Migration arbitrage business opportunities

Immigration laws as they stand today are quite restrictive throughout the world. But they’re also filled with loopholes, some of which are easier to exploit than others. Considering the global disutility created by immigration restrictions, it’s likely that many of these loopholes help ameliorate a bad situation. Some business opportunities have arisen that specifically take advantage of loopholes and arbitrage opportunities in order to improve welfare by enabling migration or part of the benefits of migration.

These include:

  • Blueseed, a workaround for the problem that foreign entrepreneurs have difficulty getting work visas in the United States. Their idea is to set up a stationary ship off the coast of California to house US and foreign entrepreneurs, so that they can live and work on the ship without needing a US work visa or authorization for working in the US. They can still visit the US mainland using business/tourist visas, and thus connect with Silicon Valley investors and make use of the ecosystem in Silicon Valley. A legislative effort to address the problem of lack of immigrant entrepreneur visas (which might reduce the business case for Blueseed) is the startup visa, but the bill, despite bipartisan support, is a low legislative priority for the US Congress.
  • Independent Agricultural Workers Center (CITA) helps match “low-skilled” agricultural workers outside the US with employers in the US, thus helping these workers get visas for temporary agricultural labor work in the US. CITA is currently relying on philanthropic funding, but aims to eventually become self-sustaining. Open borders advocate Michael Clemens praised CITA in a blog post titled This Beats Most Aid by Miles — And It’s a Migration Non-Profit (September 20, 2012).

In addition, there are various examples of cases where potential immigrants, who are not otherwise interested in investing in businesses, invest in US businesses in exchange for EB-5 visas to the US. They are in practice paying a de facto immigration tariff. Of course, they are making an investment, so that means that they may get a return, but their desire to migrate makes them willing to accept less favorable terms of investment that local US investors would not accept, i.e., they accept less favorable terms of investment in return for being able to use the investment to get a visa. Some examples of news articles that discuss this are: