In my daily meetings with founding teams and start-ups, there is not a single company that does not have an emigre as a key member. The contribution of Indian, Chinese, Russian, and other nationals to our economy is beyond question and a vital source of our success. From professors, to engineers, senior managers, company founders, and venture capitalists, our current success and prosperity is very positively influenced by our ability to attract the best and brightest to work and study in our country.
Unfortunately, America, while often a champion of free trade, is not a practioner of free labor markets. While technology talent is perhaps the most important input in Silicon Valley's decades of innovation, the US government artificially caps and limits the number of ambitious immigrants to our economy. This year, the H1-B Alien visa program is limited to 65,000. Moreover, since 9/11 the US government has clamped down on graduate student visas; current visa application security checks take 67 days and the total process takes over 3 months . The pernicious effect red-tape is that gifted students are less likely to bother applying, thereby greatly weakening our future prosperity and welfare.
A recent GOA study found that:
- "Lengthy waits to obtain a visa might lead Chinese students and scholars to pursue studies or research in countries where it is easier to obtain a visa. A consular chief in Chennai, India, agreed, saying that lengthy waits are also causing Indian students to decide to study in countries where it is easier to get a visa and, therefore, the United States could lose out on intellectual knowledge these visa applicants bring to our country"
- "Many officials with whom we spoke cited specific examples where scientific research and collaboration was delayed or prevented due to delays in obtaining a visa. NASA officials at post also noted that up to 20% of their time is spent dealing with visa issues when they should be focusing on program issues."
- "According to several surveys, scientific research was postponed, jobs were left unstaffed, and conferences and meetings were missed as a result of the delays."
True globalization requires the seamless flow of ideas, products, and talent. While the world is moving in the right direction, the future of the Valley requires that we make it easy for the world's best to study, work, and contribute to our economy.