Archaic immigration laws hampering U.S. in worldwide race for talent

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The United States is slipping in the worldwide race for talented employees and entrepreneurs – and that slippage is hampering job growth and discouraging entrepreneurs from coming here.

That’s the conclusion of a new report by a group made up of big city mayors and business leaders. The report blames the slippage on archaic immigration laws that are not business friendly and not welcoming to highly skilled job seekers.

“We are still innovative leaders, but that’s going to change if we don’t change our policies,” Deborah Notkin, a New York-based immigration attorney, tells eFinancialCareers. “You can get permanent residency in Singapore in six months or three months if you get the right kind of degree. We’re losing out with our policies and this study explains that.”

Not Coming to America

The report, titled “Not Coming to America,” was prepared by the Partnership for a New Economy and the Partnership for New York City. It says that the nation’s immigration policies are sending entrepreneurs to countries where the laws are more progressive.

“Artificially low limits on the number of visas and serious bureaucratic obstacles prevent employers from hiring the people they need – and drive entrepreneurs to other countries, who are quick to welcome them,” the report says. “In fact, other nations have witnessed the importance of immigrants to the American economy and are employing aggressive recruitment strategies to attract the key high- and low-skilled workers their economies need to compete and grow. In the 21st century global economy, the stakes in the global talent rush are only increasing, and our loss has been the rest of the world’s gain.”

Severe Economic Consequences

Unless the United States makes some significant changes to its immigration policy, the report says, the country will face several economic consequences.

Among them:

  • A stalled economy – The report notes that new businesses are the biggest creators of new jobs. Recent census data shows that the number of business startups is at a record low, a trend that could continue if the policy is not revised.

  • A shortage of workers in innovation industries – Jobs in science, technology, engineering and math are increasing three times faster than jobs in the rest of the economy. Because few American students are venturing into these fields, the United States faces a shortfall of 230,000 STEM workers with advanced degrees by 2018.

  • A shortage of young workers – As baby boomers continue to retire in large numbers, the United States faces a shortage of young workers. To sustain the GDP growth, the U.S. needs younger workers, and younger working age immigrants could help alleviate the situation.

Permission to Hire the Best

The report’s recommendations include permitting American companies to hire the highly educated workers they need, awarding more green cards based on economic need, creating a foreign visa program to allow foreign entrepreneurs build their firms in the United States and providing visas to science, technology, engineering and math graduates of American universities.

Eleanor Pelta, AILA’s current president, tells eFinancialCareers that in the immigration debate, much of the focus has been on the undocumented. But she says, “The system is badly broken for business immigration as well. Really, the law has not been touched for decades. Congress’ inaction is hurting businesses that rely on those laws and hurting our economy in the same way.”

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