STEM Visa Policy: Aim Higher07 Mar 2013
The renewed push for comprehensive immigration reform has called attention to the sorry state of our STEM visa policy, which makes it harder than it should be for the United States to attract and retain the best and brightest scientists, doctors, programmers, and engineers from overseas. Almost everyone who examines the issue is a bit incredulous, and commentaries on the subject are often a fugue on the same theme: if STEM visa policy is not rocket science, why do we keep shooting ourselves in the foot?
A recent article in the San Jose Mercury echoes these sentiments, but from a Silicon Valley perspective that’s concerned with the impact of STEM visa policy on tech startups. Silicon Valley execs Greg Becker and Clara Shih cite compelling statistics to buttress their case for CIR generally, and for a more robust and flexible STEM visa program in particular. [See Immigration Reform Needed for Silicon Valley and U.S. Economy, by Greg Becker and Clara Shih, San Jose Mercury, 23.Feb.2013.] According to Becker and Shih:
- High-tech startups are seeking almost 15,000 workers, according to StartUpHire.com; they cite a recent survey indicating that 9 in 10 startups plan to hire this year, but 9 in 10 startups also say it’s hard to hire people with relevant skills.
- “Technology startups historically have created 11 percent of all private sector jobs, 21 percent of U.S. GDP, and entirely new industries like software and biotechnology.”
- “Between 2010 and 2020, there will be at least 1.2 million job openings in computing professions that require at least a bachelor’s degree, yet at our current pace we will produce less than half the number of U.S. graduates needed to fill them.”
- “A 2008 study by the National Foundation for American Policy said large tech companies increased their employment by five workers for every one H1B worker visa they requested.”
As you’d expect, Becker and Shih conclude that it makes no sense to turn away highly skilled foreign workers at a time when startups are having trouble recruiting the talent they need to get off the ground. Nor should we fence out immigrant entrepreneurs who want to start companies here, they argue. Becker and Shih add their voices to the now-familiar chorus: if we want our tech startups to get off the ground, they need to be able to compete in the global market for STEM talent. Business as usual will leave them earthbound: Congress needs to aim higher, and provide more STEM visas and green cards so we can build the businesses of the future, right here in America.
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