Why U.S. immigration policy needs tweaking

By Bill Costello

In the current issue of BusinessWeek, Michelle Conlin writes that the percentage of top MBAs from U.S. universities who are taking jobs in Asia has more than doubled since 2005. It’s now over 10% of the graduating class.

What’s luring them to the East? More opportunities to make an impact, work in an emerging market, develop a global skill set, and earn international exposure. Asian companies are now actively recruiting many of the top MBAs, beating out American companies.

It’s not only the pool of Western talent that’s being drained from the U.S. International students are also increasingly choosing to return to their home countries to work and start new businesses. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that over 40% of non-U.S. doctoral degree recipients intended to leave the U.S.

Even highly educated and skilled immigrants who have lived and worked in the U.S. for years are returning home. In China, these returnees are called "hai gui," which means sea turtle, because sea turtles return to their place of birth after having migrated elsewhere.

It seems the American dream is no longer confined to the borders of America. Opportunity now abounds globally, especially in Asia.

In order for the U.S. to maintain its competitive edge in the global economy, it needs to focus on attracting skilled professionals. One of the best ways to do this is by allowing more skilled immigrants to become permanent residents. The U.S. needs to attract immigrants who are highly educated and have much to contribute to U.S. innovation, job growth, and economic growth.

While immigrants represent only 12% of the U.S. population, their economic and intellectual contributions have been significant. They’ve started more than half of the technology companies in Silicon Valley and contributed to over one quarter of U.S.-originated international patents.

Offering skilled immigrants permanent residence instead of temporary visas will increase the number who come to the U.S., the number who stay, and the number who start new businesses that create jobs for Americans.

U.S. Senators John Kerry (D-Ma) and Richard Lugar (R-I) recently proposed the StartUp Visa Act, which would provide incentive for immigrant entrepreneurs to create jobs in the U.S. If passed, the act would create a two-year visa for any immigrant entrepreneur who can secure at least $250,000 from U.S. investors. At the end of the two years, an immigrant can become a legal resident if his or her business has created at least five full-time jobs in the U.S., attracted an additional $1 million in investment capital, or achieved $1 million in revenue.

The StartUp Visa Act is a step in the right direction. It will help keep innovation and jobs in the U.S. These jobs can’t be outsourced or shipped overseas. Immigrants who can create jobs for Americans and help build the U.S. economy deserve permanent U.S. residency.

Bill Costello, M.Ed., is a U.S.-based education columnist, blogger, and author of "Awaken Your Birdbrain: Using Creativity to Get What You Want." He can be reached at

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Well, this was the idea behind globalization; bring the rest of the world close to US level of prosperity. Nothing wrong with high quality professional people choosing countries other then US; in fact, it was not normal that US was the only country to offer real opportunities (on a large scale) for so long now. I wouldn't worry too much about "brain leak" from US though; our country offers much more than China and other places can; a place to have a decent life with relatively few restrictions, where people wont look at you like you are a freak if you happen to be of different race (for the most part), and where people look at and embrace immigrants as part of their society and not as outsiders. Coming to US as an immigrant, I can honestly say that most people treat you as an American as soon as you "step off the boat", even when you are not actually a US citizen. The same thing cannot be said for a lot of the countries mentioned in this article.

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I doubt this trend will last and afterall, most jobs at overseas locations are probably off-shore operations of U.S. companies. I can't imagine a Japanese Harvard MBA would go back to Japan to work for a Japanese company. Let's face it ... opportunities still linger with the U.S. over the long haul. All about nothing.

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Why is this a surprise? US corporations are amid a wholesale transplant of thier manufacturing and IT capabilities overseas, mainly to Asia.

Almost everybody and everything in key industries in America are destined to have their jobs outsourced overseas, if they havent gone already.

However, the day that politicians, corporate CEOs and senior bureaucrats can be outsourced is the day outsourcing will become regulated. Until then, US corporations (sorry, "multinationals") will be flogging US industry to the highest bidder.

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It may actually be a progressive idea. There are a lot of advantages to having a US HQ, a US VC and the US law whetting and protecting your start-up.

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become a legal resident if his or her business has created at least five full-time jobs in the U.S., attracted an additional $1 million in investment capital, or achieved $1 million in revenue.

So if the immigrant only creates four full-time jobs, he won't be legal. I understand the motivation to attract smart people but this seems like a huge hurdle.

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I say let 'em all in. There should only be 2 questions: are you willing to pay taxes, and follow the rules as well as the next guy? If the answer is "yes" then the response is "Great! Here's your citizenship".

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US is an only developed nation without the universal health care. Employer is solely responsible for employee health care. If someone lost the job he lost the health insurance too. Even someone still have a job, employer wish to reduce some benefits. Prescribed medication are more expensive in states. For some Americans, going oversea for elective surgery is more economic than paying long term health insurance premiums. I think it is a major setback for attracting the talents.

At the moment, some Asian nations are developing their health care facilities and professionals for medical tourists. In my view, working in those nations will be wiser for middle aged people. Wages may be low however cost of living and crime rate are low too. When their health condition has changed, they will get a quality care promptly with affordable price.

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Fly.... you're not paying attention.

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