Recent media reports indicate the U.S. is quickly losing its

place as the top destination for global talent. Economically vital

areas such as California's Silicon Valley, the heart of

America's IT industry, report a growing “brain drain”

of skilled talent outside of the United States.1

Organizations like the American Management Association have

reported that on average, approximately 200,000 foreign-born

Americans return to their nations of origin every year, this brain

drain “stimulated in part by lucrative government incentives,

has spawned flourishing new scientific havens from South Asia to

Scandinavia.”2

One country that has actively encouraged both global and the

return of native-born expatriate talent is China. Since 2010, the

Chinese government has fostered a program called the Thousand

Talents Plan that has succeeded in attracting top researchers,

especially in the STEM fields, to relocate to China. While China

has recently ordered its officials to quiet any discussion of this

program due to increasing scrutiny by the U.S. government, the

program has succeeded in attracting over 6,000 scientists with

offers of generous research funding support and job offers at

Chinese universities.3 “Perhaps most

important,” one article in the Boston Globe recently

stated, “China is…working to become a more attractive place

for non-Chinese scientists to immigrate. These efforts range from

minor (making the Thousand Talents application available in

English) to the major (overhauling the immigration and visa

system).”4

If the U.S. is to retain its predominant global position against

such emergent actors like China, it must take the necessary steps

to remain the top destination for global talent. Recent policy

changes within the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services have,

for example, have made it increasingly difficult for foreign-born

students to remain in the U.S. after graduation, forcing many young

people, who could otherwise make significant contributions to the

U.S. economy, to take their skills and training with them back to

the countries of origin.5 Such short-sighted measures

will only hinder U.S. competitiveness in the long run. Instead of

imposing unreasonably stringent requirements, and lower approval

rates, for H-1s, L-1s, and other employment-based visas, the U.S.

government needs a more enlightened approach that both facilitates

U.S. employers' acquisition of needed talent with a sensible

vetting system to ensure compliance. We encourage productive

collaboration between immigration attorneys, lawmakers, and other

policy experts to develop laws and policies that fix problems in

the current statutes and regulations, while providing employers and

their global talent with a sensible, fair, and timely path to

acquiring their visas. While China may be keeping mum on its

aggressive talent acquisition program for the moment, the U.S.

cannot afford to provoke a brain drain that will only further

China's goals.

Footnotes

1. Ellen Sheng. “Silicon Valley is fighting a

brain-drain war with Trump that it may lose.” CNBC.com, April

9, 2018: https://www.cnbc.com/2018/04/09/trumps-war-on-immigration-causing-silicon-valley-brain-drain.html

2. “Wake Up, America: The Alarming Realities of

Today's Reverse Brain Drain.” American Management

Association: https://www.amanet.org/training/articles/wake-up-america-the-alarming-realities-of-todays-reverse-brain-drain.aspx

3. “Yuan Yang and Nian Liu. “China Hushes Up

Scheme to Recruit Overseas Scientists.” https://www.ft.com/content/a06f414c-0e6e-11e9-a3aa-118c761d2745

4. Arthur W. Lambert. “Can the US stop the

scientific brain drain to China?” Boston Globe,

August 1, 2018: https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2018/08/01/can-stop-scientific-brain-drain-china/TFhIJlQ33sxdTzdgWcGZwI/story.html

5. USCIS Policy Memorandum, Accrual of Unlawful

Presence and F, J, and M Nonimmigrants, August 9, 2018. https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/USCIS/Laws/Memoranda/2018/2018-08-09-PM-602-1060.1-Accrual-of-Unlawful-Presence-and-F-J-and-M-Nonimmigrants.pdf

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