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Strict US immigration policies contribute to high unemployment

Published time: August 04, 2012 15:03
Edited time: August 04, 2012 19:05

Strict US immigration policies contribute to high unemployment

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As the US struggles with prolonged high unemployment, the country’s immigration service is protecting American jobs by forcing foreign workers out of the country. Experts say these policies actually raise – not lower – jobless rates.

­Some 720,000 foreign students are currently studying in the US, but this privilege comes at a cost. International students at the university level pay tuition rates around three times higher than in-state students. And after paying tens of thousands of dollars to US colleges, many of these students are forced to return to their native countries, taking their talents and skills with them.

It’s called ‘reverse brain drain,’ and it’s a hotly debated subject, especially since some of the most successful global entrepreneurs hail from countries outside the United States.

“We found out recently that about half of the top 50 venture-funded companies had at least one immigrant founder. So if you keep such people out, you have less job creation and less innovation in the US,” Executive Director of the National Foundation for American Policy Stuart Anderson told RT.

Others argue that the topic isn’t quite so straightforward. Those who support a more flexible US immigration policy are frequently opposed by Americans who fear that a more liberal approach to work visas would take jobs away from deserving domestic workers.

The controversial H1-B visa allows highly skilled immigrants to work for technology companies in the US. Supporters of the visa program argue that the US has a dire shortage of engineering talent. Those who oppose the H1-B visa claim the engineering shortage simply doesn’t exist, and that America should close its doors to foreign workers.

Yet refusing visas to talented entrepreneurs also prevents new jobs from being created in the first place, leaving many wondering whether America’s policies are harming the country’s workers, and the economy.

‘When one door closes, another opens'

The founder of Snapdeal.com, India’s largest e-commerce company, knows the struggles of the US visa process better than most.

After completing an Ivy League education, Kunal Bahl’s visa application was rejected by the US immigration department. Bahl was forced to return home, taking his business plans with him. Upon arriving in India, he opened Snapdeal.com, which became a near-overnight success.

“We have 16 million users. One out of six internet users [in India] is registered on Snapdeal, and this is growing by one million per month. By the end of the year, we’ll reach 25 million users. We are the highest trafficked e-commerce site in India,” Bahl told RT.

Bahl’s success allowed him to hire 300 employees based in India. If Bahl had been allowed to stay in America after graduating, US citizens would be occupying those positions.

His case is far from unusual – Indian nationals are the immigrant group hardest-hit by American visa denials.

Eleven percent of Indian applicants were denied work visas last year, while only around 3 percent of applicants from countries like Germany and the UK were rejected for the same type of visa, RT correspondent Priya Sridhar reports.

Current US law limits any country from being granted more than 7 percent of the total number of green cards issued each year. This generally results in a higher rejection rate for residents of larger countries like India and China.

Many argue that this policy is discriminatory, since it limits applicants based on their nationality, not their merits. In an editorial in Forbes, immigration policy analyst David Bier called the policy “senseless and unjust.”

As America closes its doors to foreign entrepreneurs, it just might be worsening its own unemployment crisis.