[Vivek] Wadhwa's research indicates that upwards of 1 million highly educated and skilled immigrants are in the United States legally on visas that they hope will lead to green cards and permanent resident status. But because the federal government issues so few green cards each year, many of these people face a decade or more in legal limbo; they can't even change jobs lest they go to the back of the line.
As a result, a lot of these immigrants are becoming frustrated and talking of returning home to places like India or China, where opportunities are exponentially greater than when they left. If they do, many will take back top-shelf educations, business know-how and high-tech patents developed while here. Not to mention a substantial amount of money.
"The U.S. is headed for a massive, reverse brain drain," Wadhwa warns.
But there is a legal way to jump the green card line. The EB-5, or investor visa, program offers foreign nationals a chance to get provisional green cards for themselves and their immediate family members if they invest $500,000 in a high-unemployment area. If those investments create at least 10 jobs for American workers, the green cards become permanent. Under the law, 10,000 green cards a year are available through this program - yet in Fiscal 2007, the agency that administers the program awarded only 803 conditional green cards.
Beginning with a meeting Aggarwahl hosted in Akron during the winter, Wadhwa and the local network have been considering a marketing pitch to immigrants in techheavy areas such as California’s Silicon Valley and metro Boston that would go something like this: Invest in Northeast Ohio. Join a tech scene that’s beginning to attract serious money from venture capitalists and offers access to major universities and first-tier research centers. Tap an array of services, including BioEnterprise and JumpStart, designed to help startups grow to scale. Enjoy an enviable quality of life at a fraction of what you’d pay on either coast. Put your family on the priceless road to American citizenship.
Pittsburgh (I recall seeing the city as one of the listed "regional centers" eligible for the visa program) could do something similar. The State of Vermont is already benefiting. I would think that the Mayor of Braddock (John Fetterman) would be interested. Does Youngstown qualify?
Currently missing from the Cleveland equation is a "champion" dedicated to taking full advantage of the EB-5 visa incentive. This kind of human capital management is the frontier of immigration policy and Rust Belt cities are just beginning to scramble in order to catch up with the geography of talent migration. But I'm wary of the parochial attitudes prevalent in the mega-region. I suggest a Cleveburgh collaboration, an office minding the issues of migration weighing on economic development throughout the corridor.