Bone-Headed Immigration Policies

Meanwhile, entrepreneurship is booming in countries that compete with us. And more than half a million doctors, scientists, researchers, and engineers in the U.S. are stuck in “immigration limbo”. They are on temporary work visas and are waiting for permanent-resident visas, which are in extremely short supply. These workers can’t start companies, justify buying houses, or grow deep roots in their communities. Once they get in line for a visa, they can’t even accept a promotion or change jobs. They could be required to leave the U.S. immediately—without notice—if their employer lays them off.  Rather than live in constant fear and stagnate in their careers, many are returning home.

[Source: Why Silicon Valley Immigrant Entrepreneurs Are Returning Home]Vivek Wadhwa writing at TechCrunch highlight the singularly important issue that is denting America’s competitiveness yet every Congressman in Washington is obsessed with abortion! Except for this report on Nightly News, the mainstream media seems to be clueless as well as America seems be completely ignorant of this impending crisis toward loss of competitiveness.

I have seen and talked to several people who are in the same boat and stuck in the limbo of long Green Card lines with their current employers whether they are happy or not watching their non-Indian or non-Chinese colleagues climb their career ladders swiftly. This uncertainty not only affects people but also the country as people’s intellectual abilities are often not allocated to their most productive use, economically speaking. In fact, one of the bizarre regulations even restricts the employees from working beyond 40 hours for employers other than those who are sponsoring their H1-B visas. So any kind of startup business or employment an immigrant might wish to pursue in their free time hence adding to the economy and the tax payroll is expressly forbidden and can be considered a violation of their immigration status.

When Thomas Friedman coined the phrase, “The world is flat” or Fareed Zakaria talked about the Post-American World, they not only took aim at America’s clueless at this changing nature of the world economy but also highlighted the growing competitiveness of other nations. These nations in Europe and Asia are smartly tapping into the frustrations of immigrants in America and doing their best to attract them to their borders. Yet with increasing incidences of such ‘reverse brain drain’, American government seems unaware of global realities and instead of focusing on reforming legal immigration, it focuses on exploiting the politics involved in illegal immigration. Earlier America had the standard of life and effectiveness of its government to make those on the fence lean toward its side but other countries including erstwhile developing ones like India and China are fast catching up making the decision to go back much easier.

The question remains, when will America wake up to the realities of the changed economic order and when it does, will it be too late?

Comment via Twitter

  • Sherene Jose

    I can hardly claim to be ‘indispensable talent’ but I refused to move to the US after the bf’s MBA graduation because of said bone-headed immigration policies and I managed to get him to relocate to London too… Plus I know several capable Eastern Europeans who refuse to move to the US despite possible career options there because of the hassles of the work visa. America really needs to make it easier for people who’re not looking to immigrate permanently to work for a few years in the US.

    • Sherene Jose

      I realise that I went off on a tangent there… you were discussing about making it easier for people to get on a permanent visa in the US, but even the H1B can be a real nightmare for those looking for jobs without having graduated from a US university.

    • Patrix

      Hardly a tangent. Now having been in the workforce for more than a year, I’m seeing first-hand the frustrations of skilled immigrants on work visas. The H1-B visa is valid for 6 years (3+3) and if you want to stay on, your employer has to apply for permanent residency in your fifth year. If that goes smoothly, you’ve be employed with that employer for an inordinate amount of time at your same position and most likely, with little increase in pay. In your most productive years of your life, this can be frustrating.

      I’m sure your BF’s decision to head to London may turn out to be a wise decision after all.