Just How Urgent is CIR?26 Mar 2010
Here’s an example. Monday’s edition of USA TODAY contains another in a long line of cautionary tales that we can only hope will spur Congress to act – finally – on CIR. The article tells of several Silicon Valley programmers and engineers who are leaving high-tech jobs in the United States for better opportunities at home, in places like India, Canada, and the U.K. (See: Silicon Valley is Losing Foreign-Born Talent, by Jon Swartz, USA TODAY, 22.Feb.2010.) According to USA TODAY, “foreign-born executives, engineers and scientists are leaving” in part for better opportunities, but also due to “strict immigration laws here and the dreary California economy with its high cost of living.”
Immigration hassles are not the only problem. The USA TODAY article cites a recent study called the Silicon Valley Index, showing that fewer foreign students are getting science and engineering degrees in the Valley. The result, a senior Harvard researcher told USA TODAY, is a “massive bring drain.” According to USA TODAY, the best and brightest foreign-born workers often can’t stay in the U.S. because there simply aren’t enough work visas to go around.
The solution? USA TODAY gives favorable mention to a proposal that’s increasingly gaining currency in business circles: the so-called Startup Visa, which would provide a two-year visa to foreign-born entrepreneurs “if they have the support of a qualified U.S. investor for their start-up venture.” Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Richard Lugar (R-IN) recently introduced a bipartisan bill to do just that, the article notes. (See also: In Support of the Startup Visa, by Scott Kirsner, The Boston Globe, 19.Mar.2010.)
Obviously, this is not the only solution to America’s reverse brain drain; we need to address the underlying shortage of work visas, the lengthy processing times, the unpredictability of the process, and all of the other factors that can make it a very trying ordeal to get a U.S. work visa. We also have to make it easier for talented foreigners to study here – especially in the sciences, technology, engineering and math – and stay on after graduation, as researchers and innovators and entrepreneurs who contribute to our prosperity. Although the Startup Visa is not the only solution, it is a creative idea that is well worth exploring. Creative thinking built our high-tech economy, and only creative thinking can restore our competitive edge.