Highly Skilled Immigrants

Highly skilled immigrants help drive the innovation economy, but the US’s lack of visa often shuts the door.

In an increasingly globalized economy, an order from Seattle can be filled at a factory in Shenzhen by a company based in Sao Palo. Companies, revenue, and jobs are increasingly mobile, and success in the global economy increasingly depends upon maintaining a competitive advantage.

In America, our advantage is our talent.  It’s our ability to innovate and invent the products, life-saving treatments, and scientific breakthroughs. Over the last ten years, job growth in the U.S. was three times faster in innovation-rich fields like science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (“STEM”) than in the rest of the U.S. economy.

But the supply of workers in these fields lags far behind the explosion in demand.  Despite high unemployment in this country, America faces a large shortage of qualified STEM graduates. More than a quarter of science and engineering employers currently report difficulty in filling open positions. Even more worrisome, this shortage is projected to increase, yet the number of native-born American students concentrating in STEM fields is growing at just 0.8% per year, far lower than other fields.

Immigration is necessary to fill our large and growing need for STEM workers and to ensure that tomorrow’s Google or Facebook (both co-founded by immigrants) is started in the U.S.

Important facts to know about the role of high-skilled immigrants in powering America’s innovation economy:

  • There Is A Large and Growing Need for High-Skilled Workers in the U.S. that Native-Born Workers Alone Cannot Fill
    • Over the last 10 years, job growth in STEM was three times faster than in the rest of the U.S. economy.
    • More than ¼ of science and engineering firms already report difficulty hiring.
    • The number of native-born American students concentrating in STEM fields is growing at just 0.8% per year, far lower than other fields.
  • High-Skilled Immigrants Can Help Our Companies Grow and Create American Jobs
    • Every foreign students who graduates from a U.S. university with an advanced degree who stays and works here in the innovative-rich fields of science, technology, engineering, or math (“STEM” fields) creates on average 2.62 American jobs.
    • Immigrant Inventors are behind 72% of the patents at Qualcomm, 65% of the patents a at Merck, and 64% of the patents at General Electric.
    • 25.3 percent of technology and engineering businesses launched in America between 1995 and 2005 had an immigrant founder.  In Silicon Valley, 52.4 percent of the new tech startups had an immigrant founder.
    • In recent years, immigrants were 33 percent of the doctorates – and 57 percent of the postdoctorates  – in U.S. science and engineering programs.
  • Our Immigration System Turns Away the High-Skilled Workers Our Economy Needs
    • Backlogs for green cards are so long that current recipients from China and India have waited up to nine years.  And the backlogs are growing at such a large rate that current green card applicants from India face expected wait times of up to 70 years.
    • A decreasing percentage of immigrant-graduates are planning to stay in America because of a combination of America’s difficult immigration system and growing opportunities back home.

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…