If you immigrated to the U.S. to work in one of the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields or you have a loved one who is pursuing a work visa for that purpose, it will come as no surprise that immigrants are behind some of the most important innovations the U.S. has seen.
Currently, about a quarter of people employed in STEM jobs in the U.S. came here from another country. While there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence of immigrants’ contribution to technological innovation, a group of economists has set out to quantify that.
What economists are finding out about immigrants, innovation and productivity
By looking at patents granted between 1990 and 2016, they found that 16% went to immigrants and that over a third of all innovation results from the work of immigrants. The economists say that the “average immigrant is substantially more productive than the average US-born inventor,” and their innovations are more financially valuable than those of native-born Americans.
That’s likely the result of a number of factors. People with unique ideas and the skills and knowledge to make them a reality are often drawn to the U.S. – particularly the areas of the country where innovation is most prevalent. They bring with them different ideas that their U.S. counterparts may not have tried. The economists say that they rely “more heavily on foreign technologies and collaborating more with foreign inventors.”
The effect of mass layoffs and hiring freezes
It’s been a challenge in recent years, however, for people who are in the U.S. on H-IB visas. Only a limited number of people are granted one of these visas for “specialized occupations” each year. Further, when tech and other companies make substantial cuts to their workforces – as many have –those with an H-1B visa have just two months to secure another job or they risk having to leave the U.S. This can be difficult with hiring freezes also becoming more common in the tech sector.
Business experts, like the editors at Bloomberg, have warned that the “flawed” immigration system is “jeopardizing America’s ability to attract and retain the foreign-born talent it needs.” This pushes talented professionals toward other countries like Australia and Canada.
If you need to find out more about options for coming to or remaining in the country on an H-1B or other employment-related visa, it’s wise to seek experienced legal guidance.