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Why Skilled Immigrants Are Leaving the U.S. - BusinessWeek

Published on: Tuesday, 3rd March 2009 01:00 AM     By      Administrator

Some Excerpts from this informative business week article at click here given below

Earlier research by my team suggested that a crisis was brewing because of a burgeoning immigration backlog. At the end of 2006, more than 1 million skilled professionals (engineers, scientists, doctors, researchers) and their families were in line for a yearly allotment of only 120,000 permanent resident visas. The wait time for some people ran longer than a decade. In the meantime, these workers were trapped in "immigration limbo." If they changed jobs or even took a promotion, they risked being pushed to the back of the permanent residency queue. We predicted that skilled foreign workers would increasingly get fed up and return to countries like India and China where the economies were booming.

Why should we care? Because immigrants are critical to the country's long-term economic health. Despite the fact that they constitute only 12% of the U.S. population, immigrants have started 52% of Silicon Valley's technology companies and contributed to more than 25% of our global patents. They make up 24% of the U.S. science and engineering workforce holding bachelor's degrees and 47% of science and engineering workers who have PhDs. Immigrants have co-founded firms such as Google (GOOG), Intel (INTC), eBay (EBAY), and Yahoo! (YHOO).

Who Are They? Young and Well-Educated

We tried to find hard data on how many immigrants had returned to India and China. No government authority seems to track these numbers. But human resources directors in India and China told us that what was a trickle of returnees a decade ago had become a flood. Job applications from the U.S. had increased tenfold over the last few years, they said. To get an understanding of how the returnees had fared and why they left the U.S., my team at Duke, along with AnnaLee Saxenian of the University of California at Berkeley and Richard Freeman of Harvard University, conducted a survey. Through professional networking site LinkedIn, we tracked down 1,203 Indian and Chinese immigrants who had worked or received education in the U.S. and had returned to their home countries. This research was funded by the Kauffman Foundation.