More than one million skilled immigrant workers-including Indian and Chinese scientists and engineers-and their families are competing for 120,000 permanent U.S. resident visas each year, creating a sizeable imbalance likely to fuel a reverse brain drain with skilled workers returning to their home country, according to a report released today by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The report s co-authors include NYU Sociology Professor Guillermina Jasso.
More than one million skilled immigrant workers-including Indian and Chinese scientists and engineers-and their families are competing for 120,000 permanent U.S. resident visas each year, creating a sizeable imbalance likely to fuel a reverse brain drain with skilled workers returning to their home country, according to a report released today by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The reports co-authors include New York University Sociology Professor Guillermina Jasso.
The situation is even bleaker, the reports authors say, as the number of employment visas issued to immigrants from any single country is less than 10,000 per year with a wait time of several years.
The reports other authors are Vivek Wadhwa and Ben Rissing, both Wertheim Fellows at Harvard Law School. Jasso previously served as special assistant to the commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service and as director of research for the U.S. Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy.
The full report can be downloaded from www.kauffman.org.
The United States benefits from having foreign-born innovators create their ideas in this country, said Wadhwa, also an executive in residence at Duke University. Their departures would be detrimental to U.S. economic well-being. And, when foreigners come to the United States, collaborate with Americans in developing and patenting new ideas, and employ those ideas in business in ways they could not readily do in their home countries, the world benefits.
These are important things for us Americans to think about as we chart our immigrant future, added Jasso, who is also a research fellow at the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in Bonn.
The study is the third in a Kauffman Foundation series of studies focusing on immigrants contributions to the competitiveness of the U.S. economy. Earlier research revealed a dramatic increase in the contributions of foreign nationals to U.S. intellectual property over an eight-year period.
In this study, Intellectual Property, the Immigration Backlog, and a Reverse Brain-Drain, researchers offer a more refined measure of this rise in contributions of foreign nationals to U.S. intellectual property and seek to explain this increase with an analysis of the immigrant-visa backlog for skilled workers. The key finding from this research is that the number of skilled workers waiting for visas is significantly larger than the number that can be admitted to the United States. This imbalance creates the potential for a sizeable reverse brain-drain from the United States to the skilled workers home countries.
The earlier studies, Americas New Immigrant Entrepreneurs and Entrepreneurship, Education and Immigration: Americas New Immigrant Entrepreneurs, Part II, documented that one in four engineering and technology companies founded between 1995 and 2005 had an immigrant founder. Researchers found that these companies employed 450,000 workers and generated $52 billion in revenue in 2006. Indian immigrants founded more companies than the next four groups (from the United Kingdom, China, Taiwan and Japan) combined.
Furthermore, these companies founders tended to be highly educated in science, technology, math and engineering-related disciplines, with 96 percent holding bachelors degrees and 75 percent holding masters or PhD degrees.
The analysis of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) database in this earlier work revealed that the percentage of foreign nationals contributing to U.S. international patent applications increased from an estimated 7.3 percent in 1998 to 24.2 percent in 2006. The largest foreign-born group was from China (mainland and Taiwan). Indian nationals were second, followed by Canadians and British.
Among key findings in the most recent report are the following:
- Foreign nationals residing in the United States were named as inventors or co-inventors in 25.6 percent of international patent applications filed from the United States in 2006. This represents an increase from 7.6 percent in 1998.
- Foreign nationals contributed to more than half of the international patents filed by a number of large, multi-national companies, including Qualcomm (72 percent), Merck & Co. (65 percent), General Electric (64 percent), Siemens (63 percent) and Cisco (60 percent). Forty-one percent of the patents filed by the U.S. government had foreign nationals as inventors or co-inventors.
- In 2006, 16.8 percent of international patent applications from the United States had an inventor or co-inventor with a Chinese-heritage name, representing an increase from 11.2 percent in 1998. The contribution of inventors with Indian-heritage names increased to 13.7 percent from 9.5 percent in the same period.
- The total number of employment-based principals in the employment-based categories and their family members waiting for legal permanent residence in the United States in 2006 was estimated at 1,055,084. Additionally, there are an estimated 126,421 residents abroad also waiting for employment-based U.S. legal permanent residence, adding up to a worldwide total of 1,181,505.
- Using data from the New Immigrant Survey, the authors found that, in 2003, approximately one in five new legal immigrants in the United States and about one in three employment-based new legal immigrants either planned to leave the United States or were uncertain about remaining. The authors had no data on how many foreign nationals have actually returned to their homelands.
Given that the U.S. comparative advantage in the global economy is in creating knowledge and applying it to business, it behooves the country to consider how we might adjust policies to reduce the immigration backlog, encourage innovative foreign minds to remain in the country, and entice new innovators to come, said Robert Litan, vice president of research and policy at the Kauffman Foundation.
About the Kauffman Foundation
The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation of Kansas City is a private, nonpartisan foundation that works with partners to advance entrepreneurship in America and improve the education of children and youth. The Kauffman Foundation was established in the mid-1960s by the late entrepreneur and philanthropist Ewing Marion Kauffman. Information about the Kauffman Foundation is available at www.kauffman.org.