No Facebook, Elon Musk was not an ‘illegal immigrant’

By now second guessing stuff on the internet should come naturally. A Facebook post — that’s been shared nearly 25 000 times — claims that US billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk was an illegal immigrant. This is false. But it does manage to drive a very important point home.

The viral post takes a stab at controversial US presidential candidate and billionaire, Donald Trump, for his hardline immigration policies. It reads as follows:

I am Elon Musk. I was an ILLEGAL immigrant. And if Mr. Trump and some of you had it your way, I would’ve been kicked out of the USA and never founded Zip2, PayPal, Tesla Motors, SpaceX, Solar City. I wouldn’t have changed the world and employed thousands of Americans and grown your economy. [sic]

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Musk was born in South Africa but obtained Canadian citizenship through his mother. After two years in high school in Canada, Musk attended Queen’s University in Ontario. With a scholarship in his pocket, Musk then moved on to the University of Pennsylvania where he did a dual undergraduate in Business and Physics.

Once Musk earned his bachelor’s degree, he was eligible to receive an H-1B Visa. This is valid for three years and can be extended for additional three-year period and exchanged for a Green Card.

After applying and then dropping out of Stanford University in California, he founded Zip2 with his brother Kimbal Musk.

In a past interview, however, Kimbal did joke about the pair being “illegal immigrants” when they first raised their funding.

You can more hear about his journey from Pretoria to Silicon Valley in this interview from 2013:

According to Esquire, Musk took the oath of American citizenship with thirty-five hundred other immigrants in 2002.

The important point that this incorrect Facebook post makes is the fact that a large part of US job-creation is due to foreign talent.

In 2013, a survey found that 33% of the venture-backed companies that became publicly traded between 2006 and 2012 have immigrant founders. Another report by Forbes claims that 40% of the largest US companies have been founded by immigrants or their children.

As pointed out by Business Insider, there are a lot of foreigners that have become household names. These include rockstars like Google’s Sergey Brin, who’s from Russia; and Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, who’s from Brazil. Other hotshots include Qualcomm’s Andrew Viterbi (Italy), eBay’s Pierre Omidyar (France), Jerry Yang from Yahoo (Taiwan).



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