Economics

The Immigration Drain

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Immigration and workforce researcher Vivek Wadhwa at Yahoo!News writes about skilled immigrants who are getting bored with the U.S.A–and how hard it can be to legally work here. Some highlights:

At the end of 2006, more than 1 million skilled professionals (engineers, scientists, doctors, researchers) and their families were in line for a yearly allotment of only 120,000 permanent resident visas. The wait time for some people ran longer than a decade. In the meantime, these workers were trapped in "immigration limbo." If they changed jobs or even took a promotion, they risked being pushed to the back of the permanent residency queue. We predicted that skilled foreign workers would increasingly get fed up and return to countries like India and China where the economies were booming.

Why should we care? Because immigrants are critical to the country's long-term economic health. Despite the fact that they constitute only 12% of the U.S. population, immigrants have started 52% of Silicon Valley's technology companies and contributed to more than 25% of our global patents. They make up 24% of the U.S. science and engineering workforce holding bachelor's degrees and 47% of science and engineering workers who have PhDs. Immigrants have co-founded firms such as Google, Intel, eBay, and Yahoo!…..

But human resources directors in India and China told us that what was a trickle of returnees a decade ago had become a flood. Job applications from the U.S. had increased tenfold over the last few years, they said.

While many of the factors Wadhwa and his fellow researchers found at play in the decision of many of these talented young people to abandon America are more personal than bureaucratic–see the full study–America certainly needs to do everything it can, if future economic dynamism and growth, and simple human decency, are important to us–to make things easier, rather than harder, for the foreign-born to live and work here. That means, increase that allotment for permanent resident visas, now–or eliminate quotas entirely.

The Reason Foundation's Shikha Dalmia with more on why such visa caps should be scrapped.