In the discussion over the impact of immigration on the U.S. economy and job market, the effect of immigrant entrepreneurs is staggering: Fully 55 percent of billion-dollar startups were founded by immigrants. And when you include companies in which immigrants were co-founders alongside native-born Americans, the total climbs to nearly two-thirds, according to a new study.

"Immigrants have fueled the rise in billion-dollar startups," reads the study from the National Foundation for American Policy, a nonprofit research institution that focuses in part on immigration issues. The proportion of immigrant-founded unicorns has remained remarkably steady compared with a study the organization released four years ago, even as the number of unicorns has increased by roughly six times in that period.

The study goes on to call out the highest-valued unicorns with immigrant founders from among the 319 immigrant-founded unicorns. You may have heard of them. Here are the largest and their valuations:

  • SpaceX, $125 billion
  • Stripe, $95 billion
  • Instacart, $39 billion
  • Databricks, $38 billion
  • Epic Games, $31.5 billion
  • Miro, $17.5 billion
  • Discord, $15 billion

And since the study is only counting unicorns that have yet to go public, its findings actually undercount the total impact of immigrants on the entrepreneurial landscape. The founders hail from 57 countries; India, with 66, has produced the most; the country had also produced the most in the 2018 report.

As Wharton professor Ethan Mollick notes, it's not just unicorns, either: "Immigrants launch more companies per person than native-born Americans and their firms pay a bit higher wages," he wrote, citing other recent research.

And then there are founders who are children of immigrants, which would add at least 51 unicorns to the total, according to the study.

Around half of the immigrant founders of unicorns came to the U.S. on student visas.

All of these numbers raise questions about U.S. immigration policy, and the trends on immigration in recent years. The group of entrepreneurs who launched these unicorns arrived years ago (you don't launch a company that achieves a billion-dollar valuation in just a year or two, after all).

In recent years, the growth in immigration that the U.S. had relied on to create these unicorns has slowed down. Last year, for the first time in more than a decade, the percentage of the foreign-born population in the U.S. dropped. People are less interested in coming to the U.S., as is shown in the fact that net immigration has declined every year since 2016

While the NFAP doesn't make policy recommendations per se, the organization includes a pair of policy notes within its report. The first is about a startup visa, which would allow entrepreneurs to stay in the country specifically to launch and lead companies. Currently, if you found a company in the U.S., there's no visa program to remain in the country as an entrepreneur. As a result, according to the report, "Successful immigrant entrepreneurs in America are almost always refugees or family-sponsored and employer-sponsored immigrants."

The second NFAP policy note is around increasing the number of immigrants allowed, and accelerating the processing of green card applications. As the report notes: "The Congressional Research Service estimates the backlog for employment-based green cards for Indians could exceed two million by 2030. In the most recent year, the U.S. rejected 82 percent of H-1B applications for exceeding the 85,000 annual limit."