WASHINGTON: The United States is facing a brain drain, the loss of intellectual resources that till recently deprived countries such as India and China of its best and brightest, according to a new study.

The cause: “misplaced” US immigration policies that that block high skilled immigrants from becoming permanent American residents. The beneficiaries of the reverse brain drain: previous losers such as India and China, whose booming economies are starting to win back those who left for better prospects.

Researchers from Harvard, Duke and New York University on Wednesday released an analysis of international patent filings that also tracked what is being called “reverse brain drain.”

The study shows that while foreign nationals, mostly Indians and Chinese, contributed to 25.6% of all US international patent applications in 2006, thousands of them are heading home because of hurdles in their bid to become permanent US residents.

“So far, the US has the benefit of attracting the worlds best and brightest. Now, because of our flawed immigration policies, we have set the stage for the departure of hundreds of thousands of highly skilled professionals – who we have trained in our technology, techniques and markets and made even more valuable,” says Vivek Wadhwa, a Delhi-born engineering and business lecturer at Duke and Harvard, who is the lead researcher of the study.

“This is lose-lose for the US. Our corporations lose key talent that is contributing to innovation and competitiveness, and we end up creating potential competitors,” he said in notes attached to the study.

Wadhwa reckons that India may have provided more intellectual capital to the United States over the last decade than all the financial aid Washington has given to India over the past 60 years. But this trend is reversing as Indians head back to home, frustrated by US immigration policies that keep them in limbo.

The study does not offer precise numbers of people returning to India or China but says “approximately one in five new legal immigrants and one on three employment principals either plan to leave the US or are uncertain about remaining.”

It estimates that around a million high-skilled foreign workers are caught in an “immigration limbo,” far more than the 300,000 previously estimated. Some reports put the number of high-skilled Indian immigrants who have returned from the US at between 35,000 and 60,000. Wadhwa says he is not for expanding the number of temporary H-1B visas – which he says is part of the problem – but favours more Green Cards.

“For the first time in its history, the US faces the prospect of a reverse brain-drain,” he says. “If the US needs skilled immigrants, we should bring them here to stay – not as temporary workers.”

The new study shows that in 2006, 16.8 per cent of international patent applications from the United States had an inventor or co-inventor with a Chinese heritage name while the contribution of inventors with Indian-heritage names was 13.7 per cent.

Both Indian and Chinese inventors tended to file most patents in the field of medical/sanitation preparations, pharmaceuticals, semi-conductors and electronics. An earlier report by the same group found that one in four engineering and technology companies founded between 1995 and 2005 had an immigrant founder. These companies employed 450,000 people and generated $52 billion in revenues in 2006.

Indian immigrants founded more companies than the next four groups (from UK, China, Taiwan, and Japan).

Source: The times of India


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *