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Vivek Wadhwa: U.S. is experiencing a “massive reverse outflow” of talent

October 6, 2011

Yesterday, the House’s Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement convened a hearing on the issue of high-skilled immigration and, specifically, foreign students studying in STEM fields who graduate from U.S. universities. The subcommittee was examining whether more should be done to encourage these students to stay in the U.S. after graduation.

One of those testifying was Vivek Wadhwa, a tech entrepreneur and academic. In his opening remarks to the committee, he spoke passionately about his belief that the U.S. is moving too slowly on the issue of trying to attract and retain these highly-skilled students. He criticized academics who study only government-produced research which is often out-of-date with respect to the technology industry. “If you want to understand what is happening, you have to go to Bangalore, Bejing, and Shanghai,” he said.

Mr. Wadhwa has been traveling to China for the past five years and said he was amazed at the pace of change during that time. He reported that, when he asks students in India and China if they want to study in the U.S., the majority say that they do. However, when he asks students if they want to stay in the U.S. and become citizens, the majority now say that they do not. Opportunities for work and entrepreneurship exist in their home countries that did not exist a few years ago.

A further challenge to retaining skilled talent in the U.S. involves the lengthy time for individuals to obtain permanent legal residency. Mr. Wadhwa cited to a study by Stuart Anderson, the Executive Director of the National Foundation for American Policy, a non-partisan public policy research organization. One of the conclusions in the study involved the wait time for a foreign national who was born in India and immigrating in the employment-based 3rd preference category.  If this person’s case were filed today, he or she would have to wait 70 years in order to obtain a green card.

The hearing yesterday was one of a number of recent hearings, editorials, research studies, news reports, and the like which may demonstrate a growing consensus by members of Congress that legislation is needed to address high-skilled immigration reform.




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