Immigrant entrepreneurial power, EB-5 Immigrant Investor

Much has been written about immigrant entrepreneurial power and how the U.S. is losing out. In an article in Techcrunch, Vivek Wadhwa – well-known entrepreneur, academic, and author on immigrant entrepreneurial power – has laid out examples of immigrant entrepreneurs who left the U.S. because of visa problems and established enterprises in other countries which provided hundreds of jobs. In June 2011, the Partnership for a New American Economy published a report about the entrepreneurial track record of immigrants in the U.S.

The E-2 Treaty Investor visa is available to nationals of countries that the United States has a treaty of friendship, commerce and navigation, or a free trade agreement that includes the E-2 visa option. But we don’t have treaties with many countries who have eager entrepreneurs. Of particular note is the absence of an E-2 treaty option with India, the People’s Republic of China and Israel which could provide the U.S. with the job-creating innovators we need.

The EB-5 immigrant investor category should be distinguished from the treaty investor (E-2) nonimmigrant visa classification, which allows a noncitizen who invests a substantial amount of capital in an enterprise in the United States to enter this country to develop and direct the enterprise. The principal E-2 investor must be a national of a country with which the United States has a treaty of commerce and navigation providing for the investor activity.

The H-1b visa, commonly used for professional positions, had in the past been used successfully for foreign nationals who were investors in viable businesses employing themselves and others. But a recent change in policy narrowing the technical definition of “employee” has thwarted the H-1b option. Although USCIS has indicated it is in the process of reviewing its policy and educating its adjudicators, there has not been a significant improvement in adjudications reported.

EB-5 Immigrant Investor 

Visa Description

USCIS administers the Immigrant Investor Program, also known as “EB-5,” created by Congress in 1990 to stimulate the U.S. economy through job creation and capital investment by foreign investors. Under a pilot immigration program first enacted in 1992 and regularly reauthorized since, certain EB-5 visas also are set aside for investors in Regional Centers designated by USCIS based on proposals for promoting economic growth.

The fifth employment-based (EB-5) immigrant visa category, with approximately 10,000 numbers annually, is for immigrants seeking to enter the United States to engage in a commercial enterprise that will benefit the U.S. economy and create at least ten full-time jobs.  The jobs must be for U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, or other noncitizens authorized to work, other than the applicant or his or her immediate family. The applicant must have invested or be in the process of investing the required amount after November 29, 1990, the effective date of the Immigration Act of 1990. The basic amount required is $1 million, although that amount may be $500,000 if the investment is made in a “targeted employment area.” In either case, before the second anniversary of obtaining the resulting green card, the applicant has to establish that he or she has substantially maintained the investment and that the investment has created the requisite ten full-time jobs.

As some members of Congress have complained, some potential immigrants may be attracted by the possibility of “buying their way” into the United States. But whatever the initial investment, the entrepreneur must create at least ten jobs in a business that he or she must maintain for at least two years. To satisfy this requirement and to define the financial exposure reasonably, certain labor-intensive franchises may be attractive.

The statutory requirements of the EB-5 visa category are onerous. Until recently, only about 1,000 principal investors and their family members immigrated through this category each year, which is just one-tenth of the visas available. The former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) (now U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)) made it even harder to qualify for the EB-5 visa category by issuing four precedent decisions in 1998 that significantly restricted eligibility for this category. n6 The INS applied those decisions retroactively to investors who applied for EB-5 classification before 1998. Moreover, after 1998 the INS’s Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) issued numerous nonprecedent decisions further tightening the screws on EB-5 cases. Nevertheless, in the last few years, interest in the EB-5 program has grown.

The 1998 restrictions to the EB-5 program prompted a flurry of lawsuits challenging the changes on a variety of grounds. So far the decisions have gone both ways.

In 2002 Congress passed a law helping certain immigrant investors hurt by the INS’s 1998 decisions. The 2002 law gave investors caught by the retroactive application of the INS’s changes an opportunity to re-establish EB-5 eligibility. In essence, the 2002 law replaced the normal procedures of INA § 216A with new procedures for investors who fit the parameters of the 2002 law. Those deemed to have met those requirements would be granted unconditional permanent resident status. Those who had not yet met these requirements would have two years to complete their investments and to demonstrate the requisite job creation/saving, receiving credit for amounts invested and jobs created or saved to date.

The 2002 law also made some modest changes to the general EB-5 program. The changes made by the 2002 law apply to I-526 and I-829 petitions pending on or filed after November 2, 2002, the date of enactment.

According to the immigration agency, just fifty-nine EB-5 immigrants were admitted in fiscal year (FY) 1992, the first year of the EB-5 program. The high point for EB-5 admissions until 1998 was in FY 1997, when 1,361 people (both investors and family members) were admitted. Id. After the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS or Service) issued four precedent decisions in 1998 that restricted eligibility for the program (discussed infra), admissions fell to a low of sixty-four in FY 2003. The number of EB-5 immigrants rose to 129 in FY 2004, increased to 1,360 in FY 2008, and jumped to 3,688 in FY 2009.  Office of Immigration Statistics, U.S. Dep’t of Homeland Security, Yearbook of Immigration Statistics (2009) (table 6), (last visited Apr. 17, 2010).

All EB-5 investors must invest in a new commercial enterprise, which is a commercial enterprise:

  • Established after Nov. 29, 1990, or
  • Established on or before Nov. 29, 1990, that is:
    1. Purchased and the existing business is restructured or reorganized in such a way that a new commercial enterprise results, or
    2. Expanded through the investment so that a 40-percent increase in the net worth or number of employees occurs

Commercial enterprise means any for-profit activity formed for the ongoing conduct of lawful business including, but not limited to:

  • A sole proprietorship
  • Partnership (whether limited or general)
  • Holding company
  • Joint venture
  • Corporation
  • Business trust or other entity, which may be publicly or privately owned

This definition includes a commercial enterprise consisting of a holding company and its wholly owned subsidiaries, provided that each such subsidiary is engaged in a for-profit activity formed for the ongoing conduct of a lawful business.

Note: This definition does not include noncommercial activity such as owning and operating a personal residence.

Job Creation Requirements

  • Create or preserve at least 10 full-time jobs for qualifying U.S. workers within two years (or under certain circumstances, within a reasonable time after the two-year period) of the immigrant investor’s admission to the United States as a Conditional Permanent Resident.
  • Create or preserve either direct or indirect jobs:
    • Direct jobs are actual identifiable jobs for qualified employees located within the commercial enterprise into which the EB-5 investor has directly invested his or her capital.
    • Indirect jobs are those jobs shown to have been created collaterally or as a result of capital invested in a commercial enterprise affiliated with a regional center by an EB-5 investor. A foreign investor may only use the indirect job calculation if affiliated with a regional center.

Note: Investors may only be credited with preserving jobs in a troubled business.

troubled business is an enterprise that has been in existence for at least two years and has incurred a net loss during the 12- or 24-month period prior to the priority date on the immigrant investor’s Form I-526. The loss for this period must be at least 20 percent of the troubled business’ net worth prior to the loss. For purposes of determining whether the troubled business has been in existence for two years, successors in interest to the troubled business will be deemed to have been in existence for the same period of time as the business they succeeded.

qualified employee is a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or other immigrant authorized to work in the United States. The individual may be a conditional resident, an asylee, a refugee, or a person residing in the United States under suspension of deportation. This definition does not include the immigrant investor; his or her spouse, sons, or daughters; or any foreign national in any nonimmigrant status (such as an H-1B visa holder) or who is not authorized to work in the United States.

Full-time employment means employment of a qualifying employee by the new commercial enterprise in a position that requires a minimum of 35 working hours per week. In the case of the Immigrant Investor Pilot Program, “full-time employment” also means employment of a qualifying employee in a position that has been created indirectly from investments associated with the Pilot Program.

job-sharing arrangement whereby two or more qualifying employees share a full-time position will count as full-time employment provided the hourly requirement per week is met. This definition does not include combinations of part-time positions or full-time equivalents even if, when combined, the positions meet the hourly requirement per week. The position must be permanent, full-time and constant. The two qualified employees sharing the job must be permanent and share the associated benefits normally related to any permanent, full-time position, including payment of both workman’s compensation and unemployment premiums for the position by the employer.

Capital Investment Requirements

Capital means cash, equipment, inventory, other tangible property, cash equivalents and indebtedness secured by assets owned by the alien entrepreneur, provided that the alien entrepreneur is personally and primarily liable and that the assets of the new commercial enterprise upon which the petition is based are not used to secure any of the indebtedness. All capital shall be valued at fair-market value in United States dollars. Assets acquired, directly or indirectly, by unlawful means (such as criminal activities) shall not be considered capital for the purposes of section 203(b)(5) of the Act.

Note: Investment capital cannot be borrowed.

Required minimum investments are:

  • General. The minimum qualifying investment in the United States is $1 million.
  • Targeted Employment Area (High Unemployment or Rural Area). The minimum qualifying investment either within a high-unemployment area or rural area in the United States is $500,000.

targeted employment area is an area that, at the time of investment, is a rural area or an area experiencing unemployment of at least 150 percent of the national average rate.

rural area is any area outside a metropolitan statistical area (as designated by the Office of Management and Budget) or outside the boundary of any city or town having a population of 20,000 or more according to the decennial census.

Over the years the immigration agency has tightened its review of applications for regional center designation under the pilot program. In 2000 the agency issued five decisions on regional center applications, denying or remanding all of them. The decisions set forth restrictive new requirements to qualify as a regional center. Since 2002, the agency has not revisited its requirements for regional center designation in published decisions or amendments to regulations. Rather, it has tightened its review of regional center applications and evolved its standards for approval through practice rather than publication, namely through adjudicatory trends and RFEs in particular.

RFEs are a common phenomenon in immigrant and nonimmigrant visa petitions for individuals, but their purpose in those cases is to clarify the petition’s facts and compare those facts against the regulatory requirements for the visa category. By contrast, RFEs for regional center applications have clarified the agency’s standards. The RFE as articulation mechanism has thus charted the evolution of the precision of USCIS standards.

For example, the USCIS now requires regional center applications to include project-specific business plans. Less than two years ago, regional center applications were not required to include such business plans.

A second example of the evolution of a standard through RFEs is the current requirement for financial information. As with the project business plan example, such financial information at first needed only to be captured generally in the regional center application, and detailed enumerations of funds committed, expenses incurred, and the object and source of this capital were not required. By way of the RFE, however, over time practitioners have learned the extent to which the USCIS now requires such evidence to be documented to receive regional center approval. This may include, inter alia, expense attestations regarding funds committed and expenses incurred, bank account statements, expense and cash flow and financial-projection spreadsheets, and source-of-capital letters. This is clearly a detailed articulation of the regulation stipulating demonstration of the amount and source of the regional center’s operational capital.

The immigration agency’s tightened review of regional center applications over the past couple of years can be correlated with the increase in number of applications. At first, many of the RFE requests appeared to beyond the scope of prior practice, and practitioners could respond by explaining that such requests were not appropriate. As the evolution and clarification of standards proceeded, however, the USCIS began issuing second RFEs in some regional center applications that more articulately defined its requests. The USCIS also used the RFE process to note that statements of counsel cannot be accepted as evidence of the regional center’s intentions and that all plans and projections must come directly from a regional center official.

Eventually the USCIS issued three memoranda in 2009, each subsequently more significant and compelling on regional center applicants, reflecting guidance established through recent trends in adjudication and RFEs. The latter two memoranda update the agency’s Adjudicator’s Field Manual and thus articulate as catalogued guidance the practice tips practitioners had previously observed in RFEs.

The first of these memoranda, issued on June 12, 2009, by Michael Aytes, Acting USCIS Deputy Director, responded to a March 2009 report by the USCIS Ombudsman offering eight recommendations to improve the EB-5 program. The Aytes memo did not offer much substantial guidance. It agreed with some of the Ombudsman’s procedural recommendations but stated that many were not yet ready for implementation (such as the expedited premium processing service of individual petitions for an extra fee) and that a number of others would require legislative action by Congress.

On June 17, Donald Neufeld, Acting USCIS Associate Director of Domestic Operations, issued a memorandum to all USCIS offices entitled “EB-5 Alien Entrepreneurs–Job Creation and Full-Time Positions.” Updating the Adjudicator’s Field Manual, this memo provided substantive guidance on three EB-5 topics: (1) when jobs must be created; (2) how to document proof of job creation in I-829 petitions; and (3) what constitutes a full-time job for EB-5 purposes.

On December 11, 2009, Donald Neufeld issued the USCIS’s most in-depth memorandum on regional centers yet. It rescinded a January 2005 memorandum that had established a now defunct EB-5 investor and regional center unit at USCIS headquarters. Instead, all EB-5 adjudications now occur at the California Service Center (CSC). The points of the December 11 memo cover the following topics: (1) timing of adjudication of EB-5 eligibility issues; (2) procedures to be used when there appears to be a material change in circumstances; (3) TEA determinations; (4) how an immigrant investor may seek approval of a new I-526 petition to change the focus of his or her investment to a new capital investment project or commercial enterprise; (5) the respective EB-5 program responsibilities of CSC and Service Center Operations (SCOPS) personnel; and (6) field guidance including, notably, the process of exemplar filings and regional center eligibility requirements that reiterate the guidance provided by the preceding RFEs.

As introduced by the December 11 memo, the innovation of exemplar filings merits a further note. Exemplar filings, provide another example of the evolution of regional center application standards and their effect on post-approval procedures and investor filings. Until recently, the corporate and other documents associated with hypothetical projects were typically disclaimed as “draft” or “sample” at the regional center application stage. Actual project documents were typically submitted for the first time with the first I-526 filing, making the first investor in a project essentially a guinea pig, as the petition could be delayed (RFE’d) or denied based on the regional center project documents. A regional center can now avoid project adjudication at the I-526 stage and also receive blanket approval for project documents, so that each subsequent investor petition does not have to have project documents evaluated on their merits anew. Project pre-approval can be achieved by doing an exemplar filing with the regional center application initially, by submitting finalized project documents at the regional center application RFE stage, or by filing a regional center amendment post-approval. These options require more work upfront and are not feasible or appropriate in all cases, but they can save time and take the burden off individual I-526 petitions later. The regional center applicant should consider the suitability and advantages and disadvantages of these options for the particular case.

EB-5 practice is one of the most complex subspecialties of immigration law. Corporate, securities, tax, investment, and immigration law are all involved in the regulatory requirements for qualifying a person for EB-5 status. Furthermore, the evolving nature of the regional center pilot program has added another layer of complexity to the practice and has required attorneys, investors, and regional centers to tailor their own best practices to changing USCIS standards. With its 2009 memoranda, the USCIS may believe that it has interpreted key components of the EB-5 program as extensively as possible within the existing statutory requirements. Recognizing this context and consulting the memoranda, RFE trends, and other practice experience such as the December 1, 2009, USCIS compliance letters, it is possible to arrive at a relatively comprehensive understanding of the EB-5 category and its nebulous and evolving regional center pilot program.

EB-5 Links




JUNE 2011

Co-Chairs of the Partnership for a New American Economy

Steven A. Ballmer CEO, Microsoft Corporation

Michael R. Bloomberg Mayor, New York City

Julián Castro Mayor, San Antonio

Phil Gordon Mayor, Phoenix

Bob Iger Chairman & CEO, Walt Disney Company

Bill Marriott, Jr. Chairman & CEO, Marriott International

Jim McNerney Chairman, CEO & President, Boeing

Rupert Murdoch Chairman, CEO & Founder, News Corporation

Michael Nutter Mayor, Philadelphia

Antonio Villaraigosa Mayor, Los Angeles

Learn more at



JUNE 2011

Executive Summary

America’s dynamic, free, and open economy has for more than two centuries acted as a powerful magnet for the world’s brightest and most creative minds. This is the American tradition.  Each generation, millions of talented people from around the world take the risk of leaving their homes to seek a better life at our shores. And the American economy benefits enormously from  the contributions of these hard-working, innovative individuals.

This report highlights the benefits we receive from immigrants’ entrepreneurialism by examining the Fortune 500, a list of companies that help define the American economy. Every year, Fortune Magazine ranks the top American companies by revenue. The companies that populate the list — names like Kraft, Ford, General Electric, Procter & Gamble, AT&T, Mattel, Google, McDonald’s, Heinz, Home Depot, Hertz, Estée Lauder, UPS, Boeing, and Disney — are synonymous with America’s leading role in the global marketplace.

But the great American companies listed above are also “New American” companies — companies founded by immigrants or their children — a characteristic they share with more than 200 others on the 2010 Fortune 500 list.

This report examines the impact that immigrant entrepreneurs have had on our economy, on millions of workers across virtually all industry sectors, and on America’s prosperity. And it underscores the opportunities America may lose if future entrepreneurs start their businesses in other countries — especially if we maintain an immigration system that turns many of them away.

Key findings include:

More than 40 percent of the 2010 Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children. Even though immigrants have made up only 10.5 percent of the American population on average since 1850, there are 90 immigrant-founded Fortune 500 companies,  accounting for 18 percent of the list. When you include the additional 114 companies founded by the children of immigrants, the share of the Fortune 500 list grows to over 40 percent.

The newest Fortune 500 companies are more likely to have an immigrant founder. 

Just shy of 20 percent of the newest Fortune 500 companies — those founded over the 25-year period between 1985 and 2010 — have an immigrant founder.

Fortune 500 companies founded by immigrants or children of immigrants employ more than 10 million people worldwide. Immigrant-founded Fortune 500 companies alone employ more than 3.6 million people, a figure equivalent to the entire population of Connecticut.

The revenue generated by Fortune 500 companies founded by immigrants or children of immigrants is greater than the GDP of every country in the world outside the U.S., except China and Japan. The Fortune 500 companies that boast immigrant or children-of-immigrant founders have combined revenues of $4.2 trillion. $1.7 trillion of that amount comes just from the companies founded by immigrants.

Seven of the 10 most valuable brands in the world come from American companies founded by immigrants or children of immigrants. Many of America’s greatest brands— Apple, Google, AT&T, Budweiser, Colgate, eBay, General Electric, IBM, and McDonald’s, to name just a few — owe their origin to a founder who was an immigrant or the child of an immigrant.

Immigrant-founded Fortune 500 companies drive a wide range of industry sectors across the American economy.  Fortune 500 companies founded by immigrants are not confined to a small subset of industries or fields.  Instead, they range across aerospace, defense, Internet, consumer products, specialty retail, railroads, insurance, electronics, hospitality, natural resources, finance, and many other sectors.

The report shows how America’s economy has always profited from the steady influx of foreign-born talent.  But in the new 21st century global economy, we must do more to welcome the next generation of entrepreneurs, as opportunities improve around the world and competing countries roll out the red carpet.  For years, America has loomed largest in the minds of the most enterprising individuals around the world. But as the global marketplace evolves, we cannot count on remaining their top choice. Budding entrepreneurs from new powerhouses like China and India see ever-better business environments back home.  Countries like the U.K., Canada, and Australia are taking bold steps to draw ambitious, talented people to their shores.  Meanwhile, the American immigration system continues to raise barriers to these individuals, driving away the bright foreign students who attend our universities and keeping out the aspiring businesspeople who would otherwise come here.

First and foremost, we must pursue smart immigration policies that better encourage the brightest and most entrepreneurial to build their businesses and create jobs in the U.S. We must provide incentives and opportunities for foreign students to stay after graduating from our universities with advanced degrees, especially in critical fields like science and technology. We must make it easier for American businesses to hire and keep the highly skilled workers they need to thrive. And we must create a visa specifically for the aspiring entrepreneurs who will found the Fortune 500 companies of tomorrow, rather than driving them and their investors elsewhere to create the jobs we need here.

The “New American” Fortune 500

In 1955, when Fortune Magazine published its first list of the top-grossing American companies, the firms on the list had revenues equivalent to 39 percent of the national gross domestic product.1  By 2010, the Fortune 500 companies generated revenues equivalent to 73 percent of GDP.2 These companies now form the global economy’s center of gravity, and our future prosperity is entwined with theirs.

This report explores one major reason that America’s Fortune 500 companies have been so successful: America has long been a magnet for talent. The American economy stands apart because, more than any other place on earth, talented people from around the globe want to come here to start their businesses. America has long been seen as the land of opportunity, and our economic success is built on decade after decade of the world’s best and brightest coming to our shores to work, innovate, and succeed. Beginning perhaps with Alexander Hamilton — the first Secretary of the United States Treasury and a native of Nevis in the British West Indies — enterprising people the world over have immigrated to America and played an essential role in our economic success.

By establishing the First Bank of the United States, Hamilton created a common currency and provided the credit that modernized the nascent U.S. economy and set our country on stable economic footing. The immigrants who followed Hamilton have embraced his legacy and run with it, spearheading innovation and, ultimately, America’s global economic dominance. Scottish immigrant Alexander Graham Bell revolutionized communication with the invention of the telephone. And Latvian and German immigrants Jacob Davis and Levis Strauss gave us perhaps the most “American” invention of all — the blue jeans that were so highly sought-after as emblems of America’s youthfulness and freedom that they became a kind of currency the world over.

America is a nation of immigrants, and the American economy is an economy of immigrants.  Many of our most “American” companies — Procter & Gamble, AT&T, Kraft, Colgate-Palmolive, U.S. Steel, Philip Morris, TIAA-CREF, DuPont, Goldman Sachs, Pfizer, International Paper, Kohl’s, Capital One, Honeywell, PG&E, and Nordstrom, to name just a few — were founded by immigrants. And immigrants and their children are responsible for a host of iconic American brands, ranging from Barbie — which was launched by the daughter of Polish immigrants — to Ford, built by a man whose father hailed from Cork, Ireland.

And a similar story exists for the cutting-edge American firms of tomorrow. Google, Intel, eBay, Yahoo!, Sun, and Qualcomm — this latest generation of powerhouses were all founded by immigrants. Other growing fields, like semiconductors and medical devices, are full of immigrant-founded companies as well.

The findings are clear: Immigrants drive our economy.  Eighteen percent of the 2010 Fortune 500 companies were founded by an immigrant and more than 40 percent (40.8%) were founded by either an immigrant or a child of an immigrant.

Today, these “New American” companies

founded by immigrants or their children

employ more than 10 million people worldwide and generate more than $4.2 trillion in revenue annually, a figure that exceeds the 2010 gross domestic product of all but two other countries in the world.

There are many reasons that immigrants play such a large role in our economy. Almost by definition, they are risk takers and hard workers. Immigrants make the bold choice to leave their home countries  and communities to set off on their own. And for ambitious, would-be entrepreneurs, America has always been the most fertile ground for a better life.

The cutting-edge, “American” firms of tomorrow — Google, Intel, eBay, Yahoo!, Sun, Qualcomm — are all immigrant-founded. 

But in the global economy, America’s economic dominance is far from assured. A recent poll by the Republican Pollster Frank Luntz found that only 29 percent of Americans believe our best days are ahead.  Countries that compete with the U.S. for foreign talent have adopted strong policies to draw the ambitious and highly skilled into their economies. And a recent report by the Kauffman Foundation surveying Chinese and Indian entrepreneurs who had left the United States and returned home to start businesses found that 81 percent of the Chinese and 72 percent of the Indian respondents believed that the economic opportunities were better or much better in their home countries than in the U.S.

Attracting the entrepreneurs who will start tomorrow’s Fortune 500 companies will require serious effort by the U.S. government. Above all, it will require reforming the current immigration laws that erect senseless and arbitrary barriers in the face of the job-creators we should most want to recruit.

This report explores the reasons foreign entrepreneurs have come to America, the obstacles they have faced, and the hard work they have put into the firms they created. The goal is to understand not only the vital role that immigrants have played in our economy, but also the steps we must take to ensure that America remains the destination for the entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

Punching Above Their Weight Class

Entrepreneurs Flock to America to Start Great Companies 

Since 1850, the population of the United States has consisted of an average of 10.5 percent of people born overseas.6 But the impact that immigrants have had on our overall economy goes far beyond their headcount.

Eighteen percent of 2010’s Fortune 500 companies have at least one founder who immigrated to the United States. Their stories span almost every industry. Charles Pfizer and Charles Erhart, cousins born in Ludwigburg, Germany, came to America seeking opportunity — and one year later founded the company that would grow into the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.  Fluor, an engineering and construction company employing almost 40,000, was founded when a family of master builders from Sweden decided to settle in the United States and ply their trade. More recently, eBay was the brainchild of Pierre Omidyar, an entrepreneur of Iranian ancestry who immigrated to the United States from France in the 1970s.

The disproportionately large impact that immigrants have had in founding our most successful companies is hardly surprising considering who comes here and why. America’s economy attracts those who are driven to succeed. The most motivated workers around the world want to come here because our economic system and meritocratic society reward hard work and ingenuity.

And the impact of immigrant entrepreneurism in America’s most successful companies is even greater once the children of immigrants enter the business arena. This next generation is even better able to capitalize on opportunities in America. Almost 23 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by children of immigrants.

This next generation includes Estée Lauder, who co-founded the cosmetics behemoth that bears her name. Lauder was raised in a tiny apartment in Corona, Queens, above the hardware store owned by her Hungarian-immigrant father and Czech-immigrant mother. And unlike what the name might imply, the founder of Bank of America, Amadeo Giannini, was raised by parents who immigrated to the United States from Italy. Initially, he named his venture The Bank of Italy, an enterprise he said would cater to “the little fellows” — immigrants and their families who often could not get loans elsewhere.

With the benefit of hindsight, we now know Giannini was making a smart bet. Bank of America has grown into the fifth-largest company in the country; it now employs 288,000 people worldwide9 and generates $134 billion in revenue per year.10 

Key Findings

Eighteen Percent, or 90 companies, on the Fortune 500 list had at least one immigrant founder.

Twenty-Three Percent of the Fortune 500 firms, 114 companies, had at least one founder with an immigrant parent.

More Than 40 Percent of firms — or two in five companies in the Fortune 500 — had at least one founder who was either an immigrant or raised by someone who immigrated to the United States.


And the evidence shows that immigrant entrepreneurs’ rate of success is only on the rise. Over the last 25 years, the percentage of Fortune 500 companies founded by immigrants has risen, despite historic lows in the percentage of foreign-born (7.9 percent of the population was foreign born in 1990; 6.2 percent in 1980).  Of the 41 companies founded since 1985, at least eight — or 19.5 percent — had an immigrant founder. The more recent immigrants, then, have been punching above their weight to an unprecedented degree.

For America to attract talented, ambitious individuals and continue to lead the global economy, we will need to make America more appealing than our competitor nations. 

But it is far from assured that this trend will continue. As the economy globalizes, talented and ambitious individuals have ever greater choices about where to start a new company, invent a new product, or discover a new medicine.  For America to attract these individuals and continue to lead the global economy, we will need to make America more appealing than our competitor nations. And this will have to start with enacting smarter immigration laws.

Immigrant-Founded Businesses Drive Every Sector of Our Economy 

The businesses that these immigrants and children of immigrants founded cut across every sector of the American economy. These companies include more than a dozen specialty retailers like Home Depot, Costco, and Staples, 71 percent of the aerospace and defense firms on the Fortune 500 list, four of the five largest commercial banks, the largest motor vehicle and parts company, the largest chemical company, the largest packaging and container company, the largest engineering and construction firm, and multiple companies in more than two dozen other industry sectors.

And the sectors that will drive job creation and economic growth over the next generation tend to be the sectors where immigrant and child-of-immigrant founders are especially well-represented. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that from 2008 through 2018 biomedical engineers and computer network analysts will experience the fastest job growth.11   The three highest grossing medical equipment and device makers, a frequent place of employment for biomedical engineers, were all founded by children of immigrants

Medtronic, Boston Scientific, and Baxter International.  In addition, roughly 45 percent of all of the high-tech firms in the Fortune 500 were founded by an immigrant or the child of an immigrant including companies like Qualcomm and Harris, both of which specialize in computer networking.

The story of one Fortune 500 company, Sun Microsystems,12 is particularly illuminating about the path of many new American, high-tech entrepreneurs. The firm was founded in 1982 on the Stanford University campus by three men, Vinod Khosla, Andy Bechtolsheim, and Scott McNealy. Both Khosla and Bechtolsheim came to the U.S. — Khosla from India and Bechtolsheim from Germany — to receive graduate degrees. And both — unlike the thousands of foreign graduates whom we turn away each year — were fortunate enough to be able to stay in the country and pursue their careers after graduation. In addition to founding Sun, a firm that employed 28,000 people in 2009,13 Bechtolsheim also contributed to the takeoff of another Fortune 500 company: He was one of the first investors in Google. Today, that Internet giant employs over 26,000.14 

Immigrants Spur the Creation of Jobs Across Industries, Including the Highest-Growth Sectors:

Forty-Five Percent of high-tech firms from the Fortune 500 had either an immigrant or child of an immigrant among its founders.

Fifty Percent  of the medical equipment and device makers, including the three largest players by revenue, were founded by immigrants or their children.

Seven of the 10 most valuable and recognizable brands in the world were launched by immigrants or children of immigrants. 

Immigrants Create America’s Great Brands 

Beyond founding companies, immigrants and the children of immigrants are also often the creative forces behind some of America’s and the world’s most iconic brands.  One of the two founders behind the search giant Google, the second most important global brand on Millard Brown Optimor’s Brandz survey, was Sergey Brin, an immigrant from Russia.  The toy company Mattel was founded by husbandand-wife pair Elliot and Ruth Handler, along with a partner, Harold Matson.  But it was Ruth, one of 10 children born to a blacksmith from Poland, who hatched the idea for the company’s signature product, the Barbie doll. “Ruth played an integral role in the success of Mattel,” the company told us in a statement. “She is not only credited with creating the Barbie doll, but she was one of the most successful pioneers of women in business.”15 While Ruth was serving as the firm’s president, Mattel became the largest toy manufacturer in the world, largely thanks to her iconic, blonde creation.

But Handler is hardly the only immigrant entrepreneur with a knack for capturing the world’s imagination.  Nine of the top 10 most valuable brands in the world were created by American companies, and seven of these nine companies were founded by an immigrant or a child of an immigrant.

At ConAgra Foods, President of Consumer Foods Andre Hawaux credits “immigrants who had the passion, drive and imagination to create the iconic brands Americans still love today” with much of ConAgra’s success.16 A quick glance at a grocery cart full of ConAgra’s products makes it clear what he’s talking about. Chef Boyardee — or Ettore Boiardi to his friends and family — emigrated from Northern Italy, while Ilhan New and Gary Pinckowitz, founders of the La Choy soy sauce brand and Hebrew National hot dogs came from Korea and Romania, respectively.

For some household-name firms like the Heinz Company, founded by Henry

Heinz, the rich cultural heritage of the brand is a point of pride. Henry Heinz was raised by parents who immigrated to the United States from Southern Germany. As a child, he helped his mother Anna Schmidt Heinz tend to her vegetable garden, sometimes hawking extra produce with her on the street when the family needed money.17 His first business venture was even inspired by her example: Heinz tried to mass-produce horseradish as good as his mom’s homemade German recipe.18 Always taught by his parents that every profit should be fairly earned, he said his horseradish wouldn’t have any of the cheap fillers already in many American brands then available.

“Henry John Heinz exemplifies the quintessential American success story,” says Michael Mullen, Vice President of Corporate and Government Affairs at Heinz. “He is very much the product of his parents, and the lessons he learned from them resonate in the character of the H.J. Heinz Company today.”19  Mullen says Heinz’s parents even instilled in him a saying that still guides the company’s purchasing processes:  “Deal with the seller so justly that he will want to sell to you again.”20 

Much like Heinz, many children of immigrants report being heavily shaped by their second-generation experience, which instilled in them a way of looking at the world that allowed them to succeed as entrepreneurs.  Peter Nicholas, the founder and current chairman of the medical equipment firm Boston Scientific, was raised by Greek immigrant parents.  His father, who’d come as a child from Istanbul, Turkey, settled in the Munjoy Hill neighborhood in Portland, Maine, in a Greek community that would produce dozens of immigrant children who grew up to achieve real success. He explains the phenomenon this way: “It’s almost like a gift they inherited from their mothers and fathers — these funny-looking Greek kids all had embedded in them this ambition to work hard and achieve a better life than what their parents could have ever imagined.”21 As a child, Nicholas says he was “very aware” of the old country his family came from, and how much his parents wanted him to work to take advantage of the many opportunities that America offered.

But Nicholas, like many other entrepreneurs we spoke to, points to something more fundamental. “In our family, persevering and continuing on was an unspoken way we lived,” Nicholas says, “When you hit an obstacle, you stopped, thought about it a little bit, and then found another way to move forward.” This proved helpful in the early days of Boston Scientific, a company that now employs 25,000 people. He also says his ability to spot potential in the world— and look beyond the boundaries of conventional wisdom — helped too. “Anyone that is resigned that things are inevitable will not live the life that they could lead,” Nicholas says.  “If my father had been resigned to the world the way it was, he would still be cutting stone out of a mountain, like his family had done for generations. I believe you inherit some of that mindset.”22 

That fierce determination to succeed and give back inspired some immigrant entrepreneurs to found not one, but multiple Fortune 500 American companies.  Born in a tiny, two-room house in Scotland, Andrew Carnegie watched his father, a poor weaver and democracy activist, auction off all his belongings so his family could make the 3,000mile journey to the United States. Once here, young Andrew worked his way up from a messenger boy to the magnate

10 Largest Employers Founded by Immigrants or Children of Immigrants: 

International Business Machines McDonald’s United Parcel Service Kroger General Electric Bank of America Corp. AT&T Citigroup Home Depot Aramark responsible for founding and building Carnegie Steel, a company that would eventually form the backbone of today’s United States Steel company.23 Years after selling that enterprise, he hatched the idea for another. With $20 million in donations over his lifetime, he established a teachers’ pension system that eventually became a major part of the Fortune 500 retirement firm TIAA-CREF.24 

436,000 400,000 400,000 338,000 300,000 288,000 267,000 260,000 255,000 255,000 Creating Jobs

Today, immigrant-founded Fortune 500 companies employ 3.6 million workers worldwide. When those founded by children of immigrants are also counted, the number rises to more than 10 million worldwide, a figure roughly equivalent to the entire population of North Carolina.

Fortune 500 companies founded by immigrants or children of immigrants employ 10 million people worldwide. 

In certain industries, the contribution of immigrants and their children to the American job market is particularly striking. The 10 “New American” aerospace and defense firms in the Fortune 500 employ more than a million people. The 13 “New American” specialty retailers — a group that includes Office Depot, Bed Bath & Beyond, and the parent company of T.J.Maxx — employ another roughly 950,000 workers, the vast majority of them in stores on American soil. Not counted in that category are companies like Nordstrom’s and Kohl’s, which are usually characterized by business analysts as “general merchandisers.” Those two companies, employing about 130,000 together, were founded by Johan Nordstrom of Sweden and Max Kohl of Germany, two famed immigrant entrepreneurs.

Procter & Gamble, the household products giant, shows the way immigrant founders have not only spurred job creation, but have also helped create better models for the work environment. The firm, which currently employs 130,000 people, was founded by two immigrants. James Gamble journeyed to the country at age 16, when a flood of Irish immigrants came to America, only to be met with harsh, anti-Irish prejudice. William Procter, for his part, came to the U.S. from England. He’d tried to succeed as a dry goods merchant in London, but his shop was vandalized and robbed the day after it opened in 1831, leaving him thousands of dollars in debt.25 

A letter that Procter’s father wrote him shortly after his loss indicated the bright light of opportunity that America represented to many struggling families.  Procter’s father mentions his son’s “gloomy prospects” and that the robbery could take “some years” to overcome. News from a family member already in America, he added, couldn’t be more different.  “We are quite pleased with the accounts from America,” he told his son, “your mother so much so that there is nothing, she says, but the water that prevents her [from] going there.”26 Within three years, Procter was sailing to America himself, where he met James Gamble and decided to collaborate in a new business venture.

Ed Rider, the chief archivist for the company, says the founders’ travails gave them a special appreciation of their workers’ struggles and of the importance of fostering workers’ well-being and advancement. By 1886, William Procter’s son had created one of the country’s first profit-sharing plans for employees. “He carried some of our founding values forward by creating a plan that would allow employees to better their own situations and own a piece of this great company,” Rider explains. A few years later, Rider says, “even the lowliest vat stirrer at an Ivory Soap plant could get help becoming a citizen” when the company began offering on-site citizenship classes at one of its New York factories.27  Bob McDonald, the current CEO of P&G, has spoken in the past of how such a powerful history and founding story continues to inspire his work. “When I became CEO,” he said at last year’s shareholder meeting, “I stepped into the role feeling as though I stood on the shoulders of giants.”28 

Leonard A. Lauder, the former CEO and current Chairman Emeritus of the Estée Lauder Companies, takes a wider view of the employment picture.  His mother, Estée Lauder, an entrepreneur and the child of immigrants on both sides, built her cosmetics empire through a combination of brilliant salesmanship and a fierce drive to succeed. Mr. Lauder says that early on, his mother wanted to make a connection with one prominent, national cosmetics buyer, so much that she wasn’t daunted when she showed up to the buyer’s office for a 9 a.m. appointment and was told she was too busy to meet. Instead, Lauder sat patiently in the reception area until evening, when she finally was let in for a one-onone session with her fellow female executive. “They quickly formed a close bond of friendship,” Lauder says, “and her firm became one of our best customers.”29 

But the more than 31,000 people employed by the cosmetics behemoth are hardly the only ones Lauder says who can trace their jobs back to the hard work of Estée Lauder and her husband and cofounder Joseph Lauder, also the child of immigrants.  “That number doesn’t even begin to count all the ancillary jobs that they helped create,” Lauder says, citing the workers at box companies, trucking firms, and plastics manufacturers that are employed getting millions of Estée Lauder products to market each year. “If you follow the food chain all the way back,” he says, “I would say that the two people behind our company could have easily created hundreds of thousands of jobs.”

Lauder says that knowing the impact his mother had only makes him more upset when he hears that many would-be immigrants today have trouble staying in the U.S. to start their businesses. “When the door starts closing to immigrant entrepreneurs,” he says, “Not only do companies like ours lose, but the whole country loses.”30 

United States  $14.6T The combined revenues of “New American” Fortune 500 companies would constitute the 3rd Largest Country outside the United States. 

Fortune 500 companies founded by immigrants or children of immigrants

China  $5.7T $4,256,000,000,000

Japan  $5.4T

Germany  $3.3T

France $2.6T

United Kingdom $2.3T

Driving the U.S. Economy

The revenues generated by Fortune 500 firms founded by immigrants or their children occupy a powerful place in the U.S. economy, driving development and growth in GDP.  In 2010, Fortune 500 firms founded by an immigrant directly generated more than $1.7 trillion in revenues — a figure greater than the GDP of many highly developed countries that year, including South Korea, Canada, Spain, and Argentina. Some individual firms had a particularly strong impact. In 2010, the iconic telecommunications firm AT&T, co-founded by Scottish immigrant Alexander Graham Bell, generated more than $124 billion in revenue. Pharmacy wholesaler AmerisourceBergen, which was founded by French immigrant Lucien Napoleon Brunswig, pulled almost $79 billion in revenue.

When companies founded by children of immigrants are added to the total, the number balloons even more. The 200 firms on the Fortune 500 list founded

Fortune 500 companies founded by immigrants


Italy Brazil

$2.0T $2.0T


Russia India 


$1.5T $1.5T

Immigrants and the Creation of U.S. Wealth:

In 2010, Fortune 500 companies founded by immigrants to the United States generated more than

$1.7 Trillion in revenues. 

In 2010, companies founded by immigrants or children of immigrants generated more than

$4.2 Trillion in revenues

by either an immigrant or the child of someone who immigrated to the United States generated more than $4.2 trillion in revenues in 2010. That means if all those “New American” firms came together as a country, they’d have the third largest GDP in the world outside the United States, behind only China and Japan.31 

But the ability of immigrants and their children to create U.S. wealth extends far beyond the boardrooms of the companies they founded. Throughout history, immigrant entrepreneurs have proved capable not only of founding major U.S. firms, but also of economically revitalizing entire geographic areas as well. Take the story of Hugh J. Chisholm, the founder in 1898 of International Paper, a company with more than $25 billion in revenue in 2010.  Chisholm was born in Chippewa, Ontario. His father died when Chisholm was just 13 years old, and Chisholm was forced to leave school and work to support his mother and nine siblings—at times through menial jobs like digging for potatoes. Ultimately, he began selling newspapers on a plush, luxury train that traveled from Toronto to Detroit, and his dream of moving to the United States in search of better opportunities was born.32 

Chisholm found early success making some of America’s first postcards. But in 1898, he took on the greater challenge of founding the International Paper Company, a firm that merged 17 paper mills scattered along the Eastern Seaboard. He based the company in his adopted state of Maine, and decided to strengthen that state’s burgeoning paper industry by building one of the largest paper mills of its day in the tiny rural outpost of Rumford. “A few miles from Canton, capitalists are putting a new city together where only a year ago a howling wilderness existed,” a newspaper reporter for the Oxford Democrat wrote in 1892, “Millions of dollars will be laid out here this year.”33 By the close of that year, the city had a railroad depot; a new, 1500-foot deep canal; and the beginnings of a giant paper mill that would eventually employ 3,000 people.34 Chisholm would personally design a nearby garden suburb for those workers, which let them live in brick duplex homes flanked by parks.

The forward-thinking, creative nature of “New American” entrepreneurs has also led many of them to spur success and economic development in areas far afield from their own. Scottish immigrant Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone innovations, for instance, created fertile ground for the 15 telecommunications firms that are in the Fortune 500 — companies that generated $422 billion in revenues in 2010. What’s more, immigrants and their children were involved in founding at least seven of the Fortune 500’s commercial banks, the institutions that often sponsor the loans or initial public offerings that help new businesses thrive. Take the example of Amadeo Giannini, the Bank of America founder, who started his enterprise after his father was shot trying to collect on a $10 loan he had made to someone outside the traditional banking system.  Later, Giannini was in a position to offer a loan to entertainer Walt Disney when he wanted to make Snow White, his first feature film. He also cut a check to the Hewlett-Packard founders, and bought up the bonds that financed the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge during the shaky economic days of the Great Depression.35 

Overcoming Obstacles

To be able to contribute fully to U.S. economic and job growth, immigrants and their children must first overcome a whole series of obstacles, many of which would make less determined business people blanch. When German immigrant Maxwell Kohl, founder of Kohl’s department store, opened his first grocery store in Brookfield, Wisconsin, his English was so poor that customers often had to make their own change and teach him the names of basic products like Corn Flakes.36 Joseph

J. Jacobs, the founder of the 39,000-person firm Jacobs Engineering Group, was raised by his mother and a father who had immigrated to the United States from Lebanon.  His father’s business peddling straight razors on the streets of Brooklyn was decimated when safety razors showed up after World War I.  Still, the late Joseph Jacobs has written that his childhood was a good one, and his desire to follow his parents’ determined and driven example — and to prove he fit in with his American peers while doing it — made him uniquely poised to scale to the heights of success.   Commenting on his experience, he has written, “it’s no wonder that we . . . children of immigrants have become such a potent force in American business and American culture.”37 

Today, aside from the normal marketplace challenges that any business faces, U.S. immigration policy can make things more complicated for many immigrant entrepreneurs. Arriving in the country and staying here can be challenging — and for many budding entrepreneurs, impossible. In fact, despite the many proven benefits immigrants bring to the American economy our immigration laws often create the very obstacles that keep them away. In 2007 and 2008, a period of strong economic growth, visas for temporary high skilled workers were in such short supply that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office exhausted the year’s supply of visas in less than a week; and even during the recession, the annual cap has been insufficient to meet demand.38 The caps have kept many high-tech workers far away from American shores, including immigrants who could have founded the high-tech companies that will spur job and economic growth in the future.

Visas for temporary high- skilled workers were in such short supply in 2007 and 2008 that they were exhausted in less than a week. 

The situation is even less promising for high-skilled workers that want to stay here permanently to pursue the American dream. These workers must apply for employment-based green cards, which are in such short supply that some applicants face wait times of nine years or more, during which it is difficult to change jobs, move cities, or even accept a promotion.39 

And more critical for the aspiring immigrant entrepreneurs of tomorrow, there is currently no visa category specifically designed for immigrant entrepreneurs. Even if they already have a business plan and committed American venture capital backing their idea. America’s economy is the land of opportunity, but without the right visa opportunities, the thousands of entrepreneurs we turn away each year will simply go to our competitor nations. And many of those competitors will embrace the immigrant entrepreneurs with open arms. The United Kingdom recently enacted a visa for entrepreneurs. In China, students who study in America but return to Beijing to start their businesses are practically given a hero’s welcome. Through a special overseas student program, many can qualify for $15,000 in government startup capital and automatic interest forgiveness on all their business loans, not to mention coveted permits that allow them to live within city limits. The Chilean government has offered $40,000 and a visa to entrepreneurs who were willing to start a company there.

But America’s immigration laws do the opposite: They create barriers to entrepreneurs from around the world who are otherwise determined to build their businesses here.  For example, John Carey, a founder of the semiconductor firm American Micro Devices (AMD), tried for several years before he was able to immigrate to the United States from abroad in the 1960s. Born in Liverpool, he dreamed of moving to America when he finished a graduate program and internship training in the United Kingdom.  He wanted to move to Silicon Valley in California — already the heart of his chosen industry. But Carey was prevented from doing so in 1959 because he lacked the $1,000 in savings that was needed at the time to qualify for the relevant visa. So instead, Carey went to Montreal, Canada the Kiran for what he thought would be a temporary position. He wound up staying—and contributing to Canada’s economy—for four years.  It wasn’t until 1963, while visiting California, that he finally got a job that brought him to America.40 The next time, America might not be so lucky. While our visa laws have changed since 1963, the same basic problems remain — and the next generation’s John Carey might build his innovative company in another country that competes more shrewdly for talent.

Bureaucratic Barriers for Immigrants:

There is no current visa for entrepreneurs who want to come to America, even if they already have American venture capital to fund their business plan.

There are insufficient temporary visas for highly skilled workers to meet needs of American employers; the limits are reached every year, at times in a matter of days.

Employment-based green cards – the permanent visas for highly skilled workers – are only a small portion of our annual green card total and are capped equally for every country (for instance, Iceland and India get the same number). As a result, an estimated 500,000 highly-skilled workers at U.S. companies face delays that can exceed 10 years to earn permanent residency.

Even founding a successful Fortune 500 company doesn’t make one immune from some of the many challenges and bureaucratic hurdles of the visa process.

C. Patel’s story exemplifies the American dream: Raised in an Indian-national family in Zambia, Patel came to America in 1980 for a medical residency and stayed to build a fortune through two major health care companies, including WellCare Health Plans, number 328 on the Fortune 500 List.  Practicing cardiology while also running an insurance business, he routinely put in 18 hour days his first decade and a half at WellCare. Still, he considers himself one of the lucky ones. “Back when I came, finding someone to write you a recommendation for a residency program wasn’t easy without connections,” Patel recalls.  Many Indian-national families also lacked the funds to cover their travel to the United States.41 

Now a CEO and prominent philanthropist in the Tampa area, Patel experiences daily the constraints the visa system places on his business.  “Things are improving gradually,” he says, “but I still think many people are getting too many unreasonable visa denials.”  This makes it more difficult for his business to grow. Some of Patel’s employees based overseas can’t get a visa to come into the country for business meetings, a fact he calls a “frustration.”42 


Immigrants and their children create American jobs and drive our economy.  More than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by one of these “New Americans,” and the companies they founded generate more than $4.2 trillion in revenues each year, and employ more than 10 million people — a global presence that rivals the entire GDP of all but three nations. There is no doubt that their contributions have been essential to American prosperity.  But there is also no guarantee that the next generation of top entrepreneurs will build their businesses in this country, with competing attractions back home and in other countries with more welcoming immigration systems.

To compete, we must modernize our own immigration system so that it welcomes, rather than discourages, the Fortune 500 entrepreneurs of the 21st century global economy. We must create a visa designed to draw aspiring entrepreneurs to build new businesses and create jobs here. We must give existing American companies access to hire and keep the highly skilled workers from around the world whom they need to compete. And we must stem the loss of highly skilled foreign students trained in our universities, allowing them to stay and contribute to our economy the talent in which we’ve invested. Without these kinds of smart changes to our immigration laws, America risks losing its place as the natural home for the world’s business powerhouses — the Fortune 500 companies of the future.


Appendix A: Fortune 500 Companies with Immigrant Founders 

AT&T 7 Alexander Graham Bell Scotland Verizon Communications 13 Alexander Graham Bell Scotland Procter & Gamble 22 William Procter, James England, Ireland

Gamble (respectively) AmerisourceBergen 24 Lucien Brunswig France United Technologies 37 Igor I. Sikorski Russia Goldman Sachs Group 39 Marcus Goldman Germany Pfizer 40 Charles Pfizer, Charles Germany

Erhart International Assets Holding 49 Saul Stone Russia Kraft Foods 53 James L. Kraft Canada Comcast 59 Daniel Aaron Germany Intel 62 Andrew Grove Hungary General Dynamics 69 John Philip Holland Ireland Honeywell International 74 Albert Butz Switzerland News Corporation 76 Rupert Murdoch Australia Ingram Micro 80 Geza Czige Hungary Merck 85 Theodore Weicker Germany DuPont 86 E.I. du Pont France TIAA-CREF 90 Andrew Carnegie Scotland Google 102 Sergey Brin Russia International Paper 104 Hugh Chisholm Canada Fluor 111 John Simon Fluor Sr. Switzerland

Atmos Energy 424 Frank Storm, J.C. Storm Austria SPX 427 Charles E. Johnson Sweden O’Reilly Automotive 429 Charles Francis O’Reilly Ireland Harley-Davidson 430 William S. Harley England Owens Corning 433 Michael Joseph Owens Ireland Starwood Hotels & Resorts 438 Barry Sternlicht Poland

Worldwide NYSE Euronext 444 Benjamin Seixas Portugal Tenneco 446 August F. Meyer, William Germany,

A. Walker England (respectively) El Paso 447 Paul Kayser Hungary ArvinMeritor 450 H.H. Timken, W.R. Timken Germany Lubrizol 453 Frank A. and Frances Netherlands Albert (“Alex”) Nason Broadcom 460 Henry Samueli Poland Con-way 483 Leland James Scotland Casey’s General Stores 485 Don Lamberti Italy

CB Richard Ellis Group 499 Albert Nion Tucker, Ireland John Conant Lynch


1  CNN Money, The Fortune 500: A Banner Year, April 4, 2006, available at news/companies/intro_f500_fortune/index.htm (last visited June 13, 2011).

2  CNN Money, If the Fortune 500 Were a Country, available at (last visited June 13, 2011).

3 This figure is actually somewhat conservative. Eight firms in the Fortune 500 were founded by a government charter—a group that includes Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—and each of these is counted as a firm having a non-immigrant founder, even though it actually has no identifiable “founder” at all. Similarly, four firms were started when hundreds of people banded together—either in an investment vehicle or a farm collective—and each is also counted as non-immigrant founded, despite it being highly likely that one or several immigrants were included among their initial ranks.

We also took a cautious approach with several firms with particularly fragmented beginnings. Many modern day utilities, for instance, are the product of many tiny, local firms merging together into a regional entity over time. When historical records were shoddy, or there was minimal information on the founders of the biggest predecessor operations, we counted the company as being founded by non-immigrants only. We did this even when, as was the case of FPL Group (#147 on list), DTE Energy (#285), and Ameren (#320), it appeared an immigrant or the child of an immigrant was heavily involved in starting the modern-day firm.

4 The report counts worldwide numbers for revenue and number of employees, based on available public information.

5  Kauffman Foundation, “The Grass is Indeed Greener in India and China for Returnee Entrepreneurs,” 2011.

6  Schmidley, A. Dianne, U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Reports,

Series P23-206, Profile of the Foreign-Born Population in the United

States: 2000, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 2001. Pg. 9., available at http://www.census. gov/prod/2002pubs/p23-206.pdf (last visited June 13, 2011), and U.S. Census, Population by Sex, Age, Nativity, and U.S. Citizenship: 2009, available at http://www. T1.2009.pdf (last visited June 13, 2011)

7  Here and through this report, we have counted Fortune 500 companies as founded by the children of immigrants only if they did not also have an immigrant founder. The five companies that had both an immigrant and a child of an immigrant among their founders are counted as immigrant-founded only, to avoid counting them twice.

8  PBS, Who Made America, available at http://www. hi.html (last visited June 13, 2011)

9  Hoovers, Key Bank of America Financials, available at Corporation/hxccci-1-1njea5.html (last visited June 13, 2011).

10  Fortune 500, Bank of America, May 23, 2011, available at (last visited June 13, 2011).

11 United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-2011 Edition, available at htm (last visited June 13, 2011).

12  Sun Microsystems was still listed on the Fortune 500 list as an independent firm in 2010. The company has since been bought by Oracle, yet another tech company with immigrant ties; Bob Miner, one of its cofounders, was the son of Assyrian immigrants from Iran, while his co-founder Larry Ellison was adopted by his grandfather, an immigrant from the Crimea in Ukraine.

13  USA Today, Oracle: We’re Hiring, Not Firing After Sun Acquisition, January 28, 2010, available at http://www. htm (last visited June 13, 2011).

14  Google Investor Relations, Google Announces First Quarter 2011 Results, April 14, 2011, available at http:// (last visited June 13, 2011).

15  Statement conveyed in e-mail from Mattel spokeswoman Jules Andres, May 26, 2011.

16  Statement conveyed in e-mail from ConAgra spokeswoman Becky Niiya, May 31, 2011.

17  Hallett, Anthony and Diane Hallett. Entrepreneur Magazine Encyclopedia of Entrepreneurs. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 1997. (Hereinafter “Hallet”)  Pg 252.

18  Hallett, pg. 253.

19  Mullen, Michael. Original interview, May 6, 2011 (Hereinafter “Mullen”).

20 Mullen.

21  Nicholas, Peter. Original Interview, May 13, 2011 (Hereinafter “Nicholas”).

22 Nicholas.

23  PBS, Meet Andrew Carnegie, available at http://www. html (last visited June 13, 2011)

24 TIAA Cref, About Us, available at org/public/about/press/about_us/history.html (last visited June 13, 2011)

25  Rider, Ed. Original Interview, April 20, 2011 (“Rider”).

26 Letter from William Procter Sr. to son William Procter Jr. Jan. 11, 1832. Courtesy of Procter & Gamble Corporate Archives (Some minor changes in punctuation were made for readability).

27  Rider.

28  Comments from 2010 Procter & Gamble shareholder’s meeting, relayed by P&G Communications specialist Jeff Leroy in e-mail on April 27, 2011.

29  Lauder, Leonard. Original Interview,June 6, 2011 (“Lauder”).

30  Lauder.

31  2010 CIA World Factbook

32  Paper Industry Hall of Fame, Hugh Chisholm, available at hugh_chisholm.php (last visited June 13, 2011)

33 The Bethel Journals, 1892 Journal, available at http:// (last visited June 13, 2011)

34  Note: These workers were ultimately employed by the Oxford Paper Company, another paper company Chisholm founded.

35  PBS, Golden Gate Bridge, available at http://www. (last visited June 13, 2011)

36  Badger, Emily. “Public Servant.” Milwaukee Magazine, August 23, 2010.

37 Jacobs, Joseph I. The Anatomy of an Entrepreneur: Family, Culture, and Ethics. San Francisco: ICS Press, 1991.

38 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Office of Communications, USCIS Update, April 3, 2007, available at (last visited June 13, 2011) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Office of Communications, USCIS Update, April 8, 2008, available at (last visited June 13, 2011).

39 U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Visa Bulletin, June 2011, available at http://travel.state. gov/visa/bulletin/bulletin_1360.html (last visited June 13, 2011).

40  Elonics. “AMD Founder Joins Elonics Board.” Livingston, United Kingdom: Press Release, Dec. 03, 2009.

41  Patel, Kiran C. Original Interview, May 18, 2011 (“Patel”).

42  Patel.

The Partnership for a New American Economy brings together a bipartisan group of over 250 business leaders from all sectors of the economy and mayors from across the country to make the case that sensible immigration reform will drive economic growth and create American jobs.

Learn more at

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