High-skilled immigrants have provided one of America's greatest competitive advantages. Their education and skills, their hunger to share in the American dream, their knowledge of world markets, their entrepreneurial drive, and hundreds of thousands of jobs created as a result all have fueled growth in the American economy. Yet their contributions have not been well-documented.
To fill the void, the Kauffman Foundation has funded a series of studies based on an initial report by Duke University researcher Vivek Wadhwa called America's New Immigrant Entrepreneurs. The studies look at the economic contributions of skilled legal immigrants in the United States, what is different about them, what obstacles they face with the U.S. immigration system and why tens of thousands of skilled immigrants and would-be immigrants are heading back to their home countries and what the implications are for the United States.
This study was the first in a series examining the importance of immigrant entrepreneurs to the U.S. economy.
This report tracked the educational backgrounds of immigrant entrepreneurs who were key founders of technology and engineering companies from 1995 to 2005 shows a strong correlation between educational attainment (particularly in science, technology, engineering and math) and entrepreneurship.
More than one million skilled immigrant workers, including scientists, engineers, doctors and researchers and their families, are competing for 120,000 permanent U.S. resident visas each year, creating a sizeable imbalance likely to fuel a "reverse brain-drain" with skilled workers returning to their home country, according to this report. The situation is even bleaker as the number of employment visas issued to immigrants from any single country is less than 10,000 per year with a wait time of several years.
This report examined the reasons behind the substantial number of highly skilled immigrants that had returned to their home countries, including persons from low-income countries like India and China who have historically tended to stay permanently in the United States. These returnees contributed to the tech boom in those countries and arguably spurred the growth of outsourcing of back-office processes as well as of research and development.
Large banks, such as Bank of America, and other U.S. firms are reducing plans to hire foreign national students due to concerns over political backlash amidst growing U.S. job losses. However, this study indicates that lessening the number of foreign national students in U.S. jobs may be detrimental to the economic health of the country by accelerating the return of talented immigrant students to their home countries.
High-skilled immigrant entrepreneurs from India and China are leaving the United States by the tens of thousands each year, drawn away by better economic and professional opportunities in their home countries, according to this study.
This study finds that the number of high-tech, immigrant-founded startups — a critical source of fuel for the U.S. economy — has stagnated and is on the verge of decline.
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