High-Tech Immigration: Vital to U.S. Economic Recovery

High-Tech Immigration: Vital to U.S. Economic Recovery

AA recentA report argues that high-tech immigration reform is a vital ingredient in the economic recovery of the United States.

The report, commissioned by the Partnership for New York City and the Partnership for a New American Economy, suggests U.S. immigration policy is bogged down by bureaucracy and politics – while other highly competitive countries tie immigration rules to the economic needs of the country.

“Artificially low limits on visas and serious bureaucratic obstacles prevent employers from hiring the people they need —- and send entrepreneurs to other countries, who are quick to welcome them,” reads the report.

“In fact, other nations have learned from the American experience and are employing aggressive recruitment strategies to attract the key high- and low-skilled workers that their economies need to compete and grow.”

If the U.S. is to turn its economic ship around, argues the report, it must follow the example of other countries, such as Canada and Singapore, and prioritize economic over political goals in terms of immigration policy – particularly in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields.

The report warns the United States will have a deficit of 230,800 advanced degree holders in STEM by the end of the decade, despite the country’s numerous top-tier technology universities.



The source of the problem? Currently, foreign students earning advanced STEM degrees in the U.S. are given a short window to find work and an unclear path to citizenship.

Part of the solution, says the report, is to staple permanent visas to advanced STEM degrees.

“We’re shooting ourselves in the foot by sending them back home, no company would ever do that. It used to be the gold rush, now it’s the talent rush.”

Another high-tech immigration reform idea backed by the report and by Mayor Bloomberg himself involves giving visas to foreign entrepreneurs to build businesses in the U.S., an idea modeled on a similar law in Singapore.

The report found that technology and engineering firms founded in the U.S. by immigrants made $52 billion in sales and employed 450,000 workers in 2006, and for every immigrant with an advanced STEM degree from an American university working in the U.S., 2.62 jobs were created for other Americans.

“If you want best and brightest, you’ve got to go out and get them,” said Bloomberg of the idea during a panel discussion about the report at the New York Forum.

Allowing state governments the flexibility to set their own visa requirements, a policy currently in place in Canada, is an additional solution pitched by the report and supported by Bloomberg. New York could, for example, set requirements that attract investors and entrepreneurs, while other states could pull in agricultural workers.

“There’s no reason you need the same immigration policy across the nation,” said Bloomberg. “In New York we’d be first in line for immigrants, we’d take as many as we could get. There are states in America that don’t believe that and that’s up to them. Why not let us do that and let them do what they want to do?”

What do you think the United States can do to attract and keep the world’s top technology talent? Let us know in the comments.

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~Dawn Krovicka