NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 30, 2008

The U.S. immigration service allows highly educated workers to enter the country for up to six years on a visa called the H-1B.  If these workers want to stay longer and enjoy the same rights as American citizens, they need to obtain a permanent resident visa.  The problem is that there are more than a million skilled workers and their families in the United States who are waiting for these permanent resident visas, but there are very few visas available and the backlog is rapidly increasing, says the American.

In order to assess the impact of highly skilled foreigners, the American conducted a study of thousands of U.S. engineering and technology firms.  Researchers found:

  • In over 25 percent of the technology companies founded in the United States from 1995 to 2005, the chief executive or lead technologist was foreign-born.
  • In 2005, these companies generated $52 billion in revenue and employed 450,000 workers.
  • In some industries, such as semiconductors, the numbers were much higher -- immigrants founded 35 percent of start-ups.
  • In Silicon Valley, the percentage of immigrant-founded start-ups had increased to 52 percent.
  • The number of foreign-national inventors increased 337 percent over 8 years.

These immigrant founders were highly educated and possessed technical skills:

  • Some 96 percent had bachelor's degrees and 74 percent held a graduate or postgraduate degree.
  • Some 75 percent of these degrees were in fields related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
  • The majority did not come to the United States as entrepreneurs; instead, some 52 percent came to study, 40 percent came to work and 6 percent came for family reasons.

The American also found that foreign students have only a 50 percent chance of being able to stay permanently in the United States.  This sets the stage for hundreds of thousands of highly educated and skilled workers to return to their home countries and become our competitors. 

Source: Vivek Wadhwa, "America's Other Immigration Crisis," The American, July/August 2008.

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