Immigrants come to the United States for a variety of reasons, whether it is for the safety of their families or to achieve the “American dream” by procuring financial independence. Despite the incredible entrepreneurial achievements of so many immigrants, battles remain for immigrants seeking to pursue their dreams in the United States through legal immigration, particularly in the current political climate.
What Makes Immigrants So Good at Entrepreneurship?
Immigrants found 25% of new U.S. businesses, but what makes them so successful? Investment banker and business strategist Carol Roth argues that it is the hardworking, go-for-broke attitude that allows so many immigrants to be successful entrepreneurs. She points out that, “What’s more uncomfortable than being in a new land where you may not speak the language and don’t know the culture but are doing it anyway? Everything in the U.S. today is about being comfortable, having that cozy chair and that comfort food. However, for somebody who doesn’t have a lot to lose, what’s the downside?”
Perhaps part of the success of immigrant entrepreneurs comes from their ability to offer an outside perspective on the American economy. British entrepreneur Chris Dagger, owner of Custom Confections, Inc. in Massachusetts says that he believes the fact that he did not grow up in the American school system allows him to look at a business from an outside perspective, helping him to be successful in business.
The following will spotlight immigrants who have become successful entrepreneurs in the U.S. despite their hardships early in life. Prepare to be inspired as we focus on the talent and drive of these individuals.
- Jerry Yang: Jerry Yang was born in Taiwan in 1968. He moved to California at the age of 8, at which point the only English word he knew was “shoe”. In 1990, he graduated from Stanford University. He founded Yahoo in 1995 and ran the company until 2012 when he stepped down with a $1.15 billion net worth.
- Andrew Ly: Ly lived in a Malaysian refugee camp after the U.S. forces left his native country of Vietnam. In 1979 he came to the United States with only a single dollar. Ly and his brothers founded the Sugar Bowl Bakery, which became a $400 million U.S. business.
- Indra Nooyi: Nooyi, a native of India, moved to the United States to study at Yale University. She worked her way up at PepsiCo from receptionist to CEO. She currently enjoys a $30 million annual salary.
- Elie Wiesel: Born in Transylvania, Romania in 1928, author Elie Wiesel moved to the United States during World War II. He has published over 40 books and was a Nobel Peace Prize winner before he passed away in 2016. His legacy lives on with the Elie Wiesel Foundation, which is dedicated to honoring the memory of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust. He started as an American immigrant fleeing war-torn Europe, and his legacy continues to make a lasting impression.
- Ahmad Meradji: Ahmad Meradji is a stellar example of a successful entrepreneurial immigrant. At age 21, Meradji moved from Iran to America. He spoke no English and worked as a busboy, delivery man, cab driver, and waiter. He worked up to executive positions at H&R Block and Xerox. In 2006, he started his Booklogix, a self-publishing service with annual revenue of over $2.5 million. He works incredibly long hours, often over 80 a week, waking up at 3 a.m. to start the day. When asked about leaving a high paying job to start his own business, he stated, “I left a high-paying job. However, I looked at it this way: I had nothing when I came here, and I figured the worst that could happen to me is that I lose everything.”
- Andy Grove: Born in 1936 in Hungary, Andy Grove moved to the U.S. in 1956 during the Hungarian Revolution. He studied chemistry and worked as a busboy in New York. After moving to California, he founded the Intel Corporation. Intel is now a multi-billion dollar company.
What Battles do Successful Immigrants Face to Remain in the United States?
Today’s immigrants to the United States often face a fierce battle to remain here. Immigration is a hot-button issue in the current political climate. The following are just some of the current challenges immigrants seeking United States visas face:
- Over 800,000 United States immigrants are currently waiting to see the outcome of lawsuits seeking to preserve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program or DACA. Through DACA, if someone’s family brought him or her to the United States as a child illegally, then that person can receive two-year permits to prevent deportation. These permits can be reinstated every two years, but the Trump administration announced it would end DACA in 2017.
- The current administration also stated it would end temporary protected status for over 325,000 immigrants. Those affected come from countries that, through war or natural disasters, have previously been deemed too dangerous for immigrants to return.
- In the last fiscal year, the number of asylum-based court decisions rose from 10,000 to 42,224. The government denied 65% of asylum claims.
- While the number of refugee status applications rose by 25% in recent years to over 141,000, admissions have decreased by 36%.
Immigrants are the founders of over 25% of the startup companies in the United States and often bring a strong work ethic and desire to succeed with them from their countries of origin. Despite these qualities, immigrants face an uphill battle in the current political climate. With more restrictions placed on immigration by the current administration, it is more important than ever for immigrants to receive professional legal immigration help to navigate the complex immigration system successfully.