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Global Competitiveness

The United States has long been the destination for the world’s most talented immigrants. Despite the last 50 years of technological advancement, American immigration policy has remained virtually unchanged, putting in danger America’s global competitiveness. Yesterday’s immigration policy no longer meets today’s economic needs. Only about 14 percent of all U.S. green cards are given for economic reasons, compared to more than 60 percent in Canada and Australia. With no dedicated visa for entrepreneurs and numerous barriers to residency in place for international students to stay after graduation, America’s outdated immigration policy could allow other countries to out-compete us by attracting and keeping the best and brightest there and not here.

Impending Labor Challenges

The United States is facing demographic challenges that endanger its preeminent economic position in the world. An aging workforce threatens the vitality of the labor force. At the same time, the supply of U.S.-trained engineers is lagging behind nearly all other industrialized economies. At a time when tech-heavy and innovation driven industries are driving economic growth, the United States faces the prospect of being left behind.

Table 1: Share of Population Age 65+, 1996, 2006, 2016 and projected 2030
1996 2006 2016 2030
Total 12.5% 12.4% 15.2% 20.3%
Table 2: Share of Undergrads Studying Engineering
Country Share of Undergrads Studying Engineering
Singapore 33.9%
China 31.2%
Chile 13.7%
Germany 12.4%
Israel 10.0%
New Zealand 7.3%
Australia 7.0%
United Kingdom 7.0%
United States 6.1%

Prioritizing Economic Needs

Many countries have identified the link between immigration and economic growth. For many, such moves are a matter of necessity–the domestic labor force is not sufficient for an expanding economy, and aging populations and declining fertility rates are creating labor shortages. Despite facing some of the same challenges, U.S. immigration policy has not changed to reflect our economy’s evolving needs.

Table 3: Percentage of All Permanent Residency Visas Given for Economic Reasons*
Country Share of Permanent Resident Visas, Economic-Based
Australia 67.7%
Canada 63.0%
New Zealand 53.0%
Poland 69.3%
Portugal 54.0%
Spain 21.5%
United States 13.7%

Need for a Start-Up Visa

Countries around the world, from France, to Chile, to Singapore have created visas aimed at attracting promising entrepreneurs and job creators. Despite concerns about meager job creation and business growth, however, the United States has not taken a similar step, endangering our position in the global race for talent. This situation was made worse in 2017 when the administration took the first steps to kill the International Entrepreneur Rule, a measure that would have allowed entrepreneurs with outside funding to remain in the country for 2.5 years to establish their businesses.

Key Stats
135,240: Minimum number of jobs that would have been created within a decade if International Entrepreneur Rule (IER) had gone into effect
308,460: Number of jobs that IER would have created if just half the companies founded were in STEM fields

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About NAE

New American Economy is a bipartisan research and advocacy organization fighting for smart federal, state, and local immigration policies that help grow our economy and create jobs for all Americans. More…