Many self-employed immigrants ran their own businesses before heading to the United States, a new study shows.  

According to researchers at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va., recent immigration statistics reveal a strong link between home-country self-employment and the high level of business ownership among U.S. immigrants. Other key characteristics include education, age, and wealth.

Researchers said the findings offer important insight for immigration reform efforts.

"To the extent that immigrant entrepreneurs create jobs for natives and for other immigrants, encouraging individuals with prior self-employment experience to come to the U.S. might be a sensible policy," according to the study.

Separate studies have shown self-employment rates among U.S. immigrants are significantly higher than within the general population.