The Competition for High-Skill Immigrants Intensifies

The UK has created a new visa for High Potential Individuals. Under the HPI visa any graduate from a top university as defined by “in the top 50 of at least two of the following three ranking systems: (1) Times Higher Education World University Rankings, (2) Quacquarelli Symonds, (3) The Academic Ranking of World Universities” will be allowed to stay in the UK for two (BA, MA) or three years (PhD). Moreover, a job or sponsor is not required and spouses and dependents are also included.

The US is slowly–very slowly–working towards something similar. I wrote this 12 years ago (!):

Behind Door #1 are people of extraordinary ability: scientists, artists, educators, business people and athletes. Behind Door #2 stand a random assortment of people. Which door should the United States open?

In 2010, the United States more often chose Door #2, setting aside about 40,000 visas for people of extraordinary ability and 55,000 for people randomly chosen by lottery.

It’s just one small example of our bizarre U.S. policy toward high-skill immigrants. Every year, we allow approximately 140,000 employment visas, which cover people of extraordinary ability, professionals with advanced degrees, and other skilled workers. The number is absurdly low for a country with a workforce of 150 million. As a result, it can be years, even decades, before a high-skilled individual is granted a U.S. visa. Moreover, these 140,000 visas must also cover the spouse and unmarried children of the high-skilled worker, so the actual number of high-skilled workers admitted under these programs is less than half of the total. Perhaps most bizarrely there is a cap on the number of visas allowed per country regardless of population size. How many visas are allocated to people of extraordinary ability from China, a country of over 1 billion people? Exactly 2,803. The same number as are allocated to Greenland.

The above mostly still holds today. The US Competes Act, which has passed the House, however, would create more visas for high-skill immigrants.

The bill also exempts foreign nationals with a Ph.D. in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) from the U.S. or foreign equivalent university or college and their family members’ annual green card limit caps. The language would also add health professions and those in a critical industry to the national or economic security of the U.S. to the definition of a Ph.D. in STEM for purposes of the exemption.


Comments for this post are closed