NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 27, 2007

A report issued last week by the Kauffman Foundation says while Congress has been fighting over illegal aliens and a guest-worker program for low-skilled workers, a crisis is developing among those waiting in line to become legal immigrants to the country.

More than 1 million skilled workers and their families already are in the United States competing for about 120,000 permanent resident visas each year, and many of those say they may just return to their home countries instead, the researchers said.

Immigrants, it turns out, play a huge, and increasing, role in American science and technology, according to two earlier reports from the researchers. Those reports measured patents registered by immigrants and technology and engineering companies founded by immigrants.

  • Between 1995 and 2005, for example, one in four technology or engineering companies was founded by an immigrant, with Indian immigrants accounting for more new companies than the next four -- Britain, China, Japan and Taiwan -- combined.
  • The researchers said the threat of a reverse brain-drain is real -- they found that about one in three workers here on employment-based visas either plans to leave the United States or is uncertain about remaining.
  • About half of the 1 million hopefuls waiting for a permanent visa are workers, and the other half are their family members.

One alternative supported by the Kauffman Foundation and Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) would be to try to keep the brightest immigrants here permanently, by offering permanent residence to foreign students who graduate with high-level degrees in science or technology.

Source: Stephen Dinan, "Skilled migrants face visa hurdles," Washington Times, August 27, 2007.


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