Getting schooled: Canada is eating our lunch on needed immigration
There’s a reason many companies zealously try to safeguard and retain talent, going so far as to build in bonus-payback schemes and legally dubious non-compete clauses into contracts: it is time-consuming and complicated to train people well, and the people are ultimately any company’s most valuable asset.
That simple lesson unfortunately doesn’t seem to have been learned at the macro scale by our leaders in Washington who have stood by for decades as a clunky and ineffective immigration system has hampered foreign graduates’ ability to remain in the country after receiving years of often highly technical education here. Insofar as international students and graduates have integrated into and grown crucial sectors of the U.S. economy, research and culture, they’ve done so despite and not because of our burdensome visa systems.
While long true, the situation has only grown more acute in recent years, as immigration bureaucracies get more gummed up, backlogs grow and the consequences of COVID continue to manifest. A recent analysis by the Niskanen Center, using data from Canadian immigration authorities, found that just between 2017 and 2021, approximately 45,000 students postsecondary graduates of U.S. schools, the vast majority of them international, were invited to obtain permanent residency up north.
That’s just one four-year period, involving one additional country that makes immigration easier and more attractive. Thousands more return to their countries of origin, or are recruited to positions in other parts of the world. Many of these graduates would like nothing more than to remain here and build out personal and professional lives in the country they’ve built an affinity to over the course of their education, and we reward that commitment by turning them away.
It’s a situation that the United States can no longer afford, as we face shortages of certain types of high-skill labor and an aging population. Congress must streamline and modernize the outdated visa system. It’s already a day late and a Canadian dollar short, but the cost of inaction is only going to compound.