A floating haven for entrepreneurs without visas

Blueseed aims to overcome the US's strict immigration laws – by sea.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When life gives you over-protectionist immigration regulations, make overprotectionistimmigrationregulationade. Yeah, that line doesn't really work.

Wired's Olivia Solon brough my attention to Blueseed. It's a project to station a ship 12 nautical miles off the coast of San Francisco, in international waters, so that potential tech entrepreneurs can start companies near Silicon Valley without the need for a US work visa – an incredibly tricky thing to get.

The start-up has just secured $300,000 of venture capital, writes Jason Dorrier of SingularityHub:

Now, to be fair, $300,000 in Silicon Valley is lemonade stand money. The initial venture round for Blueseed is $700,000—and that’s just for the preliminaries. Researching immigration and visa laws and choosing the best ship design, for example. To execute their plan in full, Blueseed is aiming to raise between $10 and $30 million.

At the very least, the initial investment proves that since its launch, Blueseed’s audacity has accumulated some powerful fans. And well it should. It’s a powerful idea. For those who missed the first round of hype—it’s worth revisiting. Blueseed’s mission is to tear down the archaic barriers keeping good ideas and funding apart.

The company's plan is a more realistic version of the libertarian dream of "seasteading" – starting a new micronation, free of laws or regulations, in international waters to prove that the libertarian life is possible.

Blueseed is not directly proposing such a libertarian idea — the ship will be more like a floating hotel/office than a nation — but in offering a way to make the most of easy access to the US without having to actually obey its regulations, it is striking at the heart of what many libertarians hope to achieve.

While there may be doubt about whether Blueseed can actually work — it's an audacious plan, which could fall prey to US immigration law, the US navy, or even pirates — there is little doubt that the fact that it is even being considered is a vindication of the arguments that US immigration policy is ridiculous.

People are considering building a ship, charging for accommodation, floating it in international waters and then offering ferries to the mainland all to provide some access to the support networks to entrepreneurs that Silicon Valley offers. If the US offered them visas, it would get all that hard work — and tax revenue too. If the west could just have a sane attitude to immigration, ideas like this wouldn't hold water.

Concept art of Blueseed. Photograph: Blueseed.co

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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Free movement isn't free: the truth about EU immigration

The UK does not need to leave the single market to restrict European migration - it already can.

In the Brext negotiations, the government has unashamedly prioritised immigration control over the economy. The UK must leave the single market, ministers say, in order to restrict free movement. For decades, they lament, European immigration has been "uncontrolled", making it impossible to meet the government's target of reducing net migration to "tens of thousands" a year.

It's worth noting that non-EU immigration alone (which ministers can limit) remains more than ten times this level (owing to the economic benefits). But more importantly, liberals and conservatives alike talk of "free movement" as if it is entirely free - it isn't.

Though EU citizens are initially permitted to live in any member state, after three months they must prove that they are working (employed or self-employed), a registered student or have "sufficient resources" (savings or a pension) to support themselves and not be "a burden on the benefits system". Far from being unconditional, then, the right to free movement is highly qualified.

The irony is that the supposedly immigration-averse UK has never enforced these conditions. Even under Theresa May, the Home Office judged that the cost of recording entry and exit dates was too high. Since most EU migrants are employed (and contribute significantly more in taxes than they do in benefits), there was no economic incentive to do so.

For some Brexiteers, of course, a job is not adequate grounds for an immigrant to remain. But even beyond implementing existing law, there is potential for further reform of free movement - even within the single market.

As Nick Clegg recently noted, shortly after the referendum, "a number of senior EU figures" were exploring a possible trade-off: "a commitment by the UK to pursue the least economically disruptive Brexit by maintaining participation in the single market and customs union, in return for a commitment to the reform of freedom of movement, including an 'emergency brake' on unusually high levels of intra-EU immigration." Liechtenstein, a member of the single market, has recently imposed quotas on EU migrants.

Yet with some exceptions, these facts are rarely heard in British political debate. Many Labour MPs, like their Conservative counterparts, support single market withdrawal to end free movement. The unheard truth that it isn't "free" could yet lead the UK to commit an avoidable act of economic self-harm.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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