Global talent is a critical component of United States innovations.
Our country’s founders escaped what they knew to be an oppressive British government so that they could build new institutions that reflected unprecedented ideals and charted a brave path into the future. As we reflect on our nation’s independence this month we would be remiss to forget the beacon of opportunity our country represents to travelers from all over the world. Scientists, founders, doctors, and decision-makers have made the U.S. the heart of progress and innovation.
Is that virtue still alive and well? Are we feeding our country with fresh perspectives and ideas? The U.S. is now one of the only developed countries without a visa pipeline for entrepreneurs. Who is getting all of those innovative workers then? China has already implemented its own version of a program that attracts builders and innovators to its shores.
The COMPETES Act
The Bipartisan Innovation Act as proposed by the House of Representatives is known as the America Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing, Pre-Eminence in Technology, and Economic Strength Act (America COMPETES Act). Exclusive to this version of the bill is section 80303, which seeks to address these very issues holding back fresh innovators in the country. Chiefly this would be done by exempting advanced STEM degree holders from green card caps. It would also institute a new visa for essential workers and entrepreneurs.
Currently, 42% of recent doctoral graduates from STEM programs in U.S. institutions are in fact, international students. America’s scientific and technological leadership as well as its nurturing start-up culture has made it the world’s most popular destination for the best scientists and engineers.
Countries like China, with their recent funding in research and development, have tried over the past decade to replicate this effect, and for a long time, their efforts were to no avail. Now their graduation stats may show that their strategy is beginning to work. Since 2007 China has seen more and more graduating PhDs than the U.S., a gap that only widens each successive year. China knows there is a strategic advantage in attracting and retaining the world’s best and brightest. The U.S. needs legislation that acknowledges this reality as well.
The Bipartisan Innovation act can do this with the removal of green card caps for Ph.D. holders who are seeking to work in the U.S. There are currently thousands of STEM professionals who apply to work and live in the U.S. each year. Minds who would be able to enter the workforce now and stimulate our economy to be more productive and innovative. As of 2018 green card backlogs extended about 5 years for half of all applicants, with another quarter stuck in the queue for 10-19 years.
In a 2021 survey detailing the relationship between supply chains and national defense, IT executives explained that the STEM talent shortage is our biggest barrier to adopting over half of all emerging technologies in the U.S.. The world’s STEM talent should therefore be seen as essential players in U.S. national security. So that we do not fall behind in fields such as quantum computing, aerospace, and artificial intelligence.
Start-Up and Essential Workers
Another essential provision that would build off the current International Entrepreneur Parole (IEP) Program is known as a “W” nonimmigrant visa for start-ups. The current IEP offers two and a half-year grants, with the possibility of another two and half year extension beyond that for those providing “significant public benefits” to the start-up they are working for. By allowing our domestic start-ups to advance quicker, these start-ups will quickly grow into made-in-America businesses that require fresh workers to fill entry-level positions. Instead of stunting many potential companies, the “W” visa could in fact save many businesses from closing in hard economic times.
Global Talent – Recruiting and Retaining is Critical
In fact, it is estimated that this type of visa will generate $18.5 billion over a 10-year period while creating a whopping 429,714 jobs for the U.S. This is the kind of stimulus the economy really needs now – global talent!
To stay ahead in the global economic landscape, we must nurture the freedom to innovate and create in this country – for all who seek its shores. By providing efficient merit-based programs to keep our best and brightest in the U.S. we can see economic advantages and technological leaps in the next couple of years. Section 80303 in the Bipartisan Innovation Act can do just that.
If we continue to hold on to our outdated system for international STEM workers, we may no longer be able to keep up with the powers who continue to innovate and adapt to our new world.