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April 17, 2014

It Is Time to Welcome All the Best and Brightest


It’s that time of year again when the U.S. decrees that we are no longer interested in considering whether talented, high-skilled, innovation-minded, economy-growing immigrants should come here. The decree comes in the form of a limitation in the number of H1-B visas available for the year.
An H1-B visa is a nonimmigrant visa that allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ high-skilled foreign workers. The government imposes a cap of no more than 65,000 visas each year, with an additional 20,000 visas dedicated for master’s category applicants.
This week, the Obama administration announced that the cap had been reached in less than a week, just as happened last year. Of course this comes as a surprise to no one given the constantly declining number of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) graduates amongst U.S. citizens and the ever-increasing number of jobs that require high-skilled technology workers. “Technology” long ago ceased being an industry or a job function, but rather is part of every industry, improving efficiency and increasing opportunity. Technology is everywhere and hence innovation-minded, technically talented workers are in high demand. If the jobs go unfilled, our industries become less competitive, opening a door for global competition to swoop in.
Besides filling available vacancies, talented immigrants coming to the U.S. spur new job creation. For example, in 2011 immigrants were responsible for the creation of 28 percent of all new firms and in general are twice as likely to start a new businesses when compared to those born here. Why does that matter?
According to the Kauffman Foundation, “High-tech startups are a key driver of job creation throughout the United States. Though they start lean, new high-tech companies grow rapidly in the early years, adding thousands of jobs along the way. In fact, high-tech startup job creation is so robust that it more than makes up for the job destruction from early-stage businesses failures—a key distinction from the private sector as a whole where job losses from early-stage failures turns this group into net job destroyers.”
Closing the door on these high-skilled workers only serves to slow our economic growth by limiting the number of the brightest minds we will accept. Worse, the policy spurs growth elsewhere, often in countries against which we compete.
The debate we should have is why we don’t welcome the best and brightest from around the world without an arbitrary quota.  Immigration critics who oppose such an approach miss the point that the U.S. is exceptional, and that regardless of job openings, inviting those in who create jobs benefits us all. Similarly, securing the best and brightest from around the globe to plant their ideas and grow their dreams here returns dividends to every current U.S. citizen.


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