Will the reverse brain drain become a flood?
Researchers in America believe that their government tightening the screws on visas, green cards and citizenships is bad for their economy. Their point is this: If 25.3 percent of 2,054 engineering and technology companies surveyed (founded in the US from 1995-2005) had a key foreign born founder, this implies that a lot of potential talent is presently waiting in the wings for visas and citizenship, and this talent could be forced to go back home. And talking of founders, Indians make up a good number:
Indians have founded more engineering and technology companies in the U.S. in the past decade than immigrants from Britain, China, Taiwan, and Japan combined. Of all immigrant-founded companies, 26% have Indian founders.
And that foreigners are a significant portion of the talent even today is proved by an analysis of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) patent databases:
In 2006, 24.2% of U.S.-originated international patent applications were authored or co-authored by foreign nationals residing in the U.S. These immigrant non-citizens…are typically foreign graduate students completing their PhDs, green card holders awaiting citizenship, and employees of multinationals on temporary visas. This percentage had increased from 7.8% in 1988.
The number of patent applications by foreigners has tripled in the couple of decades…and it is believed that the pace has accelerated in recent years! Clear where the trend is heading…more and more foreigners are taking the lead. Well, immigrants are always driven to succeed, aren’t they? That was how America was built…but now the native population is becoming complacent if statistics are anything to go by.
It is believed that with the economies of China and India growing, the would be entrepreneurs might find the climate they need back home. And researchers from Harvard, Duke and New York University who have published these findings call it the reverse brain drain. After all, U.S. Department of State data suggests that more than 1 million foreign nationals were on the waiting list for permanent residency in 2006, and this included more than 500,000 highly skilled immigrants!
But when I read stories like these I wonder if the reverse brain drain is happening with any seriousness. The US immigration authorities got 300,000 applications for employment visas from foreign professional workers recently! Apparently, 300,000 is the highest number of employment applications the immigration agency has ever received. Clearly, people are still desperate to get out of the country! Guess this ‘improved’ climate in India is not something they see, although the economy is growing. Corruption is still rampant and bureaucracy still throttling industries.
The only catch is that these would be immigrants will be hampered by the annual limits on green cards and might have to wait for as long as five years. And from the looks of it, these restrictions on immigrants don’t show any signs of going, in fact they might become tighter…
It’s a pity though that India has to depend on America’s visa controls to get the benefits of these brains, instead of attracting them on merit. Also, many of those who will consider coming back will do it for the sake of being close to relatives, or maybe because of patriotic feelings…but how many will come back because India’s investment climate provides equal opportunity for all and ensures success based on the merit of their idea and nothing else? As I see it India has a long long way to go before it can inspire this kind of faith in would-be entrepreneurs, and I guess that is why America is up there today. The fact that the country is trying hard to keep the brains out, but they are still falling over themselves to get in tells us a lot.
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