OECD: What are the risks and rewards of start-up visas? | Quels sont les risques et les avantages des visas pour start-up?

Useful international comparisons and caution regarding the benefits:

“Investor and entrepreneur visas in most OECD countries focus on owners with capital, experience and a business that is already operating, often with high turnover. Founders with potentially high impact and transformational ideas for new businesses, but without their own capital or income, are generally not eligible for existing visa programs. They may also fall short of the requirements for formal education in those countries offering skilled migration programs in some countries.

·         To be able to attract, admit and retain high potential entrepreneurs, many countries have introduced visa programmes specifically designed for founders and employees of start-up firms. All such programs focus on people with scalable, transformative and innovative business ideas at the early stage of development. 

·         Some countries assess applicants through the immigration service, but most rely on expert panels or government bodies and agencies with a focus on SMEs, business creation and innovation.

·         Determining which start-ups have high potential is not easy to scale up to a mass decision making process.

·         A start-up is, by nature, a high-risk venture and many fail. Managing this risk is a key concern of visa programs.

·         The benefits of the visa programme for the founder and the business community are evident. There is the potential for personal enrichment for the founder and opportunities for the business community to learn from both success and failure. However, these programs must also demonstrate there are benefits to the public – including that founders are contributing to the community that made their success possible.

·         Migrant founders are offered a range of generous conditions, including permanent residence, state funding, grants, professional contacts, mentoring, access to incubators, support for family reunification, simplified application procedures and expedited processing. 

·         There are real economic benefits from hosting successful start-ups, in terms of job creation, new services and supporting a sustained culture of innovation and forward thinking. An SUV programme can make the country more visible for investors, firms and individuals looking for a destination associated with innovation.

·         However, there is currently little quantitative evidence of the benefits that migrant founders bring to the host country. More needs to be done to build evaluation frameworks so that the policy settings can be refined and the generous support provided to start up founders can be justified to the public. 

·         There are also important issues to resolve in protecting the integrity of the programs – ensuring that programs are not deliberately misused to circumvent the controls in other programs (skilled migration and business visas) and that the programme delivers on its policy aims.”

View or download the full report | Consultez ou téléchargez le rapport complet (en anglais) :

·         https://www.oecd.org/migration/mig/MPD-28-What-are-the-risks-and-rewards-of-start-up-visas.pdf

From the conclusion:

However, countries that already have SUV programs should establish more robust processes to evaluate the outcomes of participants and adjust policy settings.

Countries that have established start-up visas have yet to develop metrics by which to judge the success of their start up programs. The SUVs presented in this brief often require more administrative resources for adjudication than other visas.

Evaluations are needed to refine policy settings and assess the benefit to the public, which funds the administration of the programs and bears the cost of any failures. Start-up visa programs are relatively recent and their value is yet to be demonstrated quantitatively, although they have not been subject to particular scrutiny so far.

Migration, or even the private sector, alone does not drive fundamental technological change.

Studies suggest that it is a broad co-operation between government, the private sector and tertiary institutions that provide fundamental advancements in science and technology – with sometimes no immediate commercial applicability. These advancements provide base level tools for the private sector to develop into products that have a real impact on the economy and people’s lives. While it is important to have visa options for the highly talented with unconventional backgrounds, migration is only one part of a larger project to foster innovation.

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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