Saturday, November 24, 2012
IT Human Capital Flight
Immigrants make up one-tenth of the overall U.S population and have made significant scientific and economic contributions to the country. According to recent studies of immigration statistics, the disparity between the large number of skilled professionals waiting for visas and the small number that can be admitted to the U.S is creating a possible reverse “brain-drain” effect of highly skilled labor, particularly in the field of high technology and bio-technology, driving both the talents and their businesses back to their home countries.
Human capital flight, more commonly known as “brain drain”, is the large-scale emigration of a large group of individuals with technical skills or knowledge. The U.S has enjoyed a “brain gain” in the IT, bio tech, aerospace, and entertainment industries since the 1990’s, due to its high wages, comfortable living standards and stabilized system of government. Aside from permanent U.S resident visas, the government introduced the H-1B visa program that allows U.S employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations, subject to numerical limits. Each year, over one million highly skilled professionals compete for the 120,000 permanent U.S resident visas and the 65,000 regular H-1B visas.
With the recently tightened immigration law and the thriving economy in other countries, the best and brightest talents are no longer begging to be let into the U.S. This is an alarming trend because immigrants have founded over 50 percent of Silicon Valley’s companies, including Yahoo!, Google, eBay, YouTube, Intel and Sun Microsystems. Most large IT companies have hired immigration specialists and spent millions of dollars on visa administrations in an effort to prevent losing overseas talents and creativities.
One’s loss is someone else’s gain. For the first time, immigrants have better opportunities outside of the U.S as the advantages in entrepreneurship in their home countries outweigh the burdensome visa application process. China and India, two countries that suffered the most from “brain drain” in the past few decades in the field of high technology, are currently benefiting from this reverse brain-drain effect. Studies show that things are good enough economically in these countries that there is little incentive for IT talents to come to the U.S, let alone stay.
Both candidates for the 2012 presidential election highlighted the importance of immigration reform in an economic context, suggesting changes designed to help retain IT talents and innovative businesses. Experts have recommended an expansion of visa programs to increase the number of visas for highly skilled professionals, creating a modern electronic visa system, and more importantly, addressing American workers’ concerns about impacts of immigration on the unemployment rate. Unless the U.S regains immediate access to these talents, it will soon find itself struggling to compete in the global technology industry.
© Copyright 2010 The Journal of High Technology Law, Suffolk University Law School
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