Global Competitiveness

The United States has long been the destination for the world’s hardest working, entrepreneurial, and talented immigrants. However, U.S. immigration policy has remained virtually unchanged since the 1960s and is not designed to meet 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. On top of that, we lack a dedicated visa for entrepreneurs ready to create American jobs, and we frequently create barriers for international students hoping to remain in the country after graduation—even when they have the training in science, technology, engineering, or math that our employers desperately need.

Impending Labor Challenges

While still the world’s largest economy, the United States is facing demographic challenges that endanger that position. First, an aging workforce threatens the vitality of the U.S. labor force and the health of our entitlement programs. At the same time, the expected supply of U.S.-trained engineers is lagging behind nearly all other industrialized nations. This is occurring at a time when technology-heavy and innovation-driven industries are driving the lion’s share of the world’s economic growth.

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%

Not Enough Focus on Economic Needs

Many countries have identified the strong link between immigration and economic success. For many countries, such moves are a matter of necessity–the domestic labor force is not sufficient to fuel growth, and demographic shifts such as aging populations and declining fertility rates are creating labor shortages that must be addressed through more open immigration policies. Despite the United States facing some of these same demographic 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%

In Need of 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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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…