer with a bachelors degree. Over time the law has been bent and rewritten and abused by our industry to cut costs for the benefit of share holders and executives.

I've never come across such a hate and spite-filled reply before.

Like every other anti-immigrant person on HN, you stubbornly insist on believing in lies:

> But OPT and H1B are very restrictive and benefit employers

Have you ever been on OPT or an H-1B? I don't find either one restrictive. They restrict you to jobs related to your major, but they both allow you to change jobs freely. I can get any tech job I want, because practically every company is willing to do an H-1B transfer.

You are lying when you say it is restrictive.

> the H-1B program when it was introduced was to import the truly talented

What is your definition of "truly talented"? A PhD? Nobel Prize winner? Most of the immigrant $100M+ startup founders would likely not be allowed in the country under your definition. And you say: "the law has been abused"? The law requires: (1) a bachelor's degree in the job area, (2) job offer at prevailing wages or higher. Those are the conditions the law set.

You are lying when you say the law says otherwise.

Also, I don't mean to boast, but $150k is definitely not average. According to DOL, it is in the top 20th percentile for software developers in NYC metropolitan area. The average is $111,120, c.f. http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes151132.htm

You lie yet again.

You keep touting lies, and refuse to stop believing in those lies when confronted with the truth.

Unless you are native American, your ancestors immigrated here in the last couple hundred years. Do you know what standard was required of immigrants then? None. The majority of immigrants back then (from Europe) were actually illiterate. Your hatefulness, heartlessness, and callousness are repugnant, shameful, and an anathema to this country.

There is absolutely no STEM shortage at the Facebook/Google level. Google has been on the record many times that they're happy rejecting good applicants in order to reduce the risk of hiring a bad candidate. That's not what hiring during a shortage looks like.

This is so very true, and not only that, they use their ridiculous exclusionary and arbitrary hiring practices as a self-enforced proof that they absolutely need more low cost H1B workers.

I find it willfully ignorant, hateful, and racist how you keep demeaning immigrant workers by characterizing them as "low cost".

I graduated very recently with a B.S. in Computer Science, and my total comp (incl. bonuses) at my current company is slightly over $150,000. I am not over-worked, or under-paid. (I have never met any of these "cheap workers" myself, but I'm sure they exist in some corners.)

It is disgusting, dishonest and offensive how your portray every H-1B visa holder as a "low cost" worker.

You most likely haven't met the low cost H1B's because you are so new to the industry or the 1 or 2 companies you've worked for aren't big companies that are outsourcing their work force. (This is not a criticism.)

The anger that some feel, is towards employers who say their is a STEM shortage but what they mean is that they can't hire someone cheaply enough. As Joel Spolsky said:

"Now, let's review some microeconomics. In a free market, it is almost axiomatic that the market always clears. That's a technical term that means that when somebody tries to sell something, if they are willing to accept the market price, they will be able to sell it, and when somebody wants to buy something, if they are willing to pay the market price, they will be able to buy it. It's just a matter of both sides accepting the market price.

The trouble comes when people are not realistic about market prices. "

Whaddaya Mean, You Can't Find Programmers? http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/fog0000000050.html

> I find it willfully ignorant, hateful, and racist ...

> It is disgusting, dishonest and offensive how your portray every H-1B visa holder as a "low cost" worker.

Your Alinsky tactics will not work on me, my friend...you should try more substantive arguments.

I am glad you are doing so well as I, for one, never resent anyone successes in the world.

But facts are stubborn things, and in the aggregate, H1B workers increase corporate profitability at the expense of the established senior ones.

>There definitely is a STEM shortage, and you are being really dishonest if you say there isn't.

1) STEM is a term so board to be nonsensical in this context.

2) There may be some self-imposed "shortage" but that doesn't mean anything. Anyone can come up with a job with qualifications impossible to meet. Especially if this is a fake [1] job opening created solely so you can say "shortage!"

[1] https://youtube.com/watch?v=TCbFEgFajGU

Who is really being dishonest?

IMO, there is plenty of dishonesty going around, from both sides of this argument:

A) "H-1B are the best and brightest of the world!" B) "H-1B is only about hiring cheaper programers!"

Looking at the publicly available H-1B data, it is pretty clear (to me, at least) that both these arguments are caricatures - some truth, but huge exaggerations.

Everyone who holds on tight to one extreme of this spectrum, vociferously arguing against the existence of other cases look dishonest to me.

Congratulations on constructing two straw men so you can polarize the discussion, declare "a pox on both their houses" and position yourself as the moderate. That's a refreshing new technique that irritates no one.

> Well, there are two groups of companies. Companies that can't find the talent that they need in this country, and companies trying to save money.

how are the two things different?

Obviously, as you raise wages, you gain access to a larger pool of applicants.

I am not making a moral judgment about people who are unwilling to pay more than X for a service... but my point is just that in a free market, "there is not enough supply of service X" means exactly the same thing as "the price of service X is too high"

If there aren't enough STEM candidates in the US, pay more. How many smart people right now go into law and finance, both fields of which have possibly too many candidates?

I also think part of the "not finding talent" problem is requirements on college degrees. It's just not necessary anymore.

I don't think that a degree was ever necessary, there's always been self taught people. It's just the amount of accessible info on the Internet makes it much easier to self teach nowadays.

I don't know about Facebook/Google specifically but some companies will only interview/hire people with experience/know how in the very specific technology stack they use. I guess because they don't want the employee to "waste" time learning a new language/framework.

You miss out on some great engineers that way. Thankfully my job doesn't require new hires to know the syntax of any particular programming language.

I'm sure that's true for startup-y type companies.. but I'm in Minnesota (3M, Best Buy, Target, Honeywell) where unless you know someone even getting in the door for a first interview without a degree can prove impossible.

Oh yeah, depends totally on company policy for sure. I was just responding to the "anymore" part and adding in another reason why some companies claim "shortage."

Right idea (being jaded) but wrong reason. It's more likely a political jab at the various GOP candidates' opinions about H1Bs.

The author has been writing about immigration policy for some time. From the bio at the end of the report, this includes 'four and a half years on Capitol Hill on the Senate Immigration Subcommittee' and a 2010 book titled 'Immigration'.

It's therefore very unlikely that this piece concerns the specific views of any of the current candidates but is instead the author's long-term interest.

Moreover, the National Foundation for American Policy focuses "on trade, immigration and related issues" and the board includes "former INS Commissioner James Ziglar." The NFAP is set up to influence policy decisions, and meant to be read by those who regularly read the 'Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Washington Post', etc.

All this goes strongly against your hypothesis that it is "a political jab at the various GOP candidates' opinions".

The author previously worked at Cato and other libertian think tanks. These are often aligned with business interests by wanting to reduce the constraints on what a large business is allowed to do. Which is the association that jmspring correctly, IMO, makes.

Fair enough. I stand corrected.

Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Hillary Clinton, and John Kasich are firm supporters of expansion of guest worker visas.

Trump and Sanders oppose.

The H-1B is a dual-intent[1] temporary work visa, and most H-1B visa holders intend to stay here permanently, and eventually are sponsored green cards (permanent residency) by their employers.

Rubio, Cruz, et al have called for legislation that punishes employers that do not sponsor green cards for their H-1B employees (by restricting their ability to hire more H-1B workers).

So, no, most of them do not support "guest worker visas". They support permanent skilled immigration.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dual_intent

There's no reason to feel jaded. What you say is absolutely true. That's why these reports always come from think tanks, without peer review, and half-assed analyses, but dressed in the clothing of rigorous, critical scholarship.

>That's why these reports always come from think tanks, without peer review, and half-assed analyses, but dressed in the clothing of rigorous, critical scholarship.

As if academic scholarship is without the same problems....

Certainly. Whoever makes that claim is ignorant of how science and scholarship is done.

I am not so ignorant, nor do I mean to imply that the converse or the inverse are true.

IBM and Disney are old line ... "fading" companies that are attempting vainly to deal with Baumol cost disease. There's an "American Experience" about Disney in particular that makes it clear that the company has always been on the edge of disaster. It took the Mickey Mouse law to get them this far.

People who are prepared to emigrate seem slightly more likely to take the risk of a startup. And to an extent, the people who emigrate who are also qualified to play that game are largely the children of the elites in their home country.

Never mind how grad schools work.

Wow, "scab" is a strong word. I was only familiar with the wound-related definition, so I had to look it up. The Google definition is: "a person or thing regarded with dislike and disgust".

So I guess you regard me and the many other immigrants to the US with "dislike and disgust".

It is a shame that you hold immigrants in such contempt, but I am confidant that the majority of Americans are not as hateful and "disgust"-filled as you are.

I think "Scab" in this context refers to non union workers employers would bring in to end a strike or bust up a union.

That is both the context connotation and also the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strikebreaker wikipedia definition.

The parent comment is seeking out a way to be offended, and perhaps more importantly, to denigrate a person whose opinion the parent disagrees with.

How on earth does the context imply "non union workers employers would bring in to end a strike"? The context does not say anything of the sort.

FYI: I believe employers are supposed to attest that there is no strike going on at their workplace, and the H-1 or H-2 visa holders are not being hired to end a strike. I remember reading this regulation somewhere. That being said, I've never heard of strikes occurring in STEM fields.

You understood neither the original term "scab", as short for "scab worker", which is a derogatory term for strikebreaker, nor the use in this context as a metaphor, in this case likely meaning for people willing to work at cut-rate wage to replace a worker who thinks those wages are unjust.

For example, originally "carpetbagger" was used specifically for a Northern who went the South after the US Civil war, and were seen as doing so to advance personal power or profits. It's since acquired a much broader, though still pejorative, meaning.

Since you don't have much experience with the term, you might need to research more about how it's used in the broader context.

Some strikes in STEM fields include the Boeing machinists strike of 2008 by the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, the 2007 United Space Alliance strike by members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, and the 2015 WCAU Photographers and Camera Operators Strike by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Probably the most famous STEM strike in the US is the air traffic controller strike by PATCO in 1981.

For smaller examples just from 2015, here's a partial strike by medical physicists in Australia - http://www.nzdoctor.co.nz/un-doctored/2015/june-2015/02/Medi... . Here's a strike by medical doctors at University of California campuses in Southern California - http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-doctors-strike-u... . Here's a programmer strike in India - http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kozhikode/Computer-p... .

Conversely, if a two person company were founded by two immigrants it would beat the odds. The chances of two founders meeting, working together, then creating a 1B+ company in the adversary of worse contacts is smaller.

In fact, moving to this country and making a 1B+ country takes more work than being born here. Take a look at statistics at people from well-off backgrounds or with contacts vs people with nothing.

I do not believe that adversity builds strength which leads to success, which I believe is your argument.

I won't believe it until we start seeing the schools of the children of the successful put arbitrary and even petulant roadblocks in the way of the students, and deliberately teaching to far below the level the students can handle.

Anecdotally speaking, as an American immigrant to Sweden, I do not think the adversity I faced has made me as successful as I would have been had I stayed the US.

Certainly some succeed despite adversity, and even draw strength from it, but to highlight those few is to make faceless the many who did not.

In any case, the report argues that diversity leads to robustness which leads to success. This is a very different view, designed more, I think, to appeal to the current pro-diversity trend rather than a group which might prefer the meaning behind "spare the rod, spoil the child."

Educated ambitious people of other countries move and work to somewhere where the opportunities are greater, and are willing to do so, leaving their home countries and families.

This is a filter which causes these immigrants to be successful compared to the average disadvantaged unmotivated american. It's the old high vs low skill immigration debate.

I agree that it's nice to think that. However, you've now introduced a third axis. Axis #1, from the report, is that nationality diversity is important, in which case a white Protestant Canadian from Toronto brings more diversity than a Russian Orthodox Tlingit from rural Southeast Alaska.

Axis #2, from tonyhb, is that adversity leads to success. In which a highly educated medical doctor from Iraq who, as a refugee, ends up in Sweden and works as a taxi cab driver in order to support his family, instead of spending two years to learn the language and get recertified, has excellent changes for financial success. Or not.

Now your #3 is "Educated ambitious people". But you have two baselines: "somewhere where the opportunities are greater" than in the home country is one, "successful compared to the average disadvantaged unmotivated american" is another. These are not the same. The US brings in agricultural workers from Mexico. The opportunities are greater in the US. But they are less successful financially than 'disadvantaged unmotivated american', because the Mexican worker is going to return to Mexico, where the cost of living and retirement is lower, while the American will stay in the US so needs a higher pay.

Thus the long tradition of, say, South Africans going to work in London, suffer for a few years to save up a nest egg, and move back to South Africa. That doesn't mean the local English are disadvantaged and unmotivated, only that they have different motivations.

Or the educated ambitious doctor from Iraq who drives a taxi, because the opportunity to be alive driving a taxi is better than being dead back in Iraq. Two different baselines, yes?

Each of these three axes leads to different policy. All of them have some truth. All are based on factors which are hard to identify in a 22 year old other than "comes from a family with money."

Now to point out another worrisome aspect of your comment - why do you highlight 'average disadvantaged unmotivated american'? The report compares immigrants to founders of high tech companies. Very view people, including educated ambitious Americans, do that. To then insert 'disadvantaged unmotivated' makes it sound like you are thinking of something else, but the only reason I can think of is anti-poor and anti-minority viewpoints, which surely you don't mean. Could you clarify why it was important to add those qualifiers?

Does it also guide your thinking about how to accept refugees?

My logic went as so:

  1. Immigrants are a minority
  2. Yet immigrants found %50 of +$1B companies according to this article.
  3. My hypothesis as to why this is so is because they are ambitious educated people, even though they might be very poor when they arrive.

You notice a similar effect in schools. School performance is mostly dependent on the actual quality of the kids and the parents. High skill immigrant parents probably emphasised schooling and quality parenting a lot more than the low performing kids and thus you get a similar effect with high skill immigrants.

It's why you see so many high performing 2nd-generation asian kids, even though the parents started as very poor people from some starving village in china. The parent's tiger parenting style lead to elevated outcomes for them and their kids.

As far as refugees, that is why you have different visa categories, to reflect different immigration policies for different situations. High skill immigrants who are ambitious and found companies are a different separate thing than refugee immigration policy.

The reason why people conflate the different kinds of immigrants is because it's easy, even though there are many different kinds of immigrants.


As to why I said disadvantaged average american, is because america is a 1st world country with a 3rd world country inside of it. Compared to it's neighbor up north, there is significantly more violence, social inequality, rotting ghettos and uneducated poor people even though canada has an even more liberal immigration policy than the USA. The average american is probably less skilled and motivated than the average high skill immigrant.

Also adversity acts like a people filter. The people who can get through adversity and still thrive are usually pretty amazing people. It also can make you stronger than a person who lives a soft life.

My original comment is that the 50% of point #2, which is based on this report, is a meaningless number.

Suppose each company had 10 co-founders, and 1 of every co-founder was foreign born. Then by the definition from this report, 100% of all companies would be founded by an immigrant.

Wow! Those immigrants are ambitious to have started every single one of the companies!

Now comes a new report, based on the same data, that says "Immigrants are 10% of founders but 15% of the population". Something's wrong - immigrants are underrepresented as founders. Are they lazy? Discriminated against? Do they face too much adversity?

So, two reports, one which says "foreigners started 100% of all companies" and the other "foreigners are underrepresented as founders", both base on the same data, but giving very different interpretations of the data.

I believe this report was deliberately structured to present the sound bite that "50% of $1B+ companies are founded by immigrants" so that people like you would think it's meaningful. Without knowing the overall founder population, you cannot make a strong conclusion one way or the other. This report does not give those numbers, nor does it make it easy to figure them out myself.

Hence why I say it's a propaganda piece meant to influence people who don't have the time to dig into policy wonk details. Like you.

The rest of your comment unfortunately continues the ill-informed anti-poor and anti-minority viewpoint that I pointed out earlier by adding racist stereotypes.

You are supposing that an American company needs to have been founded in the US. That's not true. There are many tech companies, including 1B+ ones, that were founded out of the US and then moved there. The availability of capital is so great in the US -even comparing with Europe- that makes a lot of sense to move there.

I also think a qualifier like: 'legal' immigrants would give the story more credibility.

These are not the downtrodden masses. Immigrant does not mean poor. These are wealthy upper class people coming to the most logical place to create a successful technology company, because they can afford to do so. Poor people are usually stuck wherever they are.

Investors in Silicon Valley care a lot about status and pedigree. A foreigner that can afford elite credentials is far more likely to get funding than a poor local.

And of course H1B visas drive down wages. This is basic supply and demand.

> These are wealthy upper class people coming to the most logical place

They usually need to get an H-1B visa as part of the immigration process. You are insinuating that "wealthy upper class" can immigrate without obeying visa rules. That is ridiculous.

> A foreigner that can afford elite credentials

Many of their families probably can barely afford to pay for college in the U.S., but they scoop up the money to do so, in hope of a better life for their offspring. The United States however subjects them to an arbitrary H-1B lottery that decides if they get to stay in the country after graduation (and OPT).

> far more likely to get funding than a poor local.

Are you seriously suggesting that investors in Silicon Valley discriminate in favor of people with college degrees over poor uneducated people?

Well you can basically pay to immigrate via an EB-5 visa which grants a green card for the right amount & kind of capital investment.


Except most immigrants out here in the valley at the very least take the old F1 student > H1B visa route. H1B is practically the only option you have to work in this country regardless of whether you got that PhD at Stanford or came here through an "outsourcing firm".

Are you kidding me? You need to invest at least $500,000 for the EB-5.

Most families don't have $500,000 to just invest in order to get their child a green card. A lot of international students I know worked part-time on-campus (permitted on the F-1 student visa) in order lessen the burden on their parents. Their families struggled to put together the money to pay for college in the U.S.

I went to Stony Brook University, and between the time I came in and graduated, tuition had risen by over 50% for international students. (State law did not restrict tuition hikes for foreign students.)

It's condescending of you to suggest an EB-5. Like "Let them eat cake": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Let_them_eat_cake

You're reacting very strongly in each reply. It's a bit over the top, given you said this:

> You are insinuating that "wealthy upper class" can immigrate without obeying visa rules. That is ridiculous.

The parent you're replying to never said most families could afford that. The parent was indicating that you can buy your way into America, which you in fact can do. The wealthy upper class can buy their way in, and do this all the time (see: wealthy Chinese buying their way into the US).

He was responding to the article, but the WSJ article is not about the super-rich moving here. It is about the vast majority of skilled immigrants who have to go through the H-1B visa as a step in their immigration process.

What neither the article nor the underlying report resolve is, do immigrant founders of $1B+ companies representative of the same population of H1-B visa recipients?

For example, many of the founders came to the US to go to school in the US, including Harvard. Is that reflective of the general population of H1-B visa holders? If not, can the conclusions drawn from the very small number of $1B+ startups be used to make policy decisions about the vast majority of skilled immigrants?

> do immigrant founders of $1B+ companies representative of the same population of H1-B visa recipients?

You make a very good point here. The thing is that it is absolutely impossible to filter or select for future $1B+ startup founders.

Most immigrant tech startup founders in the Bay Area first come to the US as foreign students. They then get a job like most people, but also have to go through a long and difficult struggle with the U.S. immigration system in order to get a green card. Only after getting a green card, do most start a company (because self-sponsorship with your own company is prohibited on an H-1B visa). For their first 10 years or so in the U.S., they have no laurels to show, and nothing that sets them apart from a typical good software engineer at Google. There is no data point from which you predict that X person is going to become a future successful startup founder.

I am another example of this. Right now, I don't have much to show besides my work experience, some CS research I did in college, and a few GitHub projects. I'd definitely like to start a company some day. I think I am somewhat representative of the general population of H1-B visa holders. That I might some time in the future be far more successful, and a huge blessing to this country's economy, and to its people, cannot be positively predicted based on where I am in life today.

> many of the founders came to the US to go to school in the US, including Harvard

There is no official data that shows you where H-1B visa holders went for college. But I can take an educated guess. Everyone that I've met that is on an H-1B visa graduated from a US school. I would guess at least half of all H-1B visa holders studied in the US.

If you filtered by the ranking of the university that a foreign student attended, and said that only graduates from prestigious widely-famous universities are allowed to stay in this country, and every else from lesser universities, should get kicked out, then I would be kicked out along with them. My guess is that the majority of immigrant startup founders didn't go to Harvard/Stanford/MIT/etc.

The report described by the WSJ made that association which you and I agree is not reasonable to make.

While you are correct about official data, my comment concerns the report. The report identifies immigrant founders by college degree, including John Collison, Daniel Saks, Mario Schlosser, and Michelle Zatlyn, all from Harvard.

4/60 immigrant founders of $1B+ startups have a Harvard education. I do not think 6.7% of H1-B visa holders have a Harvard education.

I agree that it's unlikely that 6.7% of H-1B visa holders have a Harvard education. But about half the founders listed in the report[1] went to non-famous colleges.

The broader policy question raised by the report however is about the current extremely restrictive low limit of 85,000 on H-1B visas, which are crucial for any immigrant student to be able to stay in the US. The report tries to show one way in which immigrants are helpful, and yes it does focus very much on the most successful immigrants. That doesn't mean they don't have a valid point.

85,000 is less than 0.03% of the US population. Australia, with a population of 23 million, issued 120,000 skilled work visas in 2013. That is 0.5%. Nearly every other first-world country has a higher rate of skilled worker immigration than the United States. We keep it artificially down with the quotas. We determine the fate and future of an immigrant student in this country with a lottery, which to most people might sound like a cruel joke.

[1] http://nfap.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Immigrants-and-Bi...

By "unlikely" you mean "mathematically impossible for the founder population to be representative of the H-1B visa holder population" right? Harvard doesn't graduate enough international students each year to maintain this ratio.

With your second sentence, are you trying to argue that about half of H-1B visa holder population went to famous colleges? Otherwise, what's your point?

My point is that the report gives anecdotes and numbers that cannot be used for sound policy decisions.

Anecdotes are nothing new. 100 years ago we would have read how Andrew Carnegie, son of poor Scottish weavers, became one of the wealthiest people in the US through his innovative steel company. While it's a valid point that immigrants can be helpful, it's also a valid point that the US has more than 100,000 citizens - neither point is all that useful. Or do you really think that most of the target audience won't be able to think of dozens of helpful contributions by immigrants, so need a reminder?

Numbers that cannot be used for policy decisions are also not new. I earlier give an example of the report "Most high tech companies are founded by founded by First/2nd gen immigrants", which is another statement that cannot be used to make a policy decision.

So you tell me, based on this report, are immigrants over- or under- represented as (co)founders of $1B+ startups? Should we have different policy changes if they are under-represented, vs. if they are over-represented? Or what if the number of immigrant founders is what we would except from population statistics?

Your views, frequently stated, are pro-immigration. That's fine. I support that, and I speak as an immigrant who is in turn the child of an immigrant.

But this report cannot be used to support your viewpoint other than with the trivial observation that there are ways in which immigrants are helpful.

> It is about the vast majority of skilled immigrants who have to go through the H-1B visa as a step in their immigration process.

They don't have to go through the H-1B process. Generally, wealthy people are people don't just have good jobs and money, they also have connections, are attractive, and hold citizenship from wealthy countries, all things that make it much easier to come to the US.

Their connections allow them a number of ways into the US (Everything from an A visa for family members of foreign government employees, to L visas for inter company transfers, to an O visa for various types of talent). If they're attractive enough it's common that they'd marry an American (or commit immigration fraud, which is common enough). Lastly, if they're from a wealthy country, their chances of winning the diversity lottery are actually quite high.

The paths into the US are convoluted, but numerous.

I disagree. I've met people from Canada, France, Germany, the U.K., and other people who have citizenship in wealthy first-world countries through FWD.us meetups and elsewhere. They all had an incredibly hard time immigrating here.

We're not talking about the top 2% or 3%, but the 95% of the citizens of these rich first-world countries. Not folks who have $500k+ just lying around. One of the peope I met at FWD.us was a Canadian citizen, but he couldn't even get a TN visa because the TN occupation list didn't cover his field. See this article for more stories: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/11/us/large-companies-game-h-...

Also, the O visa is not "for various types of talent". It is an "extraordinary ability" visa that is really difficult to get. The only viable employment-based pathways to the US are the H-1B visa, the L-1 (intra-company transfer), and for rare talented few, the O-1 visa. The L-1 is a horrible visa where you can't change jobs and are deported if you ever get laid off. If you want the ability to change jobs, your only option is the H-1B visa[1].

I've looked carefully into the visa rules, and it as though Congress wanted to make it as hard as possible for people to immigrate into this country. They've built a incredibly complex system with numerous restrictions and conditions, and Damocles swords.

[1] H-1B visa holders lose legal status the very day after their employment ends. H-1B visa holders can change jobs, but they must be careful to never get laid off. It's insane. See: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11188339

I don't understand this reply at all; you said "that "wealthy upper class" can immigrate without obeying visa rules. That is ridiculous.", and your parent reply pointed out that it's not ridiculous, it's literally true.

I meant to say that he was wrong in characterizing immigrants students and entrepreneurs as coming from a "wealthy upper class". The majority of foreign students come from middle class families, many which probably struggle to pay US college tuition, and cannot afford a $500,000 investor visa.

He's not referring to H1Bs.


Sehat Sutardja. One of many such examples.

All you needed to do was fly your pregnant wife over to get American citizenship...but that's changing now.

> All you needed to do was fly your pregnant wife over to get American citizenship...but that's changing now.

This statement is steeped in such ignorance. You get absolutely no immigration benefit whatsoever by having a U.S. citizen child.

If you are talking about a child's citizenship, then FYI, birthright citizenship (part of the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution) has not been repealed.

That's untrue. The benefit is not immediate, but as soon as that child is 21 they are able to petition for immigration status for their parents for family reunification. In fact the majority of US imigration happens via family reunification.


For this to work a would-be immigrant has to have a child on U.S. soil, wait 21 years, and then have their child sponsor them. That is not a practical immigration plan.

Your example, Sehat Sutardja, almost definitely got an H-1B visa after they graduated.

The H-1B is pretty much the only way one can stay after graduation (and OPT).

So your point is moot.

Tons of people who emigrated are poor but are more motivated to take on risk and work on things. Because immigration is taking on risk and because you have to work on documents and push your way through to leave.

Immigrants are a self-selecting group. The barriers you have to cross leave the most motivated individuals/families capable of coming here. The immigrating generation, at least from my experience, come with the intention of setting up their children with better possibilities. Their lives revolve around making their kids hard workers in school, which transfers over into their character.

There's a joke in my community between the younger generation that we all had two choices after high school. You could choose to be a lawyer or doctor. If your parents were kind, then you could be an engineer.

> Immigrants are a self-selecting group

I find this offensive, as an immigrant. Also, my mother (and sister) worked in a sweat shop (they needle thread tags on imported/fake clothes underneath a laundromat) to put food on the table while going to school. My mother didn't "sacrifice" everything for us, she worked hard; became a programmer; and didn't allow my sibling and I to work less then her.

> There's a joke in my community between the younger generation that we all had two choices after high school. You could choose to be a lawyer or doctor. If your parents were kind, then you could be an engineer.

First time I had a steak, I was 18 years old and working as a waiter...the steak was $5 if you were staff. Prior, my understanding of meat product was salami and hot dogs.

It's great when you have the ability to go to law/med school but that doesn't work for all folks. Immigrants have a tireless work ethic because they know what it's like to be hungry. As a kid, I slept on top of a pig pen (it was the coolest place on the farm) and waited two hours to get milk for my family (before they woke up). That strength, commitment, and desire is what drives immigrants to achieve. Joking about law school is not really an option where I come from.

>> Immigrants are a self-selecting group

> I find this offensive, as an immigrant.

I am baffled as to what part of that is offensive. That immigrants choose to immigrate and put in the hard work to make that work out? Or are you objecting to the ideas that there are high barriers to immigration?

Maybe I am just misreading something, but I am confused.

Re-reading the comment, I mistook the "tone". Originally, I understood as "You choose to immigrate and it's easy, we'll all become doctors and lawyers".

People don't like to be lumped together and stereotyped regardless of how "positive" it is.

Also a lot of immigrants are war refugees or US allies that had to be rescued.


>> My mother didn't "sacrifice" everything for us, she worked hard; became a programmer; and didn't allow my sibling and I to work less then her.

That's what parent means by self-selecting, which is being used in the sense described here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-selection_bias - a perfectly innocuous meaning.

(I say this as someone who has no pony in this race - I'm neither a resident, nor citizen, nor etc of the US)

I think you're being downvoted because you seem to disagree with the comment to which you're responding, but I think you probably just accidentally misunderstood it?

Yup, reflection points to a misunderstanding on my part. I perceived the comment with negativity, which I don't believe was the intention.

Would you want to emigrate to china and work in a sweatshop? No?

Would you want to go to the US for a high paying software job? Yes!

That's self selection. There is nothing bad about this but ignoring this leads to biased statistics.

> And of course H1B visas drive down wages. This is basic supply and demand.

Unless those H1B holders create 10 extra work positions on average, then H1B visas will drive up wages. Basic supply and demand.

Both your statement and mine are incorrect or, at least, incomplete. There's no such thing as "basic" supply and demand.

>And of course H1B visas drive down wages. This is basic supply and demand.

In the short run. The increased growth associated with them would typically lead to a general rise in wages in the long run. They also offset the tendency for companies to just move overseas.

This is not true. Unchecked immigration is always a negative for native workers. It can be accurately described as wealth redistribution from workers to the companies that employee them.

They cause $515 billion in losses for native workers and $565 billion gains for native businesses. Look at the chart on page 9


This is misrepresenting the data. The majority of economists and the relevant literature agree that allowing more freedom of immigration improves the welfare of American worker. This is ignoring the huge benefits to the immigrants themselves. To appeal to what I imagine HN's ideology is, the arguments are similar to those around making the market more free--when you prevent buyers and sellers from making transactions they otherwise would, you inhibit growth.

Only 9% of economists disagree with the statement: "The average US citizen would be better off if a larger number of low-skilled foreign workers were legally allowed to enter the US each year."


0% of economists disagree with the statement: "The average US citizen would be better off if a larger number of highly educated foreign workers were legally allowed to immigrate to the US each year."


EDIT, since we're at the reply limit: Borjas is kind of heterodox, and without the chance now to do a better review of his literature I'm inclined to sided with the fairly overwhelming consensus. Picking two graphs that look similar isn't really a convincing argument, and 'redistribution' implies that this is a zero-sum change.

My position generally is that H-1B's (and whatever *-1B you suggest) would generally be good for the economy, though suffer from implementation issues and unnecessary restrictions.

You tell me the data is misrepresented, please tell me how? The data in the charts are accurate and this is from an esteemed economist.

Actually read the article I linked and he discusses how the standard economics literature has completely misrepresented the impact of immigration on native workers.

>Finally, Peri and Yasenov look at workers aged 16-61, and this is a particularly weird data manipulation. Among adult workers, a high school dropout is someone who lacks a high school diploma. But that definition, when applied to teenagers, means that 16, 17, and 18-year-olds who are sophomores, juniors, or seniors in high school are classified as high school dropouts because they do not yet have that diploma. Let me emphasize: All teenagers, whose earnings consist mainly of what they get in part-time and summer jobs, are part of the low-skill group. There are so many high school students who are being lumped with the real high school dropouts that they fatally contaminate the analysis.

Also when people talk about the wealth inequality in the US and how wages have been stagnant for 30 years


Look at the chart and notice how in the 1980s immigration begins to ramp up


Notice that in 1979 wealth inequality skyrockets, which is logically consistent with the idea that immigration is wealth redistribution from displaced workers to their employers.

edit: look at the graph and compare the gap in wealth inequality. In 1995 when immigration is slown down wealth inequality stays constant. When immigration is ramped up, inequality grows like crazy.

edit: for whatever it's worth I made the connection between wealth inequality and immigration. so try not to use that to say my source is bad

Very few serious economists pin growing wealth inequality on immigration and only immigration. It's not just happening in the US but elsewhere as well. There are a variety of factors in play, and I think a lot of good economists will even admit that we do not know all the answers. Here are some of the other major ones:

* Technology, which will happen with or without immigration.

* Globalization, which will happen with or without immigration. Make it hard for people to immigrate, and companies will eventually open branches elsewhere.

And there may be specific problems with the Borjas 2015 paper in any case: http://www.nber.org/papers/w21801#fromrss

H-1B is explicitly a non-immigrant visa.

therefore any economic consensus about immigrants is not relevant to the H-1B.

This common misunderstanding is exactly what NFAP, the right-leaning think tank who wrote this study, is trying to exploit.

See also "The Lump of Labor Fallacy". Supply and demand only "work" in cases where supply can be raised in a roughly linear ( as in non-discontinuous ) fashion. The only means of raising the supply of programmers has a ten-year lag.

H1B visas are an attempt at substitution. But it's not clear this works. Had I met happy, well-adjusted folks who were here formerly on an H1B, I'd be much less inclined to say that. I've mainly met angry people.

WRT SiVa/SanFrancisco, the costs of living have massively outstripped even techie salaries.

There is no programmer shortage. It's either a Machiavellian ploy or bad reading of tea leaves.

If programmers cost too much, then there would be all sorts of accounting tricks to salve this wound. Quite the opposite is true. For every hour you spend programming, some multiple ( much > 1 ) of your employer's "burdened run rate" is attributed to it.

The failure of the overall culture to come to terms with the things needed to produce software are reasonably obvious if you will only look.

First, educated and immigrants of means are a great addition to any economy they go to and a drain to the economies they leave. It's understandable why educated people might want to leave a country with few economic opportunities for their careers.

What I'm not so clear on is what attracts educated people of means to emigrate to the US [and AU and UK] from otherwise stable mature economies? We're better off for them, just a question as to what attracts them given they also have opportunities in their home countries.

It's simple: the US economy is huge. It's bigger than Japan, Germany, France, Brazil, and the UK combined. It's got the same GDP as the EU and as China, but half the population (and 1/4, respectively).

No matter where you are, the US can be a step up -- as is indicated by the OP. These are exactly the immigrants you're asking about, and they came for a shot at exactly this, which they couldn't get back at home.

Incidentally, here's a cool infographic: http://graphics.wsj.com/global-growth/

I come from Spain, and the situation was very easy: Spain's cities have a midwest-like cost of living. A programmer there, right out of school, is what we call a mileurista: Someone with a take home of about a thousand Euros a month. In comparison, my first job in the midwest paid three times that. And that's the difference at the beginning of a career. Nobody programming over there will make more than, maybe, 3500 euros a month, unless they start their own company. Last year, I went past 18K a month, in a stable, 9-5 job. The market is so good, I could quit my job any day I want, and I get to choose among a bunch of great alternatives, including bay area companies that hire remotes. In comparison, Spain has about 20% unemployment.

If anything, I would ask other programmers from Spain why in the world aren't they leaving!

So this plus even browsing job postings around England (which I can do better than job postings in Spain porque mi Espanol no es bueno), this seems generally true.

So big question. WHY are software developers paid so low in 1st world European countries, and so high in the US? Clearly a good software developer can save a company 100k, 200k, 500k Euros a year (think of replacing a bunch of office workers with a computer program). Why don't programmers get a bigger chunk of the pie?

GDP says the countries are fairly similar. Programming is a high skill job. Why would it pay so different in different locations?

As a fellow Spaniard, how you got to the US? H1B?

You can make a lot more money in the U.S. From entrepreneurship, of course, but Professionals and executives get paid way more in the U.S. too.

That's true; however, the stereotype is that in a lot of places that are not the US, except for China, value other "social cohesion" characteristics of their economies over "crass" pursuit of money. If that stereotype still has merit, then it implies the ones who come here are the ones who believe in US-style economics over their homelands' --which is neither here nor there, just an observation.

> These are not the downtrodden masses.

A lot of them are, if not downtrodden, at the least unable to earn a wage in the labor markets that is commensurate with their skill set.

Isn't that the limitation of the current immigration system, rather than anything on the immigrants themselves?

Not really. If you're a doctor in your home country, then most likely you'll be working in a grocery store or something in the U.S. If your professional certifications aren't honored, your work experience isn't considered valid, and you're not fluent in the language then you'd be lucky to be getting 1 / 10th what you'd otherwise be earning.

Jeff Bezos and Joshua Schachter aside, there's a probably a reason why relatively few successful wall street folks quit to do a startup.

> basic supply and demand.

Right, but these things sometimes go a bit beyond that with 'externalities', which can be both positive and negative, and various other economic factors that come into play.

Sometimes there are 'vicious circles', but also 'virtuous circles'. More people, more talent, more expertise, more jobs, and so on.

Are you sure H1B visas are relevant here? I would imagine EB-5 (investment) visas would be the more common route for upper class immigrant entrepreneurs coming to the US.

Not quite so sure. I was a startup cofounder (never made it to billion dollar though :), and came to the US via grad school on an F1 visa, which then morphed into an H1B, and am now in the process of getting a green card.

I know this is a very common path.

Regarding the class thing: my grandparents were blue collar workers who never went to high school, my parents were engineers.

IANAL, but you cannot legally work on your own startup if you are on H1B

You can be a "co-founder" of a funded startup though. As long as the company has enough financial backing to prove they can pay you a market wage, and you meet the other requirements.

Oh, that makes sense!

Elon Musk was an H1-B.

No, he was OPT, at least initially.

OPT doesn't last very long (18 months max I think). The standard path for students is F1->OPT->H1B->Green Card->Citizen.

I suspect he never got an H1-B; his brother was in the US without a visa.

It's now three years for stem https://www.att.com/deviceunlock/

The STEM extension is a recent (2008) development, probably motivated by the fact that H1-Bs are now a lottery so students need multiple shots to have a chance at winning.

Back when Musk would've applied, that wasn't a problem, he would've gotten an H1-B pretty easily.

While you can go straight from OPT to green card, getting an H1-B first is much better since it's dual intent, so you're not prevented from traveling during the green card application (which you would be on OPT).

They are more like upper-middle classes (not upper classes).

exactly, many of them are well educated and trained indeed.

I was downvoted for this comment. I don't even know what to think about that.

The WSJ article specifically mentions H-1B visas. The Wall Street Journal often editorializes in support of more guest workers.

Professor Norm Matloff presents a detailed critique of the H-1B visa : http://heather.cs.ucdavis.edu/h1b.html ... "The H-1B work visa is fundamentally about cheap, de facto indentured labor."

I'm not sure how lean, garage startups feel about Venture Capital's special access to guest workers for their competing "Billion Dollar Startups". I would guess that their views are little more nuanced than the Wall Street Journal's take on it.

The biggest H1-B employers , are in fact, outsourcing firms : http://www.businessweek.com/table/08/0305_h1b.htm . Their frequent editorials often fail to mention this.

Yeah just go on and make up shit as long as it makes you feel better. The foreigner that can "afford" elite credentials is actually a foreigner from a humble background who came through the most competitive process in the world and managed to get scholarship in a US graduate school.

It's obvious that whoever you are, you haven't actually tried to get to know anything about these pesky foreigners'(who probably work with you on a daily basis) personal life and background. If you had, you'd know that a profile like this


is actually a rule rather than an exception.

Sundar's father was an engineer, not a typical person in India. Or even America.

When I worked in tech, I knew exactly one engineer from a low class background (American). It was eye opening seeing first hand how rare people of non educated backgrounds are in tech.

I'm no exception, all but one of my grand parents was educated.

An "engineer" doesn't necessarily mean high wages and insane perks as today's software industry has taught us to believe. A civil, mechanical, electrical or metallurgical engineer working in some government department in India is the very definition of a humble middle class life. And I mean middle class by Indian standards. That same article I linked to above has the following tidbit.

"Yet simply getting there was difficult. His parents, who had always ensured their two boys got the best education they could afford, ended up withdrawing £1,000 - more than Regunatha earned in a year - to put him on the plane."

Rest assured, Sundar wasn't some rich foreigner (as in the fevered imagination of GP commenter @staunch) who's parents got him admission to top schools to ease his path in the world.

But here's the kicker, of all the Indian immigrants I know in the valley (source: am one myself), a majority come from backgrounds humbler than Sundars. For one thing, being born to technically educated parents is not at all typical. Not even among the population of immigrant software engineers. I don't know what your definition of "low class" is. But if you're looking for software engineers who grew up in one room houses with 2-3 siblings who's parents were barely making ends meet while providing the best education they could to their kids, just walk upto any group of 4-5 Indian immigrants you see in the valley. You'll find at least one or two such folks in every such group (source: am one myself).

The article is advocating for increasing H1-B caps. I wonder what does H1-B (a non-immigrant visa, which does not allow running your own business) has to do with immigrants founding billion dollar startups other than them using it to acquire cheap labor?

Because many of them came to the US to study because of being able to work here through the OPT/H1/GreenCard/citizen route. Same with many top professors, researchers and tech execs like Nadella, Gundotra, Pichai etc.And many people on this list too like the inventor of USB etc. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Indian_Americans

> Same with many top professors, researchers and tech execs like Nadella, Gundotra, Pichai etc.And many people on this list too like the inventor of USB etc.

Some of them might have, but the H1B is an awful avenue for this. You are not allowed any side businesses while you are employed on an H1B visa (and you can't be self employed using it). If you are Indian, you are looking at what is currently an 11 year processing delay before you can get a green card, not counting the time it takes to get your H1B initially. If you're from other countries, the backlog is shorter, but it is still multiple years before you can leave your company to try self employment.

Assuming you get approved for a green card. It's possible to get an H1B and then get denied for a green card.

Academics and other similar figures of note can already apply directly for a green card, which I suspect many of the people on this list have done. If you want to expand immigration, a simpler, faster path to permanent residency is essential.

> If you want to expand immigration, a simpler, faster path to permanent residency is essential.

Comprehensive immigration reform was supposed to do that, adopting a more streamlined points system like Canada and Australia, but of course the bill ended up covering amnesty for undocumented immigrants too and the whole thing got shot down.

Unfortunately for most people an H1-B is the best path to a green card, and only once you have a green card are you free to be an entrepreneur etc.

Yes, as a Canadian working in the USA on an H1B, I am painfully aware of this fact.

The point remains: Increasing the number of H1Bs will not have a great impact on the number of founders, especially not in the short term, because the vast majority of them will end up shackled to an employer for years.

The real reform would be to unshackle H1B's. Sadly, in today's political climate, I don't think that's likely.

The three people you listed are not known for founding billion dollar startups. They are known as employees of Google and Microsoft (unless you meant somebody else with the same last names as Google and Microsoft CEO and Google's former VP of engineering).

Alright. Let me list down some immigrants who came here on H1B visa.

1. Jyoti Bansal - Founder of AppDynamics The guy in the above mentioned article was on H1B.

2. Kevin Systrom - Cofounder of Instagram was on H1B visa.

3. Jay Scaler - Founder of ZScaler an unicorn, was on H1B visa

4. Vinod Khosla - Founder of Sun Microsystems and well known VC was on H1B visa initially

Will list down some more in some time.

In fact H1B has to work for an employer and can not founder a company(at least easily or legally), you have to earn your permanent residence first, which takes quite a few years at least.

Correct. Many don't come right away to make a startup, they work, get contacts&experience and then the startup appears.


It's a shitty system that locks you in to working for other places for years.

>Vinod Khosla - Founder of Sun Microsystems and well known VC was on H1B visa initially

The H-1B visa was created in 1990. Khosla started working in the U.S. in 1980 after graduating from Stanford, and founded Sun in 1982. It seems doubtful he was ever on an H-1B.

> 2. Kevin Systrom - Cofounder of Instagram was on H1B visa.

I don't think that's correct.

He probably meant the other cofounder Mike Krieger. http://www.businessinsider.com/instagram-cofounder-mike-krie...

By "Jay Scaler" do you mean Jay Chaudhry?


Please don't do this here.

Increasing H1B caps does help immigrant founders who aren't already millionaires. I've been on an H1B visa and I've started my own startup. You can be on an H1B for your own company so long as it's clear there is a board that can fire you.

There's two ways to go about making it easier for immigrant founders to work legally in America: create a new startup visa class that is likely ridiculously nebulous, or increase the H1B cap. I think the second is much more likely to pass.

There are more ways. For example, preventing bodyshops like Tata et al from taking all visas every year. While it's profitable to abuse the system the system is going to be abused. It's not like USCIS is oblivious to what's going on, if it were told to enforce the law, I am pretty sure, it would have complied.

Maybe, but the cap is so oversubscribed now that even if they were banned, and even if the 1/3 of the H1B visas those kinds of consultancies take went to someone else, there's still no more guarantee you'd make the lottery/cap.

This year Infosys, Tata, Wipro and IBM submitted more than 65000 applications [1] (which is the current cap). And these are not the only bodyshops in the running. If the law had been enforced then there had been plenty of H1-Bs to go around the year (or, at least till October/November) without a lottery like it always happens in the years when the "consulters" get cut due to poor economy.

1. http://www.myvisajobs.com/Reports/2016-H1B-Visa-Sponsor.aspx

Also an H1-B doesn't exactly let you quit your sponsor and start your own company.

H1-B is actually a "dual-intent" visa and is often used for people on non-immigrant visas to move towards getting a green card.

I suggest you read the H1-B entry at wikipedia. "Dual intent" does not make it an immigrant visa, it just allows you to get one without proving the lack of immigration intent.

I'm not a U.S. citizen, and obviously one day I hope to be one of those U.S. Billion-Dollar startup founders and I would appreciate a VISA if it would help me achieve that, but there's something shaky with the premise here.

Why does the U.S. need to depend on the ~80.000 odd first order immigrants per year to generate that amount of wealth. Couldn't the U.S. somehow draw those ambitious out of its current population?

What if people could 'emigrate' from Detroit to California? They'd basically be refugees from a low-opportunity environment as well.

Or is it not the fact that they came from a low-opportunity environment, but rather that they came like Bill Gates from the tender love and care of rich/succesful parents, and being born abroad was just a small hurdle?

When an Elon Musk or a Max Levchin shows up in your country itching to get to work, the best course of action is not to say, "couldn't we some how draw your kind of ambition out of a local?"

Far better is to give them visas let them build in your country rather than elsewhere.

The better option is to make sure that everyone in your country that has the POTENTIAL to be an Elon Musk gets the education and skills they need to become him. Elon went to many prestigious private schools and had early childhood access to expensive computers, which is a common thread in MANY founders and current executives and VCs in the startup world.

Meanwhile I know a lot of smart people who don't go to college in the US because they don't want to be saddled with $100k in debt. And a lot more who don't persue higher degrees because their parents aren't poor enough to receive assistance but not rich enough to pay for college. We do a terrible job of helping people in America live up to their potential - its the best country to be born rich in, but the worst first-world country to be born poor in.

These are not mutually exclusive possibilities. You can accept highly skilled immigrants AND improve your education system. If anything, doing the former might make it easier to do the latter, since those highly skilled immigrants will provide more tax revenue to spend on public education.

True enough, but companies only argue for more immigration (quicker fix) than an educated populace (not their problem/criticism of govt is bad for business)

Levchin moved to the US when he was 16. His family was granted political asylum. His move to the US therefore not based on any "itch" to get to work.

It's the latter. These immigrants aren't poor uneducated people like you would encounter in an impoverished part of the US.

> What if people could 'emigrate' from Detroit to California?

They can, there's no restriction of movement within the US.

Ya, and it happens a lot, and yet it's not controversial at all. But allowing someone to move from Vancouver to Seattle is for some reason.

> yet it's not controversial at all.

Sadly, it is: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-02-29/about-100-...

The workers from other states "took errr jaaaawbs"

H1B is a giant sorting algorithm, at least so far as immigration through a company is concerned. You have these companies footing the bill because they value these people. This means that some of the best hires and potential entrepreneurs are being naturally selected.

> Why does the U.S. need to depend on the ~80.000 odd first order immigrants per year to generate that amount of wealth.

The U.S. doesn't need them - Silicon Valley was created by Americans.

However, companies have tasted what mass immigration does to engineering salaries (stagnant since 2000) and labor mobility (almost none for H1B's) and are as addicted as heroin addicts.

>companies have tasted what mass immigration does to engineering salaries (stagnant since 2000)

Do you happen to know if there were studies done to link these two?

This is basic supply and demand. Not everything needs a peer reviewed study to make a valid assumption.

So stagnant salaries have nothing to do with global and national economic factors like recessions ect.

It just purely H1B's. A little simplistic don't you think?

It's not (exclusively) about being poor or about drawing ambition from the current population. It's about having a vastly different perspective and background and understanding of how the world works. It's about being more ambitious than the opportunities presented to them in their home country, and having the tenacity to search for better ones on the other side of the world. This by definition makes them better entrepreneurs than nearly any American. You can't draw this out of the current population unless you place them so far away from opportunity, further than Detroit and further than Alaska. Which, it turns out, would make them a non-US citizen.

America is a bubble, and most people growing in it don't understand that different places and people and cultures work differently. People from outside the bubble have a higher likelihood to think differently from the local populace to solve everyday problems, which is the kind of innovation that makes a unicorn happen.

"vastly different perspective"

I know it's popular to think that, but just how vastly different is a Canadian immigrant founder from a US one? One of the people highlighted in the report is "Garrett Camp, an immigrant from Canada", who co-founded Uber. What perspective do you think the 8 Canadians on the list of 61 bring to an organization? Might a rural minority US citizen be more likely to contribute more diversity than an urban majority Canadian immigrant?

Certainly Canada is not "on the other side of the world". Most of the Canadian population lives closer to the lower 48 than the Alaskan population, so I don't understand what "by definition makes them better entrepreneurs than nearly any American" as you commented.

Most CS students want to come to the U.S. from around the world because the CS Rock Stars are here! Where else are you able to go to a meet up and strike up a conversation with the person who wrote popular software you admire? How often do you get to do that in another country? The immigrants want to start companies here because there are success stories here - especially immigrant success stories. I love the CS classes here ... I love the passion that students show, I love the side projects people are willing to invest free time in ...

It's no secret that the continuing economic dominance of the US is not due to a post-WW2 windfall or the unique capabilities of Americans, but more to the ability of the US to attract and retain the very best, and then subsequently give them unique opportunities.

Few nativists are opposed to the best and the brightest (and the already-wealthy) coming to the US in very, very small numbers, but what they don't realize is that it's pretty much impossible to tell in advance who's going to be a winning lottery ticket.

"few" ?


"Yet when Americans are asked about raising or lowering the number of immigrants coming into the country, only a small portion favor higher immigration levels and a very sizable plurality favor lower levels. A 2006 study by the Pew Hispanic Center, for example, found that 40 percent of those surveyed said legal immigration should be reduced and just 17 percent favored an increase. (Apparently Pew stopped asking that particular question after 2006.)

This chart from Pew shows that as recently as 2012, 69 percent of those surveyed agree that "we should restrict and control people coming to live in our country more than we do now."

Americans are divided over immigration. The lobbyists in Washington? Not so much."

What factors do you think contribute to the ability of the US to attract the best?

- A culture that strongly promotes entrepreneurial activity and doesn't lambast you for failing at starting a business.

- Venture capital on every corner. Most new businesses are started with capital from friends, family, or other local semi-well-off people (think: the doctors etc. that helped fund Warren Buffett's first company with initial investment). It's extremely common in the US, people don't find it strange.

- Large scale venture capital, eg Silicon Valley or NY.

- The best universities, by far. Beyond the concentration of talent that places like Stanford or MIT have, the US produces immense amounts of research and innovation from its top ~100 universities, which then frequently spin-off into new businesses. Bill Gates has estimated that the US produces 1/2 of all the scientific output on earth.

- Very enshrined protections around freedom of speech, and freedom of the press. This has been critical for companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Friendster, LinkedIn, Reddit, Digg, Blogger, Medium, Wordpress, Movable Type, LiveJournal and a thousand others. Relatively strong property rights protections also help.

- An approach to creating new things that mostly says that things are legal until or unless they're named to be illegal. Basically: do it, don't ask permission. It's why PayPal, Uber and Airbnb were able to break the rules and get away with it for so long. Despite the criticism you'll see of this on HN, it's invaluable. Otherwise, you have a system where you must seek permission for every single thing.

- Common language, common currency and a mostly unified large market under one federal system. Free movement between states allowing talent to go where it needs / wants to. Starting in the US enables you to rush to scale much faster than you can in almost any other market, a position of strength from which you can then go after every other market.

- Massive rewards. The US owns around 43% of all global wealth, with among the highest median incomes, and the fifth highest GDP per capita - matched with three hundred million people that have a high rate of consumer activity. That enables very outsized results.

- Extremely high productivity and high technology adoption across most industries. The US economy remains among the top nations in terms of productivity (as witnessed by its very high GDP per capita), despite its size.

- Plentiful and relatively cheap energy / energy costs. The US is the world's second largest manufacturer. If you need to make something physical in the US, you can still do it for the most part.

>but what they don't realize is that it's pretty much impossible to tell in advance who's going to be a winning lottery ticket.

Agreed, it's difficult to tell in advance. One way of skewing the odds in favor of the US is to just sell visas to the highest bidder.

How does that help get people like Andy Grove (from Intel)? As I recall he was penniless when he made it to the US in the 1950s.

Maybe if he were enterprising he could secure a loan for the visa?

According to the study, Mr. Bansal couldn’t leave his job to start a new company because it was unclear if he’d be able to keep his H-1B status.

For 7 years. What a lock-in. And during that time, your employer can probably abuse you and freeze your salary, knowing exactly that your stay depends on that visa and you have a hard time leaving.

Another point on immigrants. The US does it right: It causes brain-drain in other countries and actually takes in skilled workers. I can guarantee you that the kind of mass immigration central Europe is experiencing right now won't lead to an array of startups.

Funnily, due to country quotas that 7-9 yr wait on employment-based green cards is almost exclusively Indian problem.

Today, sure. 5 years ago, the EB2 and EB3 quotas for all other countries were almost as long, but this changes over time. For instance, in 2007, the line was 5 years after labor certification, so, in practice, about 6 years for everyone.

Nowadays that to get an H1B you need to go through a lottery, the big Indian outsources are increasing their percentage of H1Bs, making the problem both harder for India, and easier for the rest of the world. Instead of waiting 5 or 6 years like I did, now you probably can't stay in the US, but if you can, the green card is easier.

It's a downright bizarre situation.

Even for non-Indians it takes 2-3 years thanks to USCIS's general bureaucratic inefficiency.

Even a naturalized American who loses their certificate of naturalization and applies for a replacement copy has to wait 6 months for USCIS to issue a single piece of paper!

> I can guarantee you that the kind of mass immigration central Europe is experiencing right now won't lead to an array of startups.

Perhaps not, but it may mean those people are not blown to a million little pieces by bombs, or tortured to death, or starve to death, or simply decapitated by one of the various actors in the Syrian conflict.

That's "probably" still a win.

And they'll still likely be a net economic positive after a few years when they've adjusted and started working.

7 years is a lucky thing, I saw many 9+ years after 911, however if you have a nice PhD degree it could be much faster, the rest just have to wait and wait.

H1-B visa holders can switch jobs.

Yes, but it takes a lot of paperwork to do it. But H1-B holders can also be fired (thanks to work at free will) and would have to leave the country within 30 days if he/she could not find a new job. How can you even build a future in a new country like that?

So those immigrants are taking all that VC money away from me!

(Kidding, kidding, kidding, just a Trump joke).

And yet this is what the majority of people in on HN are arguing here. So you have to ask, why is a certain viewpoint laughable when applied to illegal immigrants from South America, but reasonable when applied to H-1B visas?

Because their interests are not hurt by illegal immigrants from South America, but hurt by legal immigrants on H-1B visas.

Damned Australians.

Fun fact: the E-3 visa is basically an H1-B, but with a separate quota, for Australian citizens only. It was created by Bush to thank Australia for helping the US in the Iraq war.

Another key difference -with an E3 there's no path to a green card. A number of friends have had to change to L1/H1 visas because of this limitation.

It's a grey area, plenty of people have gone direct from E3 to green card with no problems. But yes getting H1 first is theoretically safer ... if you can, given the lottery.


1. Many want it to be true that it's an objectively good idea to allow more immigration, or for there to be a broad consensus that more immigration is objectively good, or for there to be more ammunition to conduct moral posturing upon the outgroup when the outgroup has negative valence about immigration, or maybe two or all three. (I don't particularly disagree, immigration is fine.)

2. One great way to accomplish all of those is to create an association between "immigrant" and "success" or "innovation" in people's minds.

3. People gloss over the difference between P(A|B) and P(B|A) all the time. If you can show that P(B|A) is surprisingly high, and there's sufficient motivation to do so, people will instead think something much more like "A and B are associated" than "A often implies B though not at all necessarily the converse".

4. So, just show that {thing you want people to have positive valence about} is overrepresented in {tiny set of things with positive valence}. This will probably be easy, since there are lots of tiny sets of things with positive valence.

This strategy is far more used in the negative case -- "people who do bad thing Y are often from group X, don't concern yourself with the base rate of bad thing Y among all members of group X" -- but either way it's very effective and very insidious.

"These 44 companies, the study says, are collectively valued at $168 billion and create an average of roughly 760 jobs per company."

Firstly, that's 33,000 jobs or about 0.0003% of the US workforce, so hardly the backbone of the economy.

Secondly, the H1B program, the subject of the article, is not an immigration program but a guest worker program. Generally, H1B workers leave the country and don't go on to start companies because the visa is limited to six years.

Nope, the H1B visa is THE immigration program. Every university will tell you that.

The route used to go like this: Studying in an American university will get you an F1 visa, which gets you either a first job or an internship. Then, if you are any good, the only sensible way for your employer to retain you is to file for H1B. Back when I did it, it was really easy to get it (as opposed to today's 1/3 lottery). At that point, you can say that you want a green card. Nobody is going to be crazy enough to sponsor someone for a Green Card if they aren't working there already, if just because it's a relatively long process in the best of cases, and many years the worst. So we get H1Bs so that companies will be OK sponsoring us. Once your green card process is pending, the visa stops being limited: You just have to wait as many years as it might take to get to the front of the green card queue. Then you will be approved, and become a permanent resident.

Today, getting the H1B is actually HARDER than getting the green card, but getting one first is pretty much mandatory due to the delays. This is what makes the H1B the main road in. If you look at the employment based green cards handed out every year, a very large percentage comes from H1s, or maybe L1s(which only works in a company that has an international subsidiary)

There are H1Bs that go back home, but they are those that get laid off at the wrong time, so they give up on the green card process.

Good comment. Just a clarification: there is no path to the Green Card from L1B. There is a path from L1A, but I would guess they are a minority of the L1 visas.

So yes, H1 seems to be the one and only skilled immigration program.

Very anecdotal but all my friends who got to the US on an H1B have moved on to green card and citizenship. I would imagine this is quite common as it is a "dual-intent" visa. I think it would be better for immigrants and Americans if workers got a permanent residency immediately status rather than a temporary work visa tied to a given company.

The largest users of H1Bs, the big outsourcing firms like Tata and Infosys, don't sponsor permanent residency. The two largest ones had something like 13,000 new H1Bs in 2013 and sponsored 7 people for permanent residency that year.

They are also the main abusers of H-1B, universally hated by _real_ tech companies and university graduates (applying for one).

>Generally, H1B workers leave the country and don't go on to start companies.

Do you have any stats on this or is it just a gut feeling?

> 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.

$168B divided by 760 employees: $220M of value created per job.

If there's no error in the numbers, that means that employees at these startups are tremendously underpaid, in spite of probably making above-market salaries.

Isn't the number 760 employees PER company? That would make the total as 760*44=33,440 employees.

Correct. That comes down to $5M per employee, which is still pretty damn good by my standards

Haha yes, you are right.

Not quite; 760 employees per company, but 168B overall. That makes for $5M of value per job. $5M is approaching the compensation of most of the average employee here.

Not on a serious note...this title could be phrased as 'With no immigrants flooding, americans will found 100% of U.S. Billion-Dollar startups'

"Immigrants Stealing 51% of Best Paying Jobs"

This game is fun!

The arbitrary criteria for deciding what companies to include shows they could have just searched for one (valued at over $1B at 2016-01-01 and not publicly traded) that gives the most favorable result. Why $1B? Why not $10B, $100M, or $1 million? Why 2016? Why not 2015 or any time in the past decade or two? Why not listed companies? Is that so they can call them "startups", or is it because $1B+ listed companies are mostly founded by American born people?

I couldn't find any mention of their methodology for selecting criteria in the linked report. Without that, the only conclusion seems to be "water is wet". This doesn't look like science. It looks like politics and is inherent dishonesty.

They could do with a startup founder visa really. Maybe allow people to hang out and launch companies for a year or 2 and allow conversion to a long term visa if they employ a few Americans. Bit like a relaxed version of the E2 visa.

Edit - I read to the bottom of the article and see they tried to bring something like that in with the "EB-JOBS Act of 2015" which didn't get through the political system.

This already exists in the EB-5 visa[0] assuming you start with .5 million funding. You get to stay forever too.

[0] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/EB-5_visa

EB-5 visa requires $1 million funding. .5 million is for "Targeted Employment Area", which is basically area with bad economy, you really don't want to start a startup there.

The trouble is most startup founders don't have $500k lying around.

There aren't many Billion Dollar startups out there (44 as said in the article) so the apparently precise percentage (51%) is slightly misleading (base size is small so not so representative). If they had looked at, let's say, 500M startups, the actual figure would have been more telling.

No matter how you feel about the whole legal immigration thing, If it is true that immigrants who form significantly less than 51% of the working population found 51% of the startups there is an interesting insight statistically speaking (This is not normal, but good)

May be there needs to be a distinction between the kind of immigrants who go on to found startups vs the one who come to take low paying jobs. May be create different visa category for each. Encourage one discourage another(limiting it), but that doesn't mean that every person who comes under 1st category starts a company or everybody who comes under the second category doesn't start a company.

I see it as math, maximize one function and minimize the other.

What good is a billion dollar startup if it pays little US tax, and only employs one or two hundred high paying jobs? A 100 Million dollar company typically employs just as many high paying jobs and may pay more US tax than a lot of these tech companies.

Also, a lot of these tech companies that are "shaking up" industries are profitable at the expense of other more traditional businesses (For example: AirBnB taking business from Hotels, Uber from taxi services, etc).

So bringing in more Billion dollar unicorn startups may not be the best thing for a country.

> What good is a billion dollar startup if it pays little US tax?

Your line of thought implies that the only way a company can add value to the economy is through employment and taxes. You only need to look for a couple seconds at the mess in DC to glimpse how much money from taxes is wasted, not to mention allocated towards ethically questionable activities (drones, domestic spying, wars, etc). That's for another conversation.

In the case of airbnb, you are taking money from larger more established corporations (hotel chains) and giving it to homeowners who have a spare bedroom or are away for the weekend. You are also providing a wider range of pricing options for consumers. So the company contributes to the economy in those ways as well, not just through employment and taxes.

> Also, a lot of these tech companies that are "shaking up" industries are profitable at the expense of other more traditional businesses

These companies take business from traditional companies because they provide more value. Keep in mind the whole point of a company to fulfill a need. I would say that it's not really up to you or anyone other than consumers to decide if it's a good thing or not that these companies succeed. Competition is always a good thing for consumers.

tldr; WSJ want to raise H1B cap and cherry-picks/mis-represents data to justify that.

The study found that 51 percent of the country’s $1 billion startup companies had at least one immigrant founder.

To say that "immigrants founded 51% of U.S. billion-dollar startups" seems a bit misleading to me.

We're talking theses United States right?! So unless you're talking 'bout Native Americans then 99%+ of all companies since 1776 have been created by Immigrants. Think about folks!

If so, how did us Europeans "immigrating" to the US work out for the Native Americans?

If you want to be that pedantic, Native Americans are immigrants as well, they just happened to immigrate thousands of years ago.

native americans immigrated over the landbridge, all those year ago, no? ostensibly they're just the first immigrants. :-)

What was thd class of the inmigrant? Where did they go to school? And were those that funded them immigrants?

Then the big picture emerges.

I don't know about the US, but in Britain a lot of university funding comes from charging foreigners an arm and a leg to study there.

Pretty sure white immigrants like Elon Musk are not who Donald Trump and his followers are talking about.

Never let your inferiors do you a favor. It'll be extremely costly;

49% of US billion-dollar startups were founded by native americans?

Clicked this expecting to see much breast-beating about H1B and "driving down wages". Top comment has this:

"And of course H1B visas drive down wages"

Wasn't disappointed. Never change hacker news.

xenophobia is big part of this myth. in the future, mail wife will be the only way to get into US

Immigrants are awesome and unfortunately exploited but don't you think an orderly immigration is far more effective than having borders Zerg rushed?

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