US should retain skilled immigrants, says Indian-born academic

Wed, 2011-10-05 06:50 PM

Vivek Wadhwa, writing for the Washington Post, says the United States is experiencing its first ever brain drain and should do more to encourage skilled immigration.

"In 1980, when I came to the United States to study, this was the only land of opportunity for skilled immigrants like me," Wadhwa writes.

"If I was arriving today, I would not have taken the same path," he added.

He said that foreign students in the US from countries such as India and China are leaving for better opportunities at home. Not only that, but if they want to stay they would be forced to navigate the onerous United States immigration system."The waiting time for permanent resident visas for educated workers from India is now 70 years, according to National Foundation for American Policy," Wadhwa writes.

According to Wadhwa, immigrants have founded over 50 percent of the companies in Silicon Valley and created millions of jobs for Americans.

"This wont be the case in the future," Wadhwa says.

Wadhwa has been researching the contribution of skilled immigrants to the US economy for the last six years. He realized that the "tide was turning" against America being a center of innovation and entrepreneurship. The US was now experiencing its first ever brain drain.

While immigration has been a controversial topic in American politics, Wadhwa says that most discussion on immigration centers around the issue of illegal immigrants in the US. Not enough time is spent discussing possible immigration reforms that will enable more skilled immigrants to stay. With the current state of the economy, now may be the best time for politicians to come to an agreement on skilled immigration. More skilled immigration is likely to help the US economy.

Wadhwa is due to testify before Congress on his findings, in which he will raise three main points in support of more immigration to the US: that the world's top talent is not begging to get into the US anymore, that the US no longer has an advantage in entrepreneurship, and that the US is helping China and India to compete against America by forcing frustrated skilled immigrants to return home due to a burdensome visa process.

Wadhwa will also present solutions that he feels will help America get back on its feet.

"We need to increase the number of skilled worker visas, particularly the EB-1, EB-2 and EB-3 visa categories," Wadhwa states.

"To do this, we could make a visa contingent on the purchase of a home for $250,000 or more, thereby providing a boost to the struggling housing market," he adds.

"We should provide permanent resident visas to skilled immigrants who graduate from the nations top research universities and top universities science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs."

Wadhwa said that Congress needs to take the necessary steps and begin drafting legislation to allow more skilled immigrants to stay in the US and so improve America's global competitiveness before it is too late.