NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 21, 2009

More skilled immigrants are giving up their American dreams to pursue careers back home, raising concerns that the United States may lose its competitive edge in science, technology, and other fields, says USA Today.

Referencing several sources, the USA Today shed some light on how the economy may be driving emigration. 

"What was a trickle has become a flood," says Duke University's Vivek Wadhwa, who studies reverse immigration:

  • In the next five years, 100,000 immigrants will go back to India and 100,000 to China, countries that have had rapid economic growth.
  • For the first time in American history, the United States is experiencing the brain drain that other countries experienced.

Suren Dutia, CEO of TiE Global, a worldwide network of professionals who promote entrepreneurship, says the U.S. economy will suffer without these skilled workers.  "If the country is going to maintain the kind of economic well-being that we've enjoyed for many years, that requires having these incredibly gifted individuals who have been educated and trained by us," he says.

Wadhwa surveyed 1,203 Indian and Chinese immigrants who had worked or been educated here before returning to their homelands and found the exodus has less to do with the faltering United States economy than with other factors.

Career opportunities:

  • At NIIT, an information technology company based in New Delhi, about 10 per cent of managers in India are returnees, mostly from the United States, says CEO Vijay Thadani.
  • Most go into mid- to senior management and make "excellent employees," he says; they're Indian, so they understand India, and they have lived outside the country.
  • China's government entices some skilled workers to return with incentives such as financial assistance and housing, says Wang Baodong, spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington.

Quality of life and family ties: 

  • People return to India to reconnect with their families and culture, Dutia says.
  • Purchasing power is greater, he says, which allows returnees to afford more luxuries than they did in the United States.

Immigration delays:

  • Multinational companies that belong to the American Council on International Personnel tell Executive Director Lynn Shotwell that skilled immigrants are discouraged by the immigration process, she says.
  • Some can wait up to a decade for permanent residency, she says; they're frustrated with having an uncertain immigration status and they're giving up.

Source: Emily Bazar, "More of World's Talented Workers Opt to Leave USA," USA TODAY, September 20, 2009

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