Here comes a little anecdote about how one country lost a great talent and another country gained one.
My girl friend had been studying in the U.S.. She graduated with a two-year Associate Degree in Computer Science, which she funded herself. Her dream was to continue Bachelor studies in the same field, in the U.S.. However, for her, as a foreign citizen with a Turkish passport, the plan simply turned out to be too expensive. As is widely known, proper education in the U.S. costs a fortune, especially if you are not U.S. resident (which also makes it almost impossible to take a student loan). Since her student visa did not permit her to apply for a job or do anything other than studying in the U.S., she basically was forced to leave the country. A fake marriage with an American to obtain a Greencard, which many in that situation at least think about, was no option for her.
Fortunately, last year I learned that Sweden, where I live, has a specific visa category that allows foreigners to move to Sweden to their significant other (“sambo visa“). Once this visa has been granted, the person moving to Sweden receives a (initially temporarily) residence permit, including the right to work. Last summer we decided to apply, knowing that this might turn into an important option. The application and approval process took a bit less than a year and included a couple of administrative steps. Rightly so, since the Swedish immigration authorities need to ensure the legitimacy of the relationship.
In May, we received the good news that her visa was approved. In August she moved to Sweden. She immediately started applying for computer engineering jobs. It took about four weeks and until she signed a work contract as junior system developer. Stockholm’s tech industry is booming and programmers are scarce. For the startup that she will join in early October, she will be the first female engineer, who are even more scarce.
The moral of the story: Due to its restrictive immigration laws and expensive educational system, the U.S. missed out on a talent in one of the most critical areas for any society and economy. Sweden on the other hand gained a talent which will help to push the country’s digital economy forward. Entirely made possible by less restrictive immigration policies.
This obviously is just one anecdote. Swedish startups (as one example) frequently express their dissatisfaction with high bureaucratic obstacles that make it hard for them to hire programmers from outside the European Union. So there is lots of room for improvement. Also, not everyone migrating to a new country immediately will be able to contribute to prosperity and economic growth. Nevertheless, in my opinion, a system that makes this possible is superior to a system that tries to get rid of its potential future talents.