The United States is a country of immigrants and it has to return to its roots to find economic innovation. Innovation is the key to economic growth in the United States but is declining in part because of our immigration policies. The United States is only the 7th most innovative economy in 2011 according to the Global Innovation index, down from #1 only 10 years ago. Multiple programs exist to bring in highly skilled immigrants but to be competitive internationally we will have to boost those programs. H1-Bs, start-up visas, student visas and EB-5s all have to be increased to bring the best and brightest to the United States.
H-1Bs are temporary worker visas for highly skilled immigrants. Most of the visas go for workers in industries like software, biotech, and aerospace. The US could expand the H-1B program to bring in the best and the brightest, but also as leverage in international negotiations. The Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) negotiated a free trade agreement with Chile which guaranteed access to a number of the visas in order to get the deal finalized. Congress thought that was an outside the TPA’s mandate but it could be a jumpstart in future negotiation efforts.
Start-up visa programs are among the most popular ideas in congress. The idea is to bring entrepreneurs to the country and if they create a certain number of jobs and invest a lot of money in the economy, they can get a green card. Businesses want to be in the United States, we just have to allow people in. The next Sergey Brin could start a company in Russia or bring those jobs to the United States.
Student Visas (J visas)
Student visas allow undergraduate and graduate students from other countries. This has a couple benefits. First, universities get to charge visitors’ full tuition. That will shore up revenues for schools in desperate need because of government cutbacks. Second, the students would contribute to the research occurring in universities. Some say student visas risk sending competitors home. There might be competitors but if the US continues to create innovations, we should be able to create comparatively more innovation.
EB-5s are similar to the H-1B but have a route to a green card. This brings highly skilled workers to the US, and keeps them here. Granting a route to citizenship in the US is one of the greatest incentives that could be provided to bring innovation to the country.
These are all great programs that could be expanded. Immigration after 9/11 has been a contentious issue but we can’t let that cloud our judgment. The aerospace engineers, computer programmers, and entrepreneurs who want to work in the United States, they are hardworking people who deserve the opportunity to grow and help our country grow.
About The Author
Chase Lehrman is a finance student and policy debater at the University of Iowa. He is an author for US Cargo Control.