By Benny Thomas
Tuesday, 25 August 2009
Bangalore: Several bright minds outside America take that flight to the U.S. seeking better opportunities in places like Silicon Valley, which is often described as the Mecca for entrepreneurs. However, with the hue and cry surrounding the H-1B visas the flow of immigrants into U.S. may get affected, which may also diminish the tech prowess of the most technologically advanced nation in the world.
There was at least one immigrant founder in 25 percent of all engineering and technology companies established in the U.S. between 1995 and 2005, reveals a study by a group of Professors in Duke University and the University of California. These entities generated over $52 billion in 2005 sales, while creating over 450,000 jobs as of 2005. With these contributions by the immigrants in the U.S., any impediments in the issuance H1-B visa can have a huge impact on the American economy.
The U.S. administration under George W Bush had been pushing for immigration reforms, which failed to take shape last year. There are roughly 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. and the reforms are aimed at making a way for some of these immigrants to stay in the country legally. Now that Barack Obama has taken charge in the White House, are these reforms on his priority list?
Recently, Obama assured the pro-immigrant activists that the immigration reforms would not lose its importance over the health-care reform and the energy legislation. The President is likely to endorse the views of Senator Charles Schumer, Chairman of the Senate’s Immigration Subcommittee, who has said that he will introduce new reform legislation this autumn.
However, there are some challenges that Schumer and team faces in order to make the legislation a reality. Senators Richard Durbin and Charles Grassley are sponsors of a bill to stop the alleged abuse of H-1B visas, which allow companies to employ workers from overseas for limited stays. They have introduced a legislation to restrict the number of H1-B visas to be issued, which was bombarded with criticisms outside U.S. These visas are popular among technology companies like Microsoft, Infosys and Wipro, which bring some of the brightest minds from around the world to work in the U.S.
The current situation can make U.S. less attractive to immigrants, who may eventually contribute to the country’s growth. Take the examples of Vikram Pandit, Indra Nooyi or Sanjay Jha, who took that flight to the U.S. and have made it big by heading some of the largest companies on the planet.
Commentators like CNN’s Lou Dobbs have often highlighted about a huge reverse brain drain in the U.S. – which has been his dream – that is closer to reality. Immigrants, who have received their education and work experience in U.S., are packing their bags to go back to their homeland. In addition, there is also a decline in the number of foreign students seeking admissions in the U.S. universities, for the first time in five years.