Help U.S. economy with visas for the best and brightest

May 31, 2012 | Source: Bloomberg
Statue of Liberty

(Credit: Derek Jensen/Wikimedia Commons)

To see the results of self-defeating U.S. immigration policies, you need only open your browser to, where you’ll see a shrewd neighbor fishing for talent at U.S. expense.

At the top of the website, in large print, is the question: “Currently on an H1B Visa or otherwise working or studying in the United States?”

Canada is seeking skilled foreigners who’ve grown frustrated with the U.S. visa gantlet, which can take a decade for the lucky few who manage even to begin it.

bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation last week to ease the logjam on visas. The Startup Act 2.0 would create a new visa for immigrants who graduate from U.S. universities with a master’s degree or doctorate in science, technology, engineering or math fields. It would also create an entrepreneur’s visa to enable immigrants with capital to start businesses and create jobs in the U.S.

A survey by the McKinsey Global Institute found almost two-thirds of companies say they have “positions for which they often cannot find qualified applicants, with management, scientists and computer engineers topping the list.”

A Kauffman Foundation report found that in 2011 immigrants were more than twice as likely to start businesses as native-born Americans. A Duke University study found that immigrants helped start more than a quarter of the technology and engineering companies established in the U.S. from 1995 to 2005.

A smarter, more open immigration policy can do much to create jobs and boost growth. In effect, the U.S. invests heavily in the education of foreigners — most of whom are enrolled in the science-related fields that fuel high-wage employment — and then prohibits them from pursuing job opportunities, allowing other nations to reap the benefits.

The U.S. no longer ranks first among nations in the percentage of its population with post-secondary education; it is 16th. It needs more of the foreign-born workers who have proved central to the creation of companies and jobs.

The Startup Act 2.0 has a window of possibility in this Congress. Senate and House leaders should put immigration politics aside and push it through.