The US Immigration System Caused a Smart, Talented, Hard-Working Person to Leave the Country

Happy almost 2018!

One thing I’ll do next year is occasionally try to help explain US immigration policy, and also understand it better for myself. I’ve got a story below that can help educate.

Because I was born in the US, I’ve never learned much about immigration law and policies. I think most of my friends born in the US have similar experience.

I’ll talk about immigration policy much beyond the topic of illegal border crossings, because the typical way people immigrate into the US is through a legal channel.

Story Time

This is a true story about legal immigration.

This happened very recently.

Picture a young adult who comes to the US to get an undergrad college degree. That person stays here for four years under a student visa, paying sales tax the whole time, pumping money into our economy by buying food/services/etc. A student visa allows this student to make a little spending money by working somewhere on campus (the kitchen, computer support, etc), and if they made enough, they would even pay income tax (but usually they wouldn’t, because those jobs don’t pay very much).

That young adult, after graduating with a 4-year STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) degree, wants to stay in the US. But now that adult has two options:

  1. Go back to school for a master’s or PhD
  2. Find a company to sponsor a work visa for him at the cost of thousands of dollars (along with a variety of other requirements levied on that company).

The number of work visas are limited by the US government. So this person who has gotten a 4-year degree in a science/technology field, and who wants to stay in the USA, simply might not be able to, because there’s an element of luck that determines if they get to stay here or not.

Some of the luck involves:

  • finding a company willing to take a risk of thousands of dollars on trying to hire someone that they may not actually be able to hire.
  • getting lucky enough to get drawn by the US’s work visa lottery

The specific person I’m talking about above was lucky enough to get a company as a sponsor. But after six years – six years of paying income taxes, social security taxes, six years of pumping effort into our economy – the person did not get lucky enough to get residency. another piece of luck involved in being able to stay in the USA. That also means that person who paid income taxes and social security taxes will never see that money again.

This person, who spent 10 years in the US and is a very smart, hard-working person, now has no choice but to go to another country. And this smart person has decided they will go to a country that accepts them without such elements of luck; Australia and Canada both have merit-based, no-luck-required immigration systems.

The US just lost a hard-working science employee.

I think someone who has spent 10 years in the US, getting an education, paying taxes, working a full-time job, and generally being a productive member of society, should get to stay in the US if they want. No luck required, just hard work. Merit-based.

Do you agree?