Monday, March 02, 2009

Why Skilled Immigrants Are Leaving the U.S.

As the debate over H-1B workers and skilled immigrants intensifies, we are losing sight of one important fact: The U.S. is no longer the only land of opportunity. If we don't want the immigrants who have fueled our innovation and economic growth, they now have options elsewhere. Immigrants are returning home in greater numbers. And new research shows they are returning to enjoy a better quality of life, better career prospects, and the comfort of being close to family and friends.

Earlier research by my team suggested that a crisis was brewing because of a burgeoning immigration backlog. 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!

~From a Business Week article by Vivek Wadhwa, Executive in Residence at the Pratt School of Engineering, Duke University, and co-author of the study released today by the Kauffman Foundation titled "America’s Loss is the World’s Gain."


At 3/02/2009 11:40 AM, Blogger lineup32 said...

Recent professional friend with Permanent green card told me that when she renewed the card recently that nobody was in line with her. She said nobody wants to come anymore!

At 3/02/2009 11:55 AM, Blogger DaveinHackensack said...

"Because immigrants are critical to the country's long-term economic health."

Immigrants, or skilled immigrants? This distinction is often elided by open borders advocates. We'd be better off as a country if we welcomed more skilled immigrants and a lot fewer unskilled immigrants.

At 3/02/2009 12:01 PM, Blogger misterjosh said...

We might do a better job of keeping these immigrants as well if we did a better job of keeping companies from using the H-1Bs as licenses for indentured servitude.

At 3/02/2009 12:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do they need a visa? There seems to be absolutely no penalty for breaking immigration laws.

Mass illegal immigration has changed America from a nation that welcomed talented new comers into one that is fed up with being invaded.

At 3/02/2009 1:34 PM, Blogger misterjosh said...

Anon 12:46,
Employers of skilled immigrants generally follow the law when it comes to paperwork.

It's the UNSKILLED workers you're talking about. Also, blame your fellow Americans for the illegal immigration. They/we are eager to employ low skilled workers for lower wages, and we have historically had very poor border control.

Our left hand is waving illegals in with open arms while our right hand is absentmindedly shooing them away.

All I know about illegal immigration is that I'm sure glad I don't have to pick tomatoes.

At 3/02/2009 1:44 PM, Blogger Paul Hue said...

The problem: Not enough US students are selecting technical majors in college. High schools, and our culture in general, refuses to steer students to in-demand majors, treating all possible university majors as "equal" in value.

Too many US students want to use college for fun, not for serious development of skills and credentials. Go check university enrollment in the majors with high industry demand: they are dominated by foreign visitors and immigrants. Americans dominate in the "Party On, Dude!" majors, like social work, education, communications, and business.

At 3/02/2009 2:15 PM, Blogger bobble said...

hey, is the author of that study the same Vivek Wadhwa that said this?

"I’ve been totally puzzled as well" by "all the misinformation out there," agrees former high-tech entrepreneur Vivek Wadhwa, now researching globalization at Duke and Harvard.

Wadhwa found no general shortage, only "specific shortages in…specific areas of technology" such as the newly emerging field of biofuels, he says. Dozens of employers asked to compare American engineers to their much-vaunted colleagues from India and China agreed that "in education, training, quality of work, you name it, in every which way, Americans are better." Even the best schools in those countries "don’t hold a candle to our best schools," he continues. Newly hired American university graduates "become productive within 30 days or so. If you hire a graduate of an Indian university, it takes between 3 and 6 months for them to become productive."

The H-1B visa, according to Wadhwa . . . admirably suits the needs of employers wishing to pay bottom dollar. Many foreigners "will work for any salary" for the chance to come to America, Wadhwa observes. Because the H-1B belongs to the employer rather than the worker . . . the visa effectively prevents workers from changing jobs and thus, Wadhwa says, from demanding higher pay.

At 3/02/2009 2:21 PM, Blogger Paul Hue said...

bobble: But are there enough Americans bothering to get themselves qualified for these jobs? Is is the employer preference for immigrants entirely wage-driven?

I have worked as an engineer at Ford in Detroit for about ten years. Those guys from India and China are outstandingly educated, and very devoted to their jobs.

At 3/02/2009 4:17 PM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> We'd be better off as a country if we welcomed more skilled immigrants and a lot fewer unskilled immigrants.

Not really something to argue, and clearly, from the rest of the article, that's the kind of workers being discussed.

> Those guys from India and China are outstandingly educated, and very devoted to their jobs.

One of my co-workers was a programmer from Romania. He was hired not because he worked cheaper but because it was very difficult to find anyone at a vaguely reasonable price who could code well. Most of the applicants we got for the position could barely write the classic roman-numeral conversion program. That was the reason we chose him, despite the requirements of devoting several HR man-days to processing the government paperwork needed to hire him.

At 3/03/2009 2:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I seem to remember a video of a lawyer recommending companies post jobs in small towns so that no qualified candidate will respond...

At 3/03/2009 12:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Guys ,
I am listening to all the hue and cry from political and American people to remove H1b visa people and hire local people. I will like to put my comments only for skilled immigrant.

1) Skilled immigrant who are coming from china and India are hardworking and well educated individual .They have done enormous suffice to get well educated in their country .Let me put some light on education in India and china
• Parent in India and china have made their first priority to look for better education for their children
• Children face tough competition right from their childhood days to be ahead of each other so as to get into engineering or doctor degrees .In doing all this they are automatically cultivated hardworking and dedication kind of quality.
3) American kids tend to be more focused on enjoying school and college education without doing through lots of hard ships .Very less no of American opt for engineering or medical as their profession because it require hard work and lots of suffice (which they cannot do )
4) America kids are more inclined towards Games, Music etc
5) how many American kids are their to take the jobs of all this skilled H1 visa people if they go back to their country
6) How many America kids does American universities has in pipeline to take place of this Skilled H1 Visa People
7) Ask the politician ,when they make suck kind of comments that they will stop all h1 visa people have they thought of the voids that they will have to fill so that all this Americans company can do they day to day business with cost effectives
8) Ask the politician, In how many years they are going to fill the skilled gaps .
9) Ask the politician, what they have given to this Skilled H1 people when they deduct Social security tax from their pay checks
10) I apologize for my abruptions but I have been listening to all this craps which doesn’t make any sense regarding removing h1B visa people
11) What if ,This Skilled People try to go back now in another 3 to 6 months to their country where will American companies will find their replacement and I am taking abt right replacement

I wish all H1B people leave within 3 to 6 months for even short duration of 6 months, then politician ,American companies and American people will understands that This H1B Skilled people were assets to this country not an liability

At 3/03/2009 12:56 PM, Blogger Paul Hue said...

Very true. The immigrants coming in through this channel more than pull their own weight over here. Their efforts produce wealth that pays taxes for several native Americans living on the dole! These people and their offspring have much lower rates of crime and other forms of costly behavior than native born Americans. Let 'em come!

At 3/04/2009 1:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, yes, here it is.

At 3/04/2009 4:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the late 90's I worked for a consulting firm (Oracle/Unix) and did two sites that had used H1B's exclusively to develop their sub-systems.

We had to virtually tear it all down and do it over.

The H1B's in my estimation are good at routine stuff (coding, following orders, etc) but horrible at design & conceptual(creativity) tasks.

Tom in AZ

At 3/18/2009 10:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hiring skilled immigrants is good for American economics and international relations.

We need even the unskilled immigrants for jobs that Americans won't work for such as crop picking. Either that, or use welfare recipients, inmates, and the unemployed.


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