Banking

More skilled immigrants giving up the American dream

There is a huge exodus of immigrants who have worked or have been educated in the U.S. back to their homelands. Why is this happening, and what effect will it have?

In a piece for USA Today, Emily Bazar reports that there is a huge exodus of immigrants who have worked or have been educated in the U.S. They are returning to their homelands to find work.

One expert quoted in the piece, Vivek Wadhwa of Duke University, predicts that in the next five years, 100,000 immigrants will go back to India and 100,000 will return to China, countries that have had rapid economic growth. Wadhwa, who surveyed 1,203 Indian and Chinese immigrants, claims that this trend has less to do with the poor American economy than with other factors, including:

  • Immigration delays. Many immigrants are frustrated with the amount of time it takes to attain permanent residency (some wait up to a decade).
  • Quality of life and family ties. Many immigrants desire to be among their support systems of friends and family. Also, luxuries are much more affordable in their home countries.
  • Better career opportunities. About 10% of managers in India are returnees, mostly from the U.S. China's government entices some skilled workers with incentives such as financial assistance and housing. China is also in great need of employees in fields such as finance and information technology.

The experts quoted in the article say that this exodus should raise concerns that the U.S. "may lose its competitive edge in science, technology and other fields."

What's your take on this?

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

76 comments
Oz_Media
Oz_Media

A neighbour who is originally from the US recently separated from his Canadian wife, after many years. His family in the US was telling him to move home to the for the benefit of a family support group, his choice was to remain here as he had a good job that he had no hope of obtaining in the US and he wanted a better future for his children. His neighbourhood in the US was not a wealthy one by any means. He was diagnosed with a liver disease which could have taken his life and he says that with a lack of affordable insurance at home, he would have died. Right now he is at home with a spinal injury but has full coverage, is seeing specialists who are now considering surgery. This is all treatment he couldn't find at home. In the UK there were 19,000 illegal immigrants turned back last year alone, and that's just the ones they caught. On any normal day it is not uncommon to send back literally dozens of illegals trying to enter England from France. They mainly consist of Afghans, Iraqi's, and Iranians who had received Visa's to France. When thier Visa's expire they flee to England to find work and try to get a longer Visa, while many just find under the table work. The point is, everyone shifts due to economic benefit of some sort, thier reasons for initially leaving may differ, but the end result is almost always work, food, health and better life. It's almost as if people find that other places aren't as bad as originally deemed, other nations have since grown and offer more to former citizens than they used to. Some have commented that it's good that they go home as they were just in the US to reap the benefits anyway, as if they were taking something from Americans. Isn't decades of immigration to the US at least partially due to America's ability to promote itself as the best place on earth. Americans brag on TR all the time about how everyone wants to live in America and act as if they themselves pity people who live elsewhere. Perhaps amount of flag waiving and PR America and Americans have shown the world, for decades, must have appealed to all those who had so recently recovered from world and civil wars. Is it really that surprising that these people sought out better furtune in the place that was seemingly Eden to them? That's what everyone keeps touting about America. How everyone wants to live there how America is the greatest place and we are is superior in every way. Perhaps they are finding that the future for them is not as pretty as the brochure had said. Maybe the picture on the menu doesn't resemble the food on the table. Americans have been entering other countries illegally to seek a enw life too, that's what humans do, they seek to survive. I don't think you can blame immigrants for chasing what they are shown as being a brighter future.

tony
tony

.. do precisely that. If governments pander to the demands of those who haven't got the drive and work ethic to place barriers against those who have, should anyone be surprised when they find those with "get up and go" have "got up and gone"? Labour and trade barriers never work in the long term. Modern communications and transport have let the global economy genie out of the bottle.

AV .
AV .

I think its all about the economy. This is not the land of opportunity at the moment so they're leaving. Thats fine by me. There are plenty of unemployed Americans to take their place. They're just here to make money to send home anyway. Why not hire an American worker that is going to spend their money in this country. This is good news for American workers and its about time. We're just as intelligent and innovative, but have been passed over for years in favor of cheap foreign labor. Greedy management at large corporations are only interested in turning huge profits any way they can do it so they can get big bonuses. They used to invest more in their workers and the community. They hired American workers and trained them. You used to be able to work your way up in a company from an entry level position. Now, there aren't as many entry level positions. Its all outsourced offshore. Outsourcing has eliminated a lot of opportunities that used to be for young people starting out that live in this country. America is throwing away their best and brightest students in favor of cheap foreign labor. If I didn't have my help desk job when I started out, I never would have been able to have a 25 year career in IT. I think American labor should be the first choice for American companies. They need to go back to their roots and what made them great. It was American ingenuity. This might be a global village, but theres no place like home. AV

ajn25
ajn25

Very well put and my sentiments exactly. Corporate Greed and Liberalism has destroyed our values.

Alces
Alces

"Why not hire an American worker that is going to spend their money in this country" ... at Wal-Mart and Friends which in turn just sends it to China and Friends. Not much different, just a step more in the chain, plus you support another greed corporation. Well, at least Wally pays some taxes here (I think, I hope). "They need to go back to their roots and what made them great. It was American ingenuity" Roots like Kunta Kinte? :) Roots like the immigrants that came here and started it all, made it all possible? Roots that formed what you call American labor? I am confused...

AV .
AV .

It was partly the mindset of Corporate America that inspired the innovation that made them great. They cared about their people and invested in their future. Companies benefited greatly from their work. It was a win-win situation. Today, people are throw-away, especially the American worker. We can't compete with cheap foreign labor and illegal workers. Yes, roots like the immigrants that came to this country and started it all. People that were born in the USA. Americans. Those people have a stake in the success of this country. Companies were fair to people at one time. They invested in American labor and everyone benefited. They hired entry level American workers. They trained them. They offered a career path. This country was doing just fine until our government allowed the visa programs to be abused and illegal aliens to overrun the country. How is it justifiable to hire H1b and L1 Visa workers with 15 million+ unemployed Americans? The only people benefiting from that are the greedy executives with their obscene salaries and bonuses. Cheap labor. Don't like Walmart, huh? I'm not crazy about them either. At least they employ some local people. I'm sure they pay taxes. They do give back to the community though. AV

shivendra.tripathi.tech
shivendra.tripathi.tech

I think that's good for the country which needs them. They were of use to US till the time they helped US to attain a particular level in Science and Tech and other key areas. Now US will try all means (which will be seen as normal course) to put all possible stoppers for getting the citizenship. The outcome will be that US will start moving to a level where it deserves to be i.e. could be toning down on some technology and economic parameters vis-a-vis some countries of the world. All the best.....

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

Make up your minds. Besides, at some point your family were immigrants. Remember that!

Alces
Alces

So I guess the current immigrants just have to survive for, what, maybe 60 years, and then they are here long enough to be allowed to work without getting negative comments. Not sure about the 60 years, some comments above suggest maybe a few generations. But hang in there, little immigrant, just a few decades or generations or centuries... oh wait, too much... and you can call yourself American and live free. hang in there, don't loose hope, everybody else in this country made it eventually to the "free and deserved" status. :)

Osiyo53
Osiyo53

Actually it only seems reasonable. After all, why do many immigrants come here in the first place? There are many reasons of course. To escape tyranny and oppression. To get away from a local social structure that might limit one's opportunities. Or maybe "back home" was in a state of continuous personal hazard due to war, rebellion, lack of safe environment. Or maybe "back home" was simply so poor and lacking of opportunities for one to become "not poor" that one went looking for a better place. And, in some cases I'm well aware of, the U.S. simply offered a chance at a better education and the gaining of real experience in some field, where back home the chances of getting experience in said field were very limited or non-existent. For instance, and this was some years ago, I personally knew of a situation where China was hiring certain kinds of technical specialists from the U.S. (and other places) to set up and run advanced technical facilities in China. They had the money to buy the equipment, but almost no-one in the country who understood it all that well. At the same time they sent certain selected people as students to the U.S. to start learning those technical fields. The chosen did so, and then went on to actually work in that field to gain real experience, and then they went back home and became the "teachers". Tasked to start teaching Chinese students, in China. I'm aware of this as I had a small part in the process. This was back in a time when the U.S. and China were still mostly viewed as adversaries. But quietly, and with no publicity about it, people were working behind the scenes in an effort to help China give its industrial and technology base a kick-start into a more modern basis. The U.S. State Department and some other agencies I won't name were involved. Quietly. The idea? If the Chinese people could achieve better productivity, provide for their own needs better, etc there was a lessor chance that they'd need to use that large land Army they had to seize food and resources from someone else. Besides, a better fed and happier population is more likely to concern itself other pursuits than such things as zealously wanting to spread Communism to other countries by force if necessary. Anyway, for some immigrants maybe the reasons that they left their country in the first place have mitigated. IOWs, things back home look better now than they did. Or, perhaps they've achieved their goals. Goals not so easily achieved back home. And they're now thinking its time to go home. After all, for many people the place where you were born and raised will always hold a special place in your heart. Add, that back home there is probably family, old friends you were raised with, and so forth. Its like and old friend and shipmate of mine. We both served a career in the U.S. Navy. I was U.S. born, he was a Filipino native who joined the U.S. Navy. He loved the U.S., got married to a Filipino gal and moved her to the U.S., their kids were born in the U.S., etc. He intended to retire in the U.S. But in the end, he had second thoughts. He was homesick. While many of his family had moved to the U.S., he had many more still back in the Philippines. Add that the political and social climate back home had improved over the years. And so forth. We were talking one day and he mentioned that the education and skills he'd learned in the U.S. Navy plus some added college courses he'd taken, qualified him to teach electrical engineering back home. He'd checked into it. He was quite anxious and excited about the prospect of teaching new, promising Filipino students. And excited that the economy of his home country was growing, becoming more advanced and modern, etc. And he wanted to be a part of it. It also didn't hurt that his retirement check from Uncle Sam, plus the money he and his wife had saved over the years would go a long way back in the Philippines. He and the wife could get a nice home and still afford to buy a little sari-sari store she'd always wanted to own and run. So he changed plans and went back to the Philippines after retiring from the U.S. Navy at age 40. Still in the prime of his life with a bright future ahead. I could hardly blame or fault him. My point is, I can easily understand how some of the immigrants we're speaking about would want to go home, especially if things are looking brighter and more promising back there than it may have when they first came here. I don't think it necessarily means that they've come to dislike the U.S. Heck, I know a family right now, originally from Iran, who love it here. BUT ... if certain things changed and improved back "home", I've no doubt they'd seriously consider going back.

Yam Digger
Yam Digger

If you look at all the super-powers of the past, they all have one thing in common: They eventually had to "pass the torch" onto another nation eventually. Superpowerdom is like a box of milk: It has an expirery date. Sure, you can do things to make it last a little longer. But eventually, it will spoil. Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, The Romans, Great Britain, the U.S.S.R. These were all once mighty nations, empires even, that had their time of glory under the sun, but then it faded away. I hate to say this as much as you Americans hate to read it: but I think America is now in the process of "passing the torch" to China. The fact that foreign proffesionals are high-tailing out of the country is but one symptom of a much bigger issue. Quite frankly, the way things are going now, I don't see America's unemployment going down anytime too soon; Not with all the good jobs heading to China and India. And unfortunately, considering that you're our biggest trading partner, it doesn't look too good for Canada either.

Russel.Rahman
Russel.Rahman

I agree.

marph321
marph321

I have recently be come disabled after 35 years of working on my feet I just cant do that kind of work any more. I took a course in IC Design, Layout, and Verification and recived certificate. My luck I did this just as the bottem falls out of the job market. Now I'm attending college to get a degree in Comp/Sci and Elec/ Eng. so nothing personal but the more Immigrants that leave the better my chances to get a decent job and I'm all for more jobs for more Americans

EVW
EVW

The experts worry about foreign skilled people leaving. Other experts (or maybe the same ones) are worried that Americans are falling behind academically. Well, here's our chance to make college more affordable to the average American, who in turn will become a skilled professional. It all seems so simple to me.

meli.qase
meli.qase

immigrants are leaving america because they feel unappreciated for the experience and the qualification they have gained over the years,I know a doctor who had 20 years experience but had to work as a security guard in san diego,and by the way american school kids a some of the spoilt kids I ever seen,I was shocked to come across kids who dont even know that there are more than 50 states in the U.S.

IC-IT
IC-IT

There are only 50 states. If you mean some of our other territories or the DC, they are seperate entities in relation to statehood. edited to add back the + sign.

santeewelding
santeewelding

You detract from his point with your deal-killer.

HckrAdm2005
HckrAdm2005

I agree more people do need to have access to college but to many still lack the skills to even attend college. HS's need to get back to teaching students content, how the subject applies and what I see alot is that when things get to hard for students they throw a fit and then things are made easier. More then ever we need kids that will think more on their own (critical thinking skills) then follow some directions and not using their brains.

SBlev
SBlev

I believe the exodus is occurring due to their fear of socialism. Either way, C-Ya.

EVW
EVW

Isn't China Communist?

Yam Digger
Yam Digger

Yes, the Chinese are "officially" a Communist government...in name only. In actuallity, they're even more capitalist that we are!!!

SBlev
SBlev

but at least China is acting capitalistic in nature.

glenncon
glenncon

you mean all we'll be left with is us stoopid americans?

viccarr
viccarr

I'm kind of glad that these workers return to their home country to help raise their standard of living. My question is why don't we focus on our home grown talent. Let's stop taking poorer countries "best" and work on training our own.

jkameleon
jkameleon

In the most of the developing countries, college education is paid by the state. Because the majority of their population can't afford to pay tuition, this is the only way for these countries to educate enough skilled professionals to pull themselves out of poverty. In the USA, and most of the rest of the developed world, people have to pay their tuition themselves, and typically end their education burdened with student debt. Nonetheless, they have to compete directly with professionals from developing countries, who can afford to charge for their services far less, even if their cost of living is compareable to US. It's a lose-lose situation for everyone. Taxpayers in poor countries pay for education of professionals, who end up working for the multinational corporations, while professionals in developed world go jobless.

EVW
EVW

Sure we can. But, that costs a lot of time and money. It's so much easier to go to a store to buy vegetables (already grown and harvested), rather than sweat and toil over your own garden.

LouCed
LouCed

Our HS graduates come out of school as functional illiterates. Asking them to take essay test, might as well as for your weight in gold. It's not their fault; the system is more concerned in teaching them to take standardized test (how to take them, not what is in them). Also, just as bad is this thought process that all must pass, and self esteem must be nurtured. Then there is the entitlement mentality, and the overblown re-enforced self image ("I can be whatever I want to be regardless of ability"). Throw in helicopter parents for good measure, and you have an individual that is pretty worthless in the job market.

jrnesbit
jrnesbit

There are still some shining stars out there, they are the ones being squelched. Sad...

ThomasQz
ThomasQz

The immigrants in question are not HS graduates, and once you get into university, American schools are the best in the world. The reason we like to import "skilled" workers is that congress will let us, and the greater the supply of workers, the lower the average wage. That is why you see companies both lobbying for more H1Bs and for more STEM programs for high schools (new supply), but not for programs to retrain experienced workers, because they don't need retraining - they need to have their salaries reduced. That is why this situation makes the news: any substantial loss in supply means an increase in demand, and salaries may go up, putting pressure on profits. No one wants another situation like during the Dot-Com boom, when engineers were making as much as their managers!

Alces
Alces

"The immigrants in question are not HS graduates, and once you get into university, American schools are the best in the world." Two points: Most immigrants that play a role in IT do have a HS degree (and by the way, get in their HS more knowledge and skills than in an US HS). And any US person wanting to go to university needs HS. So the previous writer's point was, that if the basis (HS) is crap, you most likely won't get a stellar university graduate. Secondly, the statement that Am. schools (universities) are the best in the world . Well, there are many good ones, but I think a lot of the rest of them just uses that image, and America can build on that image in the world. But there are a lot of just average colleges and quite a few of crappy ones. and in my opinion and personal experience, many of those would probably not be able to compete with schools in, say, Europe.

RNR1995
RNR1995

Well said, I could not agree more Parent are ruining their children, these kids are so crippled it makes me sick

jkameleon
jkameleon

Skilled work (like R&D and such) sooner or later goes where the low level, "metal banging jobs" jobs are. It happened in automobile industry, electronics, and IT obviously won't be an exception.

JackOfAllTech
JackOfAllTech

They come here on US grant money, they get an education that tells them America is a bad country, then they go home to take advantage of our stupid out-sourcing policies.

jck
jck

And, I hope the US Government puts stop-gaps in place for those companies off-shoring all their IT work to those countries. Otherwise, you're going to have all but the manual repair guys unemployed in this field. Oh well, GeekSquad here I come.

Yam Digger
Yam Digger

"Geek Squad, here I come". Actually, I'm not sure you could get even that considering that eveybody and his dog wants to be retrained to fix computers, and they're willing to work for minimum wage.

jck
jck

I'd never work for minimum wage. With 20 years experience, I'd probably be store manager. :^0

PeterPac
PeterPac

Everyone has seem to have forgotten one thing. We have education visas which does not state people going to schools will be granted immigration status. Another words, student Visas, and lets not forget some of the terrorists used the so called student visas. A lot return to their homelands when they have finished schooling with a degree. What have we done to try to retain some of the graduates to remain in the US? From what I have read in other articles, nada, nothing. The other area is our nation is suffering from the highest high school drop out in history. Parents no longer make it mandatory that their children finish at least high school, while the ones who want their children to attend college cannot afford it. A friend of mine wants their daughter to attend college to study medicine but were shocked of the tuition, over $100,000 for 1 year. Unless you are in the top 2 or 3% of high school students with high grades forget about scholarships so what family can afford college for their children even if they had the grades and knowledge to attend? This article needs to take in all accounts and not just 1 fact when writing about retaining immigrants or foreign college students in the US.

jck
jck

Where do they want to send her? Yale? Stanford? There are good medical schools for much less. Take for instance the University of Florida. As for not making it into the top 2-3%. Oh well, I wasn't either and I was (at one point) going to pursue a medical career. It's called loans and grants. And any kid who is at or near the top of their class can usually get scholarships.

pgoss
pgoss

Having worked once for an organization that educates citizens of third world countries, that was the general consensus to have them return to their own country with skills and knowledge not afford them. These foreign citizens would then be able to use such skills to enhance their own economical plight.

wbranch
wbranch

Maybe it's because America is giving up on the American Dream. We now have a government that continues to implement policies that put government more and more in charge of our daily lives, just like Europe. The whole point of America was how unique we were, that you had the freedom to succeed or fail based on your talents and work ethic. Now, we keep hearing how we need to do this or that to be more like other countries. Ironically, at the same time, other countries are rejecting big, ugly government and trying to become more like the old America. I can't blame them for not wanting to stick around. Wait until crap like cap-and-trade gets implemented and see how it cripples our economy. People will be fleeing the unemployment here, and frankly, I wouldn't blame them.

LLL3
LLL3

It used to be that immigrants came here and excelled because they really appreciated the opportunity of American Dream in contrast to lack of opportunity where they came form. And I believe some still do. However, as our govt. keeps growing and expanding it's efforts to "spread the wealth" amongst all people regardless of work ethic, why would those who are willing to work exceptionally hard want to stick around only to have the the bulk of the fruits of their labor confiscated and given to others they don't believe are working 1/2 as hard? Especially when their friends, family, and culture are a continent or two away? Also, as countries like India and China and others become more and more modern, they may be able to have a great lifestyle back in their homeland, and do very well with theer American Education, which 20, 30, 50 years ago probably was not the case.

riaan.jonker
riaan.jonker

There are many factors that play a role in immigration. I myself immigrated not so long ago. The biggest atribute to why I did it was pure survival!. I could not even buy a house in my country of birth, but since I moved countries. I now own a house, earn decent salary and live life like I dreamed it would be. When my wife and I where thinking of making the big leap, America did not even make the first draft list. Why, there are many reasons. (Not telling cause that will just cause a fight) America is a country who has always profited from skilled labour. 20 years ago, there might have been 10 or so countries that where ideal for immigration and America was top-notch. Now, the number has increased and what I call second world contries are the place to be at the moment. They don't suffer from the financial turmoil of first world countries, nor the hardships of thrid world contries.

MomtoJustin
MomtoJustin

The skilled legal ones go home and we get stuck with unskilled illegals.

Timespike
Timespike

We, as a society, need to figure out some way to keep that talent. Something needs to be done to streamline and possibly even incentivize immigration by skilled workers.

Dr Dij
Dr Dij

your statement makes no sense at all. an economy based on immigration is not sustainable. and we subsidize the schools they attend, plus they take jobs that could go to skilled workers here. instead we need to train US workers.

vh396001
vh396001

Survey shows what keeps people on their job is job satisfaction. Immigrants who are very well educated but who do not have good verbal communication have better chances getting a high paying job and a slight advantage over locals in their home land compared to others because they can now speak an additional language i.e. English. This may not apply to India as it has the world's largest English speaking population but I can see it in China and other countries.

JamesRL
JamesRL

For doctors, accountants, engineers, nurses etc., the issue is around acreditation. These groups have professional organizations who don't make it easy for foreign credentials to be recognized. This of course highlights a gap between what the government and immigration consultants tell them, and reality that sets in when they get here. James

Yam Digger
Yam Digger

In my previous career as a security guard, I have personally met immigrants who used to be engineers, accountants, bank managers, doctors, etc., back in their homelands; and now, they are here in Canada working as security guards because Canadian employers simply have no respect for their non-Canadian credentials. All of them to a man and a woman curse the very day they stepped foot on Canadian soil....and I can't say I blame them. Our government goes to these countries and baiscally tells them a pack-of-lies about how Canada needs all the skilled immigrants they can get their hands on. And then, when they come here, they realize that what Canada REALLY wanted them for, was just for cheap, well trained, unskilled labor. And even though Canada's manufacturing plants are being moved to the U.S., Mexico, and China, the government still encouriges these proffesionals to come to Canda to take up jobs that don't even exist anymore. Any time someone asks me about the possibility of migrating to Canada, I always tell them: "Go the States or to Great Britain. At least there, your qualifications will be recognized. In Canada, your skills and training will just go to waste".

F1980
F1980

Life for the average well-educated immigrant is the same as you have described in the UK. In the UK, life is so though for the most immigrants and the government keeps moving the goal posts (i.e. requirement and how long it takes to obtain a permanent resident status. Many educated immigrants are also now realisng that the American/Western dream is a mirage. However this will not stop many younger persons from the developing world from trying. It's like the gold rush or the grass being greener on the other side. Furthermore, as an imigrant there is an expectation that you have to be "twice as good" or be prepared to work harder and for a lot less than those of the indigenes. Either way, these expectations takes it's toll too.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

on my campus. I've had classes with, and taught, students from other nations who are pursuing new degrees because the American Educational system won't recognize the degrees they hold.