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U.S. Immigration System Can Be Win-Win for United States and Foreign Workers

New Ed Snider Center issue brief provides recommendations for policy reform

Published on November 02, 2021

The University of Maryland’s Ed Snider Center for Enterprise and Markets released an issue brief that outlines five steps federal policymakers can take to ensure the U.S. immigration system enhances U.S. economic growth, stimulates startup creation and innovation, and fosters better work opportunities for native residents and immigrants. Maryland Smith’s Rajshree Agarwal, the Rudolph Lamone Chair in Entrepreneurship and Strategy and the Snider Center’s director, authored the brief.

“In a knowledge-based economy, wages and job opportunities for U.S.-born, domestic workers depend on how visa and work requirement rules improve or impede innovation, entrepreneurship, investment and knowledge transfer,” writes Agarwal. “Badly constructed rules will erode each of these factors, creating lower wages and job opportunities for all Americans.”

Agarwal outlines a growing body of research, including her own, that finds restrictive federal immigration policies negatively impact the U.S. economy and American workers by hastening the:

  • Offshoring of existing jobs to countries like Canada.
  • Loss of U.S. firms’ competitiveness due to reduced access to intellectual capital.
  • Reduction of in-shoring and foreign direct investment.
  • Reduction of cross-border collaboration and global prosperity.

Agarwal notes that, even if they even make it to the United States at all, 20% to 50% of skilled immigrants who leave their countries seeking education or employment in another nation eventually go back home. While reverse migration can have positive impacts on both the home and host countries, it means host countries like the United States could lose some of the world’s most promising innovators, entrepreneurs and change leaders. She recommends that federal policymakers:

  • Reform optional practical training permit rules to allow for more flexibility.
  • Reduce high fees and paperwork burdens that cause foreign graduates to sort away from early career start-up employment in favor of more established firms.
  • Award employment-based green cards based on skills and qualifications and remove the requirement for employment sponsorship.
  • Soften visa rules that compel migrants to remain with their employer for an extended period of time.
  • Enact legislation, like the StartUp Visa Act, that would establish visa programs and rules that allow for startup and entrepreneurial activity.

“Comprehensive reform of the U.S. immigration system would lead to higher U.S. economic growth, more startup creation and innovation, and better work opportunities for native residents,” Agarwal concludes. “In the meantime, policymakers can also focus on more incremental changes that will result in reduced offshoring of jobs and more high-skill immigrants staying in the United States to start firms and create jobs.”

Newsroom Editor