An American Dream for Immigrant Entrepreneurs
The American Dream is alive and well at Ventures – especially in our immigrant clients, who make up one-third of our total participants. Anyone who has left their home country to start a new life in the United States has an entrepreneurial spirit!  
But for some entrepreneurs, immigration status is a huge barrier to their business’ success. It doesn’t help that the regulations are particularly confusing:
  • A social security number is not required to hold a Washington State business license. 
  • However, a social security number is required if the business owner wants to hire employees.
  • Certain industries – such as general contractors – require a social security number for insurance purposes.
  • Undocumented business owners can still pay taxes using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), though they will never receive Social Security benefits.
Are you confused? So are many undocumented entrepreneurs.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a 2012 executive order from former President Obama, temporarily removes these barriers for some undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as children. DACA has allowed nearly 800,000 “Dreamers” the opportunity to work legally in the US while deferring their risk of deportation.  
While most DACA recipients have gone on to college or secured legal employment, one report found that DACA recipients were nearly twice as likely to start their own businesses compared to the general American population – creating new industry and job opportunities for other Americans. DACA also gives hope to other immigrants who don’t qualify for the program: that if they pursue their education and work hard, they too can find a pathway to legal status. Entrepreneurs like Lily – who received her Green Card in 2013 – add value to our community and deserve a chance to contribute to their new country.
With DACA due to end in 2018 and no alternative solution in place, organizations like Northwest Immigrant Rights Project and Colectiva Legal can provide legal assistance.
For immigrants whose American Dream includes starting a business, Ventures is here to help. To sign up for our next Business Basics Course (in English or Spanish) click here.