This summary of workshop key points are those of individual workshop participants and do not necessarily represent the views of all workshop participants, the planning committee, or the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
- While the definition of high-skilled immigrants varies across countries, much of the research presented at the workshop focused on highly educated migrants as a proxy for highly skilled migrants. Two presenters made the point that “translational” skills—or the ability to bridge the gap between fundamental and applied sciences—and business skills are needed to ensure that the work of STEM-educated migrants is fully realized.
- Several panelists noted that the United States does not do as much as other countries to collect data on labor market outcomes for immigrants. Two panelists noted that there are data being collected that could be used to answer important questions, but may be in a format that is unusable or are not made publicly available. Panelists emphasized the need for better information to evaluate the impact of any policy changes and noted that other OECD countries, such as Australia and Canada, collect and make effective use of much better information.
- Canada has the Canadian Longitudinal Immigration Database which provides labor market performance of the admission classes. Because of this database, the evidence in Canada is that economic class immigrants are doing better than all other classes of immigrants and native-born Canadians.
- Australia has a longitudinal study as well, which has found that skilled migrants who were not sponsored by an employer had a lower unemployment rate than the general population.
- Several presenters argued that the United States should design systems for collecting and analyzing data in order to assess the effective-
ness of immigration policy in attracting high-skilled immigrants, encouraging successful outcomes for these individuals and their families, and maximizing the positive impact they have on output and productivity. Data requirements include immigration, net immigration, field of qualification, English language proficiency, the amount of time it takes foreign-educated workers to get U.S. certification in their field, and U.S. employment experience, among others.
- Two participants said more data regarding on temporary migrants are needed, including the impact of temporary migrants on the stability of the workforce.
- Another participant noted that improved data are needed to combat myths that adversely impact public support for immigration.
- Workshop participants noted that high-skilled workers are highly mobile and the market for high-skilled labor is global, as are the markets for knowledge and ideas, as evidenced by the large number of international collaborations. One participant noted that there is competition even within countries for talent and pointed out that in the United States, smaller companies have a harder time than larger companies getting visas for skilled workers.
- Many countries are taking a thoughtful, purposeful approach to high-skilled immigration. To be most effective, most presenters believe that a flexible high-skilled immigration policy should be part of a broader set of policies aimed at building a high-skilled labor force for the United States.
- Although evidence suggests that the United States has done well thus far in attracting highly skilled immigrants, many presenters believe that this may be largely due to factors other than the current immigration policy, for example, the high quality education and research opportunities of universities in the United States. In addition, declines in the nature and availability of funding for research and development in the United States may have a substantial negative impact on the U.S.’s ability to attract highly skilled workers.
- Several panelists were concerned about a misplaced emphasis on the quantity rather than the quality of U.S. immigrants. They were concerned that policymakers would put undue focus on the quantity of skilled migrants rather than the alignment with the country’s needs.
- Presenters noted that high-skilled migrants represent a much smaller fraction of the U.S. workforce than in Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom.
- A larger share of visas is set aside for economic migrants in Canada than the United States, leading to a larger share of migrants of working age in Canada. According to presenters, economic class immigrants in Canada are doing better than all of the other immigration classes as well as native-born Canadians. Similarly, skilled migrants in Australia who were not sponsored by an employer had a lower unemployment rate than the general population.
- Conditional licensing, improved credentialing for migrants, and better filters for selecting skilled applicants may improve the employment outcomes and retention rates of skilled migrants.
- According to many panelists, U.S. competitiveness in the market for high-skilled immigrants is likely to diminish as other countries, particularly OECD countries including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Germany, pursue purposeful and flexible, targeted immigration policies, monitor the policies’ effectiveness, and take prompt action to improve effectiveness and address unintended consequences.
- An illustration of an unintended consequence that a presenter pointed to is an Australian example of universities completely changing their focus, as quickly as overnight, in response to changes in policy, a potential problem in a setting with inflexible rules.
- Many presenters believe that there are opportunities to adopt good practices and to apply lessons learned from other countries to increase opportunities for the United States to attract high-skilled immigrants and benefit from their impact on output and productivity. One example cited by presenters is Great Britain’s adoption of a sophisticated approach in creating the MAC, an expert committee that provides advice to the UK government on immigration. Conference participants noted a number of practices from other countries which the United States could adopt to improve outcomes for immigrants.
- Australia has an annual pool from which employers chose people to get permanent visas, including people who are currently living in other countries.
- Australia, Canada, and New Zealand take into account demand or “interest” declared by their provinces or states and employers. These countries also give employer-sponsored immigrants greater flexibility to change employers after they arrive.1
1Under President Obama’s Executive Action, there is an effort to do the same thing in the United States. This workshop took place before the President’s announcement. There are several measures in the executive action that attempt to address several is-
- Israel has a package of benefits for new immigrants that include a language immersion course. Israel provides the same benefits package to other immigrants, such as refugees, many of which are highly skilled.
- Germany has a program that evaluates skills and facilitates successful completion of certification requirements.
- Most workshop participants found the more flexible immigration policies implemented in other countries preferable but noted that they may be difficult to replicate in the United States. One panelist pointed to the MAC as a potential model for the U.S. because it is an arms-length agency with decision-making power.
- Barriers to successful outcomes for immigrants include lack of opportunities for spouses and families of the individual high-skilled immigrant. Some countries automatically permit spouses to work or study, and others include the spouse’s qualifications in the number of points given to the candidate’s application.
- Several participants argued that there is compelling evidence that China is trying to build its high-skilled workforce including exponential growth in tertiary degrees within China and government sponsorship of students to study abroad at the best universities, especially in the United States. Whether those students return to China or settle elsewhere, they maintain relationships with their research colleagues to continue building and diffusing knowledge and ideas to China.
sues raised in the workshop such as making it easier for H-1B holders to change jobs while waiting on their green cards.