Does the 'U.S. need to work harder on luring high skilled immigrants'? Are we losing the global battle for STEM talent?

Craig Montuori

Craig Montuori, Study it, live it, and love it.

Répondu il y a 331w · L'auteur dispose de réponses 887 et de vues de réponses 1.5m

The answer is yes, mostly disagreeing with JC

First, it's clear that there's a problem:

  • Startup Chile accepts 35-40% of its incoming founders from the US high education system, mostly technical (STEM) founders
  • Blueseed is gaining traction because of entry barriers due to the existing immigration system—over 300 startups have expressed interest in renting a slot aboard the ship
  • The US has slotted only around 7-15% of its visas based on potential economic value and contribution to the country
  • The Obama Administration recognizes the problem to the point of trying to solve it through their Entrepreneurs in Residence program at USCIS to connect founders with visas under existing law
  • An increasing number of politicians are pushing for high-skilled immigration reform, whether for US Startup Visa, STEM Green Cards, or other policies being proposed recently

That's about as far as J.C. and my agreement goes; there is a real problem that needs to be solved.

People personify and humanize objects, including the government. Modern governments and the people who comprise them have a proper role to play in incentivizing desired outcomes from society as a whole.

To do a massive overhaul of the US immigration system is on par with an overhaul of the tax code. From a political perspective, too much risk of pissing off current winners. From a tech perspective, too likely to bake in new bugs when rebuilding the stack that the risk of change is still not conclusively less than the risk of the status quo.

We've only done two major overhauls of the system—1924 and 1965—so I'd say we're at US immigration v3.2.x, following the attempt to deal with illegal immigration in 1986 and the major tweaks implemented in 1990 that created the H1-B and the EB-5, among other visas.

Meaningful Metrics

How can we determine whether or not the US is losing the "global battle for STEM talent"?

  • Is the total number of students coming to US universities increasing? Is demand rising for US degrees in technical fields? The answer here seems clearly yes, though the trend is complicated by the fact that US universities and institutes of higher education are increasingly pursuing international students as a way of getting around financial aid/need-blind admissions to US citizens.
  • Where do US-educated international students end up post-graduation? According to a decent amount of anec-data reported by researchers like Professor Vivek Wadhwa, more and more international students are returning home following investing in a US education. The Pakistani government sponsors student loans and grants in order to secure a return to invest American-educated graduates into their domestic economy.
  • Where is US-based capital being invested? If invested in the US, is it going to immigrants, their children, or multi-generation US-citizens? VC firms like 500 Startups (company) are increasingly providing seed-stage investment to companies around the globe, though Series A and later investments still follow the older model of clustering portfolio investments, with notable exceptions that prove the rule like Dwolla et Union Square Ventures (venture capital firm):
  • Where are technical graduates, US-born and international, going to pursue opportunity? Startup Chile is seeing between 35-40% of its incoming classes coming from US universities, including Harvard, Caltech, MIT, and Stanford.
  • What percentage of recognized startup hubs are in the US? How far into the Silicon Valley-benchmarked lifecycle are they? h/t my friends at Startup Genome Project et h / t Fred Wilson
  • Are other countries implementing policies that are resulting in the creation of parallel networks to effectively compete with America's head start in innovation? Efforts like Russia's Skolkovo City are typical state-driven attempts to drive innovation and almost always doomed to failure, but efforts like StartupChile or Israel's home-grown VC community—as documented in the excellent Startup Nation—are early warnings of increasing international competition to Silicon Valley.
  • Are current government policies making it more or less difficult for startup successes? Balancing a defeat of SOPA, CISPA is likely to increase the cost of starting a new venture, though the trend for the past two decades has been a striking collapse in the cost of starting a software-driven venture.
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Comparative National Efforts

Rythme, J.C., skilled corporate leaders look to their peers for best practices. Governments have no reason not to do the same.

Let's take a look across the northern border, at Canada:

Is Canada's brand strong enough to attract the immigrants it wants?


Last year, Canada brought in 156,000 economic immigrants and their dependents, along with 191,000 temporary workers, and many more would like to follow suit. But are they the cream of the 640 million global migrants seeking a new home every year?

As countries jockey to lure the most creative and skilled employees – the ones who will drive the knowledge economy and energize its aging society – Canada can't simply wait for them to appear. It must step up the effort to sell the Canadian brand around the world – to get those with the most talent to see it not just as a land of tolerance for diversity, but as a nucleus of economic opportunity.

“We are getting the best who apply, but are those who apply the best?” asks Howard Duncan of the Ottawa-based International Metropolis Project, which researches migration and diversity. “At some point, especially looking at Canada's competitiveness in the international migration market, we are going to have to look at immigration as national – as opposed to a federal, provincial, employer or university project – and put those frictions behind us because there is more at stake.”

Canada has begun implementing a Startup Visa policy after suspending their entrepreneurial visa program last year due to backlogs and inefficiencies (

Instead of throwing up barriers to talented immigrants, Canada has pathways in available, yet it worries about whether or not the opportunities in-country will attract the talent they hope to see benefiting the country's economy. Contrast that experience with the US, whose networks of capital and talent and culture of risk-taking already attact the best, brightest, and hardest working from around the world.

Other countries, including the UK, Chile, and Singapore all have programs in place to let entrepreneurs and technical talent fast track through their immigration bureaucracies. The US is increasingly outside of the mainstream best practices for balancing immigration flows and incentivizing economic growth through immigrants' contributions.

Potential Improvements to the Status Quo

The US bureaucracy managing immigration is not going away any time soon, and we're as likely to see a 'flat immigration system' implemented only slightly before the 'flat tax.'

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Active players in the US government need to do more to fight the bureaucracy to encourage, or at least prevent discouragement, more talented individuals to be allowed to come to the US.

And the Obama Administration has been at the forefront of efforts, whether through former CTO Aneesh Chopra or the USCIS Entrepreneurs in Residence team, including Quorans Paul Singh of 500 Startups and Ted Gonder of Moneythink.

The EIR program is designed with cutting through red tape and bureaucracy to connect founders with visas, all within existing law. That's a definite good thing, even if it means finding hacks to make the system as currently designed work more effectively, rather than following J.C.'s suggesting about reducing the absolute amount of red tape in existence.


There is a lot more to add on this subject, especially in terms of potential improvements, but it's clear that there's an increasing government-driven international competition for technically talented graduates, especially from US universities.

It's clear that other government are making policy changes, while right now the US is now.

Therefore, the US is definitely losing the global battle for STEM talent and in doing nothing legislatively—and the related constraints to executive action—needs to work harder on luring high skilled immigrants.

John-Charles Hewitt

John-Charles Hewitt, Apolitical

Répondu il y a 333w · L'auteur dispose de réponses 1.2k et de vues de réponses 2.1m

Who or what is the 'US'? Who 'needs' to 'work harder?'

It's as common for modern people to attribute humanity to concepts as it was for primitive people to attribute human qualities to natural phenomena like the weather.

The US is not a person that can work harder or lure high skilled immigrants.

There is no 'global battle for STEM talent,' and it should be a little embarrassing to use a meaninglessly over-broad acronym like that.

The US government maintains a large bureaucracy dedicated to making it as hard as possible for foreign workers to migrate to the US and work here. Large police forces exist to discover and deport immigrants who violate one of the many byzantine regulations controlling labor and immigration. Legitimate immigrants -- even those who are highly skilled in the vaunted fields of science and technology -- are often harassed and subjected to routine questioning by officials.

Perhaps the problem may be rooted in the idea that there's a 'battle' at all to be fought here. Governments are always looking for wars to fight, but what peaceful people want is to be able to construire en paix.

Reports like these recognize a real problem and then propose inordinately complicated pseudo-solutions. The solution to the problem of barriers to labor is to reduce them, not to introduce some fabbo, streamlined version of a barrier to labor with aerodynamic wings attached to it.

The US government doesn't need to institute policies mimicking the policies and bureaucracies set up by other governments. The state ought to do less, Pas more of a different thing.

Problems caused by a system that purports that the state knows exactly how many tens of thousands of green cards to issue aren't going to be solved by raising green card issuance limits. It's a better question to ask whether or not green card systems are necessary in the first place.

If this supposed to be a pro-technology policy, shouldn't it pass a basic test of technological feasibility? Can any technologist tell me what happens when you heap a new complex system of unknown feasibility on top of another dysfunctional complex system? From a 20,000 foot perspective, without even thinking of the details, do you think that such an attempt is likely to work?

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"We've got this extremely complex and dysfunctional system here. To fix it, we're not going to get rid of the broken system -- no, we're going to introduce a new system that will interlock with the old system. It's really complicated, but this complicated system seems to work in another place that's superficially similar to our system, but is actually completely different, because it operates at less than 5% of our scale and in a completely different environment.

I'm going to propose this new complicated system in a really slick format to win over executives who won't be involved in the actual implementation."

I believe that these proposals tend to arise when it becomes apparent that a bureaucracy has become too stifling, but that current bureaucrats can't conceive of eliminating their brothers and sisters in paperwork.

Instead, they conceive of a new bureaucracy that they propose will have the beneficial effects of laissez-faire without actually cutting the size of the state.

Oliver Zhang

Oliver Zhang, travaille à l'université de Purdue

Répondu il y a 195w · L'auteur dispose de réponses 111 et de vues de réponses 76.6k

Almost all international PhD students get full financial support from their schools. And if they go back to their own countries after graduation. One can simply state that USA is training high tech experts for other countries for free. Without accommodating these highly trained people and let them work for the US, USA is simply doing charity for the rest of the world.
And do you know who are paying for international PhD students? American taxpayers.

Lee Weinberg

Lee Weinberg, Capitalist Counsel (Lawyer, Investor, Advisor and Entrepreneur)

Répondu il y a 222w · L'auteur dispose de réponses 263 et de vues de réponses 474.7k

No, we need to "work harder" to keep them -- Right now we make their lives tough and kick them out.

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