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01 February 2019
Recent media reports indicate that the United States is quickly losing its place as the top destination for global talent. Economically vital areas such as California's Silicon Valley – the heart of the US IT industry – report a growing 'brain drain' of skilled talent outside the United States.(1) Organisations such as 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 the return of native-born expatriate talent is China. Since 2010, the Chinese government has fostered a programme called the Thousand Talents Plan that has succeeded in attracting top researchers, especially in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, to relocate to China. While China has recently ordered its officials to quiet any discussion of this programme due to increasing scrutiny by the US government, the programme has succeeded in attracting more than 6,000 scientists with offers of generous research funding support and job offers at Chinese universities.(3) One article in the Boston Globe recently stated:
Perhaps most important, 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 United States is to retain its predominant global position against emergent actors such as China, it must take the necessary steps to remain the top destination for global talent. Recent policy changes within the US Citizenship and Immigration Services have, for example, made it increasingly difficult for foreign-born students to remain in the United States after graduation, forcing many young people – who could otherwise make significant contributions to the US economy – to take their skills and training with them back to their countries of origin.(5) Such short-sighted measures will only hinder US 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 US government needs a more enlightened approach that facilitates both US employers' acquisition of needed talent and a sensible vetting system to ensure compliance. A productive collaboration between immigration attorneys, law makers and other policy experts would help 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 silent on its aggressive talent acquisition programme for the moment, the United States cannot afford to provoke a brain drain that will only further China's goals.
For further information on this topic please contact Rami D Fakhoury at Fakhoury Global Immigration USA, PC by telephone (+1 248 643 4900) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). The Fakhoury Global Immigration USA, PC website can be accessed at www.employmentimmigration.com.
(1) Ellen Sheng, "Silicon Valley is fighting a brain-drain war with Trump that it may lose", CNBC.com, 9 April 2018.
(2) "Wake up, America: the alarming realities of today's reverse brain drain", American Management Association.
(3) Yuan Yang and Nian Liu, "China hushes up scheme to recruit overseas scientists".
(4) Arthur W Lambert, "Can the US stop the scientific brain drain to China?" Boston Globe, 1 August 2018.
(5) USCIS Policy Memorandum, Accrual of Unlawful Presence and F, J and M Non-immigrants, 9 August 2018.
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Rami D Fakhoury