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Why U.S. Immigration Policy Needs Tweaking
By Bill Costello
Education Columnist
Why U.S. Immigration Policy Needs Tweaking

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 percent 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 percent 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 percent 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-IN) 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.

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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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