The outdated immigration laws in the United States are creating hurdles that are leaving many Illinois employers frustrated. Although the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was home to more than 10,000 international students from 119 countries in the school year of 2013-2014, very few students will remain to work in the local economy after they graduate. Like many other campuses across the country, the university has expended extensive amounts of energy and innovation to attract some of the most talented individuals from around the world, but as their F-1 student visas expire the Illinois economy merely sees opportunity lost.
Since our outdated immigration system offers limited options for these bright and aspiring students to work long-term in America, the United States has become an exporter of invention, innovation and academic achievement at the cost of American development. Upon graduating, many of these immigrants hold degrees in sought after fields like science, math, technology and engineering. Employers in Illinois, and throughout the U.S. struggle to fill these types of positions, and as a result America’s progress falls behind while competing countries with less stringent immigration laws benefit. By 2018, analysts predict that approximately 2.4 million jobs in STEM fields will go unfilled without effective immigration reform.
In the Midwest, where four out of the 10 colleges with the highest population of F-1 visa holders exist, retaining foreign-born students would have a significant impact on many economies that are currently stagnant. Recent economic research reveals that employing these students locally could result in a boost of an estimated $3.2 billion in income in the 12-state region alone. Add approximately $123 million in aggregate state income taxes, the expansion of local firms, and the development of additional jobs, and the benefits are staggering.
With facts like these, it’s no wonder local employers are becoming frustrated with the restrictions of the current immigration system. Fortunately, steps can be taken to increase the number of F-1 visa holders who stay to work in Illinois. According to Giovanni Peri in an article published by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, immigration reform that includes the following is an effective remedy to retain talent and enhance the global competitiveness of the U.S.
- A provisional visa for graduates of STEM fields should be developed
- Investor visas should be more accessible to F-1 visa holders
- H-1B visas should be allocated to STEM graduates