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Highly skilled immigrants to the United States ("HSIs") have helped catalyze American economic growth and advances in human welfare by generating knowledge and innovations that have spawned new products, services, systems, jobs, and wealth. A number of studies document that HSIs are disproportionately innovative. Similarly, HSIs are more likely to start and grow companies, which are a vital source of new jobs. Unfortunately, current U.S. policy regarding HSIs–mostly relating to H-1B and EB series visas–inhibits our ability to more fully benefit from the growth enhancing contributions HSIs can make. In addition to tinkering around the edges of existing policy, more far-reaching reforms are required to produce larger gains. We propose to (1) guarantee at least provisional visas for foreign-born graduates of science, engineering, technology, or math programs at American universities; (2) encourage state and local communities to actively advertise for and recruit HSIs with characteristics, experiences, and skills targeted to particular economic development opportunities, such as life sciences, clean energy, or other disciplines; (3) create a new provisional visa for HSI entrepreneurs who create jobs and growth; and (4) adopt new policy mechanisms, such as a point system or an auction of HSI visas, better suited to attract high-productivity individuals and promote economic growth.
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