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Foreign Workers a “Brain Gain” for the U.S.

Written By The Shapiro Law Group on January 25, 2011

U.S. immigration policies are in need of reforms that will allow employers greater access to workers with scientific and technological skills needed to compete in the global marketplace.

That is the conclusion of a recent policy brief of the Brookings Institution released by its Vice President, Darrell M. West on Jan. 19, 2011.

The report asserts that immigrant workers have contributed greatly to the information age economy in the U.S., noting that:

  • More than a quarter of technology and engineering businesses launched between 1995 and 2005 had a foreign-born founder;
  • More than half of high-tech start-up companies in Silicon Valley were founded by foreign-born owners;
  • Roughly a quarter of the international patents filed from the U.S. in 2006 were based on the work of foreign-born individuals; and
  • One third of all U.S. winners of Nobel prizes in medicine and physiology were born in other countries.

Nonetheless, the U.S. has fallen behind in international competition, according to the report, with domestic innovators earning fewer patents than their global counterparts for the first time in many years in 2009.

As a consequence, the Brookings Institution suggested the following possible remedies and reforms, among others:

  • Expansion of the H-1B visa program (for highly skilled workers) as well as the O-1 visa program (the so-called “genius” program for extraordinary talent) and the EB-5 visa program for “targeted employment areas”);
  • Tying visa and immigration limits to U.S. economic needs and indicators; and
  • Creation of an automatic green card for foreign-born graduates of U.S. math, science, technology and engineering programs.

This report could help pave the way for meaningful reforms in Congress, but in the meantime competition for foreign talent in specialty areas remains keen.

If you are an employer seeking to hire foreign skilled workers, and you need assistance of counsel, please call our offices at (847) 564-0712. You are also welcome to check out the pertinent section of our Website for more information.