The Economy & You #22: How Immigration Policy Hurts the Economy
Recently, I was reading an article written by Alex Tabarrok in The Atlantic magazine about our country’s immigration policy that left me scratching my head. It seems that U.S. policy regarding what many would consider the world’s best and brightest as counterintuitive.
It is well known that our colleges and universities welcome students from across the world to study and learn. These students come for a premiere education, and the cost does not come cheap. Still, our nation’s immigration policy does little to help keep these recent graduates in the United States.
Consider the following: every year the United States authorizes approximately 140,000 employment visas for immigrants with graduate degrees, professional degrees, and other skills. With a workforce of 150 million, the number of skill based visas is incredibly low. To make matters worse, these 140,000 visas must also cover the spouses and children of that high-skilled worker. The result is that these highly skilled immigrants can wait years before they are granted a visa. What is likely the most egregious part, is that there is a cap on the number of visas allowed per country regardless of the size of its population. This means that the same number of visas – 2,803 -are allocated to Spain, Senegal and Singapore as are allocated to China and India with populations over 1 billion people.
Why wouldn’t the U.S. want to attract and retain those immigrants that have the skills that to grow our economy. According to the article, 25% of the new companies in the technology and science fields are founded by immigrants who are often graduates of our universities. These immigrants and the firms they found create more jobs and higher wages for Americans.
Currently, immigration policy does little to keep high-skilled immigrants. While the U.S. limits high skill visas to 140,000, we welcome over 1.1 million legal immigrants each year. One of the best ways for the United States to remain competitive is to change our focus on immigration from family-based to a work-based system.
The U.S. could establish a system that would provide foreign-born students that graduate with advance degrees from American colleges and universities a path to permanent residency. America has taught and trained these students to become the best and the brightest, we should be doing what we can to benefit from this investment. This is especially true in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. As our economy continues to evolve into an intellectual economy, those nations with the brightest and most creative stand to grow and prosper. The U.S. must take steps to ensure that we are truly the land of opportunity.