Page 56 - IACC Newsletter November 2012 Issue no. 7

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(L-R) Josh Wolfe of Lux Captial, John Kao of Institute for Large Scale Innovation, and Vivek Wadhwa at the fifth Annual Blouin
Creative Leadership in New York City.
The U.S. presidential election is less than two weeks away, and immigration hasn’t figured very prominently in the
last-mile campaigning of U.S. President Barack Obama and his rival, Republican candidate Mitt Romney. Instead,
issues like jobs, the economy, and relations with China have dominated.
India hasn’t come up either, apart from in a few attack ads on outsourcing aimed at Mr. Romney. But with a new book
that looks at data on entrepreneurship and immigration in the U.S., Vivek Wadhwa, an adviser to students and
University’s engineering management program, hopes to return high-skilled visa policy to the agenda. In “The
Immigrant Exodus,” Mr. Wadhwa argues that Americans should be very concerned by the increasing difficulties that
foreign information technology workers and scientists face in getting green cards.
It’s a tricky argument to make in the U.S. at the moment. Even if Mr. Romney did say, in the second debate, that
foreigners graduating with science and math degrees should get a “green card stapled to their diploma,” anti-
immigration sentiment tends to prevail. Mr. Wadhwa’s book, while eliciting praise from some quarters, was dubbed
a “shill for India, Inc.” by one reader who reviewed, while another called it a “paid advertisement for Indian IT.” “The
Immigrant Exodus,” which came out earlier this month, focuses on entrepreneurship and the jobs this creates to
make its case, and is based on research on start-ups carried out over several years with other academics who focus on
globalization and economic activity.
The research showed that between 1995 and 2005, a quarter of engineering and tech start-ups in the U.S. had at least
one immigrant founder. Follow-up research, released this month, found a one percentage point drop in the number
of such start-ups set up by immigrants between 2007 and 2012. (Indian immigrants were founders in a third of all
immigrant-led start-ups in the last seven years.) Within Silicon Valley the change was starker. There was an 8.5% drop
in start-ups founded by immigrants there since 2005.
Mr. Wadhwa is particularly concerned about restrictions on the employment-based permanent residency visas, or
green cards, which are capped at 140,000 per year and pave the way to citizenship. These visas make it possible for
immigrants to commit to living in the U.S. and start a business there, he argues. He spoke to The Wall Street Journal
about immigrant entrepreneurship, the green card backlog and which presidential candidate will be better for tech
immigrants.