The future of the world is going to center around talent. Whoever has the best talent, the largest collective brain-power, and the greatest ability to drive wealth, will win. The US has to adjust its immigration strategies to maximize the likelihood that the world’s best talent will flock into the US, creating companies, enhancing those already here, and driving the collective brilliance of the nation. Brain-power is the currency of the future.

Immigration is a hot topic. It is mostly centered around lower end workers from Mexico and the Middle East, with other issues attached. That is a different topic worthy of debate, but not at this moment.

The US has existing immigration visas designed to bring in top professionals and wealthy investors. We, for some reason, limit these visas.

EB-5 is a visa that allows wealthy foreigners to invest in, or create, companies in the United States and in return, we grant them and their immediate families permanent resident status. The current minimum investment is $500,000. We limit this to about 10,000 visas, which at about 3 per family, yields fewer than 4,000 investments each year. There is a waiting list of over 20,000 applicants. At the minimum investment of $500,000, that would be a net benefit to the US economy of Ten Billion Dollars!

These are rich people who want to move here, invest their money and create jobs. Why on earth are we holding them back? Certainly they have to be vetted, which is part of the process and takes around eighteen months to two years. They are required to provide all sorts of paperwork and background information. They have to show that the money was not ill-gotten. But the vast majority qualify. We just don’t let them all in. Why not?

Second, we have millions of foreign students attending undergraduate and graduate institutions in the United States. It is my understanding from immigration experts, that they must return home and then apply for a visa to come back. They find themselves in the long lines that everyone else stands in to get here. These are individuals who have lived in this country for years, studying, working and learning our culture. Many come from wealthy families who pay the full freight for their educations. They are the brightest of the bright from their home countries.

Shouldn’t we do everything we can to keep these US-trained graduates in the United States, adding to the brain-power of our country? Why on earth would we send them home after making them highly competitive in the world markets, only to be put to work in their home countries to compete against us in those markets? If we allow them to stay, we may reduce the number who can get here in the first place, but then we will stop training the world to compete against us. There could be rules that require them to have a US sponsor and perhaps a US job in order to stay. Of course, those who wish to can go back home and we will wish them well, perhaps maintain connections with them and build relations overseas.

There are other visas for exceptional individuals, the O visa for example. Most are limited in scope and time. I find it hard to understand why we would not extend a welcoming hand to all of the most brilliant, talented and wealthy individuals in the world.

We are in the knowledge age, the innovation age, the technology age. Whatever you call it, it is the brain-power age. Winning the talent battle on the world stage is how we will win the future.

NED LIPS
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