Vivek Wadhwa’s Seven Fixes to the Problems Underlying the Immigrant Exodus

Don Tennant

Whether you agree with it or not, there is a body of thought that insists that there is an unhealthy exodus of skilled immigrants from the United States, and that this exodus is harmful to the U.S. economy and to the country’s ability to compete on a very competitive global playing field. There is probably no more vocal espouser of this position than Vivek Wadhwa.

Wadhwa, director of research at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization at Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering, is the author of “The Immigrant Exodus: Why America Is Losing the Global Race to Capture Entrepreneurial Talent,” which was released earlier this week. In the book, Wadhwa lists seven fixes to what he sees as the problems underlying this exodus, fixes he says would drive significant economic growth in the United States, while costing U.S. taxpayers “next to nothing.” Here, excerpted with Wadhwa’s permission, are those fixes:

Increase the number of green cards available to skilled immigrants. If the United States was to increase by three or four times the number of employment-based green cards issued per annum and simultaneously eliminate the 7 percent-per-country limit that I discuss in No. 7, the bottleneck for green cards would instantly disappear.

Allow spouses of H-1B visa holders to work. Just as training top STEM students in U.S. universities and then forcing them to leave is senseless, so too is preventing the spouses of H-1B holders from working and enjoying the same rights as anyone in the United States.

Target immigration based on required skills. In principle, the U.S. workforce should be able to retrain quickly to meet skill needs in industries that are growing rapidly and require specific technical acumen. The reality is quite different. Demand for mobile phone developers (particularly for iPhone developers) has far outstripped supply, leading salaries to skyrocket and recruitment to bottleneck at companies seeking to build mobile apps, for example.

Untether the H-1B worker from the employer. In the United States, H-1B holders cannot change jobs without getting government-sponsorship approval. This is a lengthy and risky bureaucratic process that often leads to rejection. Making a change to allow the H-1B holder to work for any employer would have a number of positive impacts. First, it would allow talented H-1B holders to obtain salaries on par with their peers, eliminating wage compression for this group. Second, it would allow these workers to more easily switch their jobs and advance their careers in the United States while improving their skills and responding to market signals

Permanently extend the term of OPT for foreign students from one to four years. A single year of OPT is barely enough to get started on work and prove your mettle. In some cases, OPT can be extended to 29 months, as per changes initiated under the administration of President George W. Bush. But this covers only a restricted list of specialties and does not cover startup formation. I propose extending the work term for immigrant graduates of U.S. universities and colleges to surpass Canada’s term of three years.

Institute a startup visa. This has been the number one demand from Silicon Valley and the venture capital community. The stories of immigrant entrepreneurs either suffering significant delays in getting work visas or having to leave the United States due to visa issues are now legion. The Startup Visa Act would provide a solution to this problem.

Remove the country caps on green cards. Because of the 7 percent per-country limits, workers from high-population countries have to wait many times longer than workers from low-population countries to get permanent-resident visas. India gets the same quota as Iceland and China the same as Mongolia. This is what is contributing the most to the painful purgatory that immigrants from India and China face, and why their wait times stretch longer than a decade.



Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Oct 4, 2012 2:50 PM nagi nagi  says:
Even if USCIS issues EAD to people who have approved I-140 while waiting for the green card to get approved (as of now the wait is anything from 5 to any number of yeas depending on the category of green card applied).With EAD all these people will start buying houses, start a business or do any other creative work that will help the economy. All the suggestion given are good , but looks like it will take for ever to get this fixed. Take the case HR 3012 , its still waiting to be approved. In the mean while if people can get EAD as short term fix , it will save lots of pain for the H1 families. Also the govt should plan to give the social security money being collected from us, if they are not able to fixing the immigration problem and we are forced to leave USA. Let’s hope someone is listening to us ... Regards Nagi Reply
Oct 4, 2012 9:03 PM BT1024 BT1024  says:
Don, I think time might be better spent, reading the following book, instead of Vivek's book... Will you take the time to give it a read? - Or, at least read the Science Careers article below. "Why Good People Can't Get Jobs: The Skills Gap and What Companies Can Do About It" NOTE: The author of the book, Peter Cappelli, is the professor of management and director of the Wharton School’s Center for Human Resources at the University of Pennsylvania. Book content review by Beryl Lieff Benderly on the Science Careers (the Journal "Science") website: http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_magazine/previous_issues/articles/2012_10_05/caredit.a1200112 Link to the book details on the Wharton Digital Press website: http://wdp.wharton.upenn.edu/books/why-good-people-cant-get-jobs/ Reply
Oct 4, 2012 10:01 PM Madagasper Madagasper  says:
I cannot think of even one modern product or invention by an Indian that I am in debt of. Silicon Valley will do just fine without Indians or Chinese or any of these imagined foreign geniuses that Wadhwa has in mind. Talk about delusion. Reply
Oct 5, 2012 9:08 AM Wakjob Wakjob  says:
HARMFUL to the US economy? Letting them IN was what was harmful. They are in fact leaving because 1) they've destroyed all the jobs, 2) they've exported all our capital, 3) they got their training from us and are now ready to go home and use that knowledge to build their own countries, 4) America's economy is such a wreck due these armies of girfters, no one wants to live in USA anymore. The mistake we made was keeping them out, not letting them in. Reply
Oct 5, 2012 9:10 AM Odumbo Odumbo  says: in response to Madagasper
I'm sure you know each and every person who is behind the products you use. Quick - name me all the people who designed the Android OS. Reply
Oct 5, 2012 9:48 AM unemployed in detroit unemployed in detroit  says:
So now you are hitching yourself up to Wadhwa's dirty little bandwagon of lies. You will always be nothing more than a shill, Don. Reply
Oct 5, 2012 10:34 AM GoHomeVisa GoHomeVisa  says:
it's never ending with this false propaganda. On and on and on about how H1b visas are helping everyone and making life better in the US. The truth is, I'm not seeing it - and neither is anyone that I know or work with. I'm not seeing IT salaries/rates going up, I'm not seeing working conditions going up, I'm not seeing more IT jobs, I'm not seeing an increased quality or a performance increase. Myself and others like me, are just not seeing any of the benefits that were promised to come as a result of flooding our country with low/no-skilled guest workers. Honestly, where's the horn of plenty when it comes to these job robbers, I would love to find this pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Instead, I'm seeing more discrimination, more corruptions, more bullshit resumes, more con-men pimps and a general malaise when it comes to professionalism. We're just not seeing what was promised with this corrupt visa. Program. And as far as fixing the system with regard to the amendments listed above, alot of those are already incorporated into the existing programs - the restrictions are just not being enforced on a consistent basis. How can anyone trust these proponents now ??? Reply
Oct 5, 2012 11:54 AM Juan Falcon Juan Falcon  says:
Don, the reason there is such "high demand" for iPhone App Developers is because the ability to program WELL in ObjC+Cocoatouch is not something that can be faked by poseurs. Letting in more faking Chinese & Indians is NOT the solution: in fact with 100s of 1000s of Apps already *in* the AppStore, there is NO PROBLEM whatsoever. Apple certain does not need to lower the bar any more just because Vivek Wadhwa & his ilk feel slighted. You're just pandering to fakes. Everybody wants in to that club. There's a reason that the velvet rope (of competence) exists. The fact of the matter is, that if these folks really WERE risk takers they would not feel ENTITLED to what they feel they can get in the USA. They would just go back and do it anyway. But there's no risk in whining about what they consider "unfair", even if they have no right to do so. Sooner or later, citizens in the US will wake up to the fact that there's no inherent benefit to being one, when NONcitizens can just come in, and 'feel entitled' to something that they didn't earn and do not have to pay for. Vivek Wadhwa exhibited this attitude in Australia & was asked to leave. He does the same thing here and? -Juan Reply
Oct 5, 2012 4:19 PM Wakjob Wakjob  says: in response to Odumbo
Yeah, go download all 192 WWDC videos from iTunes this year and see how many are foreign workers. Apple is booming. Why? It's populated mostly by Americans. Reply
Oct 8, 2012 2:22 PM kiprn kiprn  says: in response to Wakjob
That's why iPhones are all made in US..right? Reply
Oct 9, 2012 1:37 AM hoapres hoapres  says:
The irony is that I am getting VERY ATTRACTIVE offers to work in China (some in India but not as lucrative). The bright Indians and Chinese no longer want to come to the US to work and some of the bright ones in the US are "getting out of Dodge" as fast as they can. Reply
Oct 9, 2012 9:29 AM R. Lawson R. Lawson  says: in response to kiprn
iPhones are made in China because you have a communist system of government that allows the people to be exploited - so much so that they needed to put up suicide nets around the Foxconn buildings. It's much cheaper to not have human rights, to dump toxins, and for the government to subsidize your business with raw materials. It's much cheaper when you can manipulate the value of your currency and cheat in the game of international trade. So to answer your question, that's why iPhones are made in China. And most consumer electronics for that matter. Our nation decided that it was more important to have cheap consumer goods than the stand up for American values. That's why iPhones are made in China. Any more questions? Reply
Oct 9, 2012 12:30 PM Odumbo Odumbo  says: in response to Wakjob
Presenting slides at a conference? So what! Like I said, I'm sure you know each and every person who is behind the products you use. Quick - name me all the people who designed the Android OS Reply
Oct 9, 2012 1:00 PM SeaLTeam6 SeaLTeam6  says:
Given Wadhwa's track record about outsourcing, now having him lecture us about "immigrant exodus" and his "fixes" is like having Jerry Sandusky make a recruitment advertizement for the Boy Scouts of America. Reply
Oct 9, 2012 7:10 PM R. Lawson R. Lawson  says:
I wasn't a fan of the old cms / comment engine. Was this put in front of any users for feedback? The old cms had problems, those problems aren't feeling all that big right now. Reply
Oct 10, 2012 3:28 AM JensPeter JensPeter  says: in response to R. Lawson
What American values you are talking about? Are you in politics then ya..you are right whatever is not working for you is not American value. When it became American value to buy a product made out of human slavery...? Just because its not exploited in America it is not American problem right...looks like American value is so cheap...all u want to say is it is not done in front of my eyes so it is fine for me to buy it? Reply
Oct 10, 2012 6:57 AM BT1024 BT1024  says: in response to kiprn
And here's a Chinese company (Lenovo) opening a Manufacturing plant in the USA. Read the article.... "Lenovo to open first U.S. manufacturing plant in N.C." http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9231969/Lenovo_to_open_first_U.S._manufacturing_plant_in_N.C._?taxonomyId=66 "The factory will make newer products including its ThinkPad Tablet 2 and its ThinkCentre M92p Tiny desktop, the company said." Reply
Oct 10, 2012 8:51 AM Madagasper Madagasper  says: in response to Odumbo
This years' Nobel Prizes have been announced. The Indian geniuses must have opted out because you don't see any of them in the list. Thus far 3 Americans for the 2012 awards, all America-born. When was the last time an H1B genius won the Nobel? Reply
Oct 10, 2012 11:51 AM R. Lawson R. Lawson  says: in response to JensPeter
What you described is when America loses our way. You missed my point entirely, and also supported it at the same time. Reply
Oct 10, 2012 1:40 PM Odumbo Odumbo  says:
Noble prize? So what? The Noble prize is what? 5 awards amongst 7 billion people. What kind of dumb criteria is that to use. Obama won the noble peace prize too. For what? getting elected! woohoo! what a great award. Oh yeah, Like I said, please let me know if you know all the people who designed and developed the android OS. You can't right? ofcourse not. You know everything though. Reply
Oct 13, 2012 12:03 PM Dolores Dolores  says:
Here is another dimension to the problem of global labor arbitrage that needs to be factored into the equation of whether "they" really are cheaper and better than us. http://www.nationaljournal.com/thenextamerica/workforce/what-happens-to-the-children-of-the-unemployed--20121012 Reply
Oct 14, 2012 7:13 PM Wayne M Wayne M  says:
Vivek Wadhwa is a liar with an agenda as evidenced by his repeating this same nonsense every couple of weeks about how great immigrants are and how badly we need them. We don't need to worry about immigrants with record unemployment and thousands of unemployed US Citizens, yet Mr. Wadhwa repeatedly writes this junk ignoring the real issues, that we have thousands of unemployed US workers perfectly capable of doing the job who are being ignored, while espousing this contempt for American workers in favor of foreigners who often possess the exact same skills. Let's focus on getting AMERICANS back to work, and THEN let's worry about immigrants. Reply

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