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The US's Reverse Brain Drain 757

We may have to rethink the assumption that Silicon Valley is the hotbed of innovation in which all the world's best and brightest want to work and live. TechCrunch has a piece by an invited expert on the reverse brain drain already evident and growing in the US as Indian, Chinese, and European students and workers in the US plan to return home, or already have. From an extensive interview with Chinese and Indian workers who had already left: "We learned that these workers returned in their prime: the average age of the Indian returnees was 30 and the Chinese was 33. They were really well educated: 51% of the Chinese held masters degrees and 41% had PhDs. Among Indians, 66% held a masters and 12% had PhDs. These degrees were mostly in management, technology, and science. ... What propelled them to return home? Some 84% of the Chinese and 69% of the Indians cited professional opportunities. And while they make less money in absolute terms at home, most said their salaries brought a 'better quality of life' than what they had in the US. ... A return ticket home also put their career on steroids. About 10% of the Indians polled had held senior management jobs in the US. That number rose to 44% after they returned home. Among the Chinese, the number rose from 9% in the US to 36% in China."
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The US's Reverse Brain Drain

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  • Surprised? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tubal-Cain ( 1289912 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @01:31AM (#29782087) Journal
    Why is this a surprise? Isn't that exactly why they came here in the first place?
  • H1Bs? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by PrimaryConsult ( 1546585 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @01:33AM (#29782089)
    Would this be caused by expiring H1-B Visas as discussed previously []?
  • Re:Surprised? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by coaxial ( 28297 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @01:37AM (#29782109) Homepage

    Why is this a surprise? Isn't that exactly why they came here in the first place?

    In the past most of them stayed. "America is the land of opportunity," you know? Only now it increasingly isn't. The fact that Chinese are returning home for "a better quality of life" really sticks a fork in that claptrap about how financial freedom brings political freedom doesn't it?

  • by HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @01:39AM (#29782113) Homepage

    the reverse brain drain already evident and growing in the US as Indian, Chinese, and European students and workers in the US plan to return home, or already have.

    Between Homeland Security and treating H1-B's like slave labor, who can blame them? They can go home and enjoy a better lifestyle than they have here and not get treated like a potential terrorist.

    Funny is how many of the teabirthers walking around thinking this is the best place in the world to live and everyone wants to come here.

    Not anymore.

  • Moral of the story (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 18, 2009 @01:42AM (#29782125)

    Here in Quebec, Canada, universities charge a certain rate for Quebec residents, a higher one for students from other provinces and an even higher one for students from outside of Canada (France is an exception). The price ratio is about 1:2 for Quebec:out-of-province and about 1:5 for Quebec:non-Canadian. As a result, we have more "local" graduates who aren't tempted to return to their country after receiving a good education. This doesn't mean that the graduating population is predominantly white, male and heterosexual - it just means that we lose less graduates to their countries of origin.

    The moral of the story: education is still too cheap for foreigners in the United States. If you want more US citizens to obtain degrees in these fields, charge much more to people from other countries - this will decrease demand from foreigners and open spots to US citizens.

  • Quality of life (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Concerned Onlooker ( 473481 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @01:43AM (#29782127) Homepage Journal

    "...most said their salaries brought a 'better quality of life' than what they had in the US."

    I'm guessing that by better quality they mean materialistically. Being a US citizen I would prefer to live in a place where human rights are championed, personal liberty is maximized and freedom of speech and freedom from government oppression is paramount. So, I guess I'm saying where should I move to?

  • by ShooterNeo ( 555040 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @01:46AM (#29782139)

    The reasons for this exodus are straight out of an economics textbook. This is SUPPOSED to happen in a free world with free trade. Overall, this move is ADVANCING human civilization and making things just a bit better for the rest of humanity. Right now, the high tech industry in California is one of the most amazing industries the world has ever known. Among other things, those highly educated people who are returning to China and India are bringing knowledge and skills that will allow them to replicate some of the wonders of California in India and China. How is that a bad thing?

    Sure, those Chinese and Indian companies will compete with the U.S. firms...but competition is a good thing for humanity as a whole.

  • Re:Surprised? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @01:53AM (#29782167) Journal

    really sticks a fork in that claptrap about how financial freedom brings political freedom doesn't it?

    Not really. The number of Chinese living in poverty is still greater than the entire population of the United States. Even the few Chinese who do manage to graduate from college still have trouble finding a good job. Getting a degree at a US university merely puts them at the front of that line. And of course, there are a few in China who are filthy rich. That is everywhere.

    And of course, 'better quality of life' is relative.....most parts of China, even in the cities, don't have drinkable water coming into the house. That would be unacceptable to many westerners, but if you don't mind, then it's not a problem.

  • Re:Surprised? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ls671 ( 1122017 ) * on Sunday October 18, 2009 @01:58AM (#29782189) Homepage

    Yes I know...

    Unfortunately, that perception is fading, especially in the minds of people outside US. I do not think the former US president helped much in fixing this problem.

    A considerable portion of US economy is now owned by foreign countries and some countries should start to deal oil, gold and other goods in euros soon when American dollars were previously the reference used world wide.

    As wikipedia states ( [] ) the American Dream seems to be a fading concept:

    "In recent years, the concept of the American Dream as a national ideal has been studied by various organizations. The conclusions of these studies indicate that during the 1990s to the 2000s, a period of remarkable wealth for the U.S., an increasing number of people confess to having lost faith in the American Dream."

  • by Buzz_Light ( 1017486 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @02:02AM (#29782199) Homepage

    Having lived nearly 1/4 of my life outside the US, I can tell you that in my experience, you are completely wrong. Most people I have met and talked with, would still jump at the chance to live in the US. And yes, that is including Europe.

    Sure there was a time there where it was cool to be anti-US, but that seems to be passing.

  • Not about Visas (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lyinhart ( 1352173 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @02:07AM (#29782215)
    From the article: "Some 27% of the Indians and 34% of the Chinese had permanent resident status or were U.S. citizens. That’s right—it’s not just about green cards." It does seem to have everything to do with the economy: "Only 7% of Chinese students, 9% of European students, and 25% of Indian students believe that the best days of the U.S. economy lie ahead. Conversely, 74% of Chinese students and 86% of Indian students believe that the best days for their home country’s economy lie ahead."

    Given that the United States has taken the lion's share of blame for the "global economic crisis", this attitude is not surprising. Plus, we're long removed from the heyday of the Silicon Valley, an era in which innovation and idea poaching ruled instead of racing to patent anything remotely obvious. Twenty, even ten years ago, there was little talk of India or China becoming the next economic superpower. So the idea of being both financially secure and being close to your family is really appealing to these folks.

    It's not all doom and gloom though - it still speaks volumes that these workers come to the United States to cut their teeth and gain the technical/management experience that they bring back home.
  • Re:Surprised? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by coaxial ( 28297 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @02:09AM (#29782219) Homepage

    sorry, i can figure out what connection you mean by that, but i don't see how that discredits the theory that if you don't have economic freedom, you don't have freedom at all.

    Economic freedom not only isn't predicated on, it doesn't necessitate, political freedom.

    Let me indulge in a bit of history. Back in the 80s and early 90s when Wall Street was lobbying to remove embargos on investing in China, the argument was that the US was actually opening up a giant market, not promoting trade with the regime that just slaughtered a pro-democracy movement, and by opening trade, the Chinese would see how the West lived, and then would force the dictatorial regime to fall. Then it was about how by deindustrializing and moving all production to China, they would get money in their pockets, start to make economic decisions on their own, and soon would stop wanting to only "vote with their wallets" but want to "vote with their ballots" instead. But that's not what happened, now is it? The standard of living along the coast has rapidly improved, but far from weakening the regime, it's actually strengthened it, because the average person (rightly) says, "We've got a good thing going. My life is better. My child's life will be better than mine. Why would I want to take a chance and mess that up?"

    Ironically though, China is the perfect lab for what would happen in an unregulated market that libertarians argue for when they want to eliminate the EPA, FDA, and every other regulatory industry [].

  • Re:Sounds good to me (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Bruha ( 412869 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @02:11AM (#29782231) Homepage Journal

    It's also in some cases after we paid for their educations through government grants, many of which place no requirements on them remaining in the US.

    Case in point, my ex attends college here free, working on her PHD. In fact she said that there's so much free money he plans on getting a second masters as well.

    It'd be nice when the US Government would invest in it's own citizens.

  • Re:Sounds good to me (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 18, 2009 @02:19AM (#29782259)

    "More jobs for the rest of us" my ass.... those jobs no longer exist in many cases.

    When I saw the title, I assumed it was about American-born American-educated expertise IMMIGRATING OUT OF the USA. Because guess what? -- that's what is happening. Many native-born who *can* leave (the ones with desirable skills and expertise) are leaving or seriously considering leaving the USA to find work.

  • by reilwin ( 1303589 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @02:20AM (#29782263)

    The moral of the story: education is still too cheap for foreigners in the United States. If you want more US citizens to obtain degrees in these fields, charge much more to people from other countries - this will decrease demand from foreigners and open spots to US citizens.


    Using McGill University and Harvard for comparison:

    McGill foreign students tuition fees: about $31k a year.
    Harvard students tuition fees: about $34k a year.

    Not including administrative fees, club fees or expenses for room and board.

  • Re:Quality of life (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 18, 2009 @02:22AM (#29782269)

    I work in a place where the majority of my colleagues are Indian including both developers and management. I can attest to the trends. I'm the exception by not holding a masters and by being born here. I'm responding because of a false assumption you made. You guessed that the better quality of life is a materialistic quality. For the majority of my friends who moved back to India it was not about that. While that played a role, their wives and families were residing there. It was difficult to deal with the paper work. The cricket matches weren't shown live at 3am. It's a plethora of smaller items which all add up. They aren't from the US and do not necessarily share the same values as you. Think more holistically for a second and you'll understand. It's about living where you are comfortable and are content. That's why my Indian friends are moving back to India and I completely understand.

  • Re:What a surprise! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dahamma ( 304068 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @02:23AM (#29782275)

    That's kind of misleading...

    They pay non-resident tuition at public state schools, just like any US student who attends a college in a state they don't reside in. And for most private schools, there is no difference at all.

    Sure, they don't get the federal grants, but those are so piss poor these days that probably barely matters (plus they may very well get grants or loans from their home country to attend a US school).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 18, 2009 @02:35AM (#29782327)

    I am in this position right now. I am an H1-B holder. I have a Masters in Computer Science. While most of my coworkers worked 40-45 hours a week I was doing 80 and quickly gained higher positions and expertise (hard work pays off in the land of opportunity). I love the US. Its a great place to live and I've lived here since I came to do my Bachelors (Computer Science also). I paid out of state tuition for all 7 years, out of my own pocket (which totaled > 60K).

    I recently applied for an extension on my H1-B after my 3 years of working at a company and it was rejected by the government. The initial reason given was that we couldn't prove that my job required a degree so they came back and asked us for more info (called an RFI - request for information). (I am involved in long term projects from architecture, design, development and process analysis). The day I found out that my visa was rejected, my company, a small business of about 30 people also found out that a dept of the state had chosen me to work for them on a project for which they interviewed 30 people from around the US. My company lost that deal because the US rejected my visa and lost out on > 500,000 dollars of revenue over the contract. The company also lost 3 other contracts with clients I was currently with which would have probably panned out to 50k-100k each per year.

    The revenue from that contract would have keep me and 2 other co-workers employed for at least 3 years and now my former company is going to probably fire 2 US citizens. This was the height of irony! The government royally screwed my company.

    The immigration dept has really cracked down on H1-B visa holders and is rejecting them by asking them to prove stupid claims. Here are a few questions from my RFI.

    1. Why does a Senior Software Engineer position require a Computer Science degree!
    2. Provide all earning statements for the last 3 years and for all states you had income from.
    3. Provide all client contracts that you had in the last 3 years for the full company.
    4. Provide a detailed job description along with future contracts (for all 3 years) along with locations, contacts of client companies and images of work areas.

    My visa was finally rejected because they feared that I would work in California (where my company doesn't have any clients or a branch). The process is really ridiculous right now and I have started looking at canada, singapore and india. I would prefer to stay and finish my 3 years and get a path to citizenship but if I have to leave, so be it.

    The icing on the cake is that since they reject my appeal, I have 10 days to leave the country. So pack your bags, sell your car and belongings (or throw them away) and get the fuck out in 10 days.

    Thanks for all the fish O Land of Opportunity!

    I will say this to all you US citizen and green card holders. DO NOT SQUANDER YOUR OPPORTUNITIES! The US is the greatest place on earth and if you work hard, you can really live a great life. Peace.

  • Re:Surprised? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @02:44AM (#29782361) Journal
    OK, you linked to a report by the Sierra Club, a group that has a definite agenda. You need to be careful when doing that.

    In this case, they are trying to be sensationalistic by redefining the word 'unsafe' to mean 'potentially unsafe.' They aren't saying that the water is unsafe to drink, they are saying that the water could become unsafe to drink, if there were an oil spill or a chemical spill in the source of the drinking water. Whether true or not, this is not at all the same as the drinking water in China, where you should boil the water before drinking it to avoid sickness.

    Try to make sure a study is reliable before citing it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 18, 2009 @02:45AM (#29782369)

    The GFC and the collapse of the USD mean one thing: living standards are going to drop in the USA. That's an experience I'm happy to leave to the Americans.

    Where i work, I'm waiting for H&R to give me the nod so I can export myself and my job (mmm, telecommuniting) out of the USA. I've had enough of needing to drive to work everyday and put up with SFBA traffic woes.

    Sure, the weather in SFBA might be pleasant most of the year, but I'd rather live and work in a city where I can walk or use public transport to easily get to/from work.

    There will probably be a pay cut in relocating out of the SFBA but I'm not worried: the SFBA is an absurdly expensive place to live, especially in Silicon Valley, when you consider what you get for your money.

    And don't forget that the vallue of the US dollar is dropping on a daily basis, back to where it was pre-GFC, so the value of my salary (in real world terms) is also dropping.

    To summarise, I can live a much more comfortable life in other parts of the world without having to worry about my retirement fund becoming worthless or the value of my savings/investments being degraded. It is nice to have lived and worked in SFBA but the USA is not a place I want to spend my entire life in.

  • Re:What a surprise! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Idiomatick ( 976696 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @02:49AM (#29782381)
    Your tax dollars aren't. Look at how much more you pay if you are a foreign student in your school. And look up how much of your school is funded by your tax dollars. There is a good chance that foreign students are actually FUNDING your education.
  • by cetialphav ( 246516 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @03:06AM (#29782423)

    those highly educated people who are returning to China and India are bringing knowledge and skills that will allow them to replicate some of the wonders of California in India and China. How is that a bad thing?

    Whether it is good or bad depends on which side of the ocean you are on. As an American, I think it is terrible that we are losing brilliant people. It is these types of people that advance the state of the art and create new companies and industries. Because I am selfish, I want that to happen in my own country so that I can benefit from this.

    For those in China and India, this is obviously a great thing. It means that they are starting to be able to compete with the US for the best and brightest. Instead of watching their brightest stars go to the US and get rich creating jobs for Americans, they get to have this right in their backyard.

    I agree with you that this is a natural part of free trade, but that does not mean we have to just accept it. This should be a wake up call to us that we have to compete harder than ever before to keep the smartest people here. In the past, we could win this competition without even trying, but now we will have to start working at it.

  • by ClosedSource ( 238333 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @03:16AM (#29782467)

    This is something that makes no sense to me.

    If a company is really serious about a project, they'll hire the most qualified people available. Those available people may or may not have the exact qualifications they are looking for.

    If they can afford to sit on their hands and wait for everything they want in a candidate, either the project isn't that important to the company or they already have the number of people they really need to get it done.

    I'm convinced that some companies deliberately post jobs that they have no intention to fill just so they can say they can't find qualified candidates in the US.

  • My case (Score:5, Interesting)

    by varanama ( 820238 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @03:29AM (#29782519)
    I was born in Madrid, Spain. As i was 10 my parents changed me to a german high school and after that i went to Germany to study engineering. While I was studying Mechanical Engineering in Aachen I went one year abroad to Montreal. That's when i started realizin.g than maybe North America wasn't as advanced as i thought, But hey, Canada is not the USA. So when I finished and got the opportunity to made my Phd at Berkeley, I took it. Coming from Germany, I've always looked at Berkeley and MIT as "the future". I thought they were light years from us, another dimension, robots walking through the campus... I thought it was going to be like the jump from Spain to Germany...

    When I arrived, it didnt took me long to realize how wrong I was. After two years I remember talking with my parents, and saying that at the moment the only thing I wanted was to finish as fast as possible. I just wanted to be able to put Berkeley in my resumee and leave, because I really thought I was waisting my time. I was trying as hard as possible to be productive. But it was not only that my tutor was not good enough, or that my department didn't had the money I needed, the worst part is that we were overall behind what my department in Germany was doing. I felt so frustrated spending 90% of the time reinventing the wheel and putting the USA stamp, feeling that I was leaving in the past, and trying but not finding the way to do something about it that i really wanted to leave and do something useful with my life. It was even worst when I talked with a good friend of mine who was also doing his Phd at the same department in Munich. He got almost unlimited finantiation, lots of students doing their master thesis for him, and was really learning a lot, not only about the subject, but about managing a big reserarch team and lots of long time experiments, we just didn't had the same means...

    When I finished it was really easy to find interesting jobs in the states, I even doubted because of one really interesting offer at Lockheed. But the real fact was, that the offers from Germany where at a whole different level. I had been in Berkeley! For them that was... Godlike. As I came back I started working for a private company for almost three years, and after that I took a part-time management position at that company and been working there partime since. At the same time I started also working part-time in my second Phd at the university. Im not only doing what i really like, at the moment Im getting a lot of support from very good people, students included, and from the university, state, privates companies... I really feel that im working with the best people in the world.

    And till now i've just mentioned the academic side! The rest of my life can be summarized in: I'm payed better in Europe than in the States and at the same time living here is cheaper! And if you add a better public transport system, higher security feeling, way better health care... it's not hard to understand way researches are not staying there. I know a lot of indian people here, and they have already moved their families in and have no plans to retourn to India in the distant future...

    So yeah, people go to the states to study because of the fame. When they arrive, they realize things back home werent so bad as they thought. And when they finish things even get better at home, because due to their studies in the states, they are seen as gods... If you add that the quality of life in the states isn't even in the top10 of the world, and that the loan/expenses ratio is better in lots of other countries, you have your answer.
  • Re:Quality of life (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Jeeeb ( 1141117 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @03:36AM (#29782555)
    Ever lived in a country where you don't speak the language natively? That alone would can be enough to make people want to move home.

    Racism can be another factor. It's can be hard enough to live in a place where you clearly don't fit in in the first place. Let alone if you have people treating you like some sort of criminal for stealing 'their' jobs.

    Finally human rights and personal liberty are very very broad and abstract concepts. Making absolute statements about them being championed in one country or not in another masks the reality of a much more complex situation. For example there is quite a lot of economic freedom in China and much greater chances to rise through company ranks would represent freedom to many.

    Not only that but the situation changes relative to your personal circumstances. An Indian citizen living in India enjoys the right to vote and influence his government. Living in America until he gets citizenship he can't vote or influence his government. Tell me again where he has more liberty?
  • Re:Surprised? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by UncleWilly ( 1128141 ) <UncleWilly07@gmail.cWELTYom minus author> on Sunday October 18, 2009 @03:40AM (#29782567)

    But that's not what happened..

    Your position is to short sighted. It's not done yet, give it another generation or two. Like the USAs strategy to isolate (and not attack) the USSR, post WWII. This policy took approximately 45 years (1945-90) to work through. I'm not saying the USA-China policy will work, but 20 years is too short to say "it failed".

  • Re:What a surprise! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by blue_teeth ( 83171 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @04:03AM (#29782631)
    I am an Indian and never wanted to visit the US for the mighty dollar. Never visited the US. Here is another shocker. Most of the students came purely for economic reasons. My worry is, this reverse brain-drain is also likely to bring filth in India...aka MBA shit and Wall Street greed.
  • Re:Sounds good to me (Score:4, Interesting)

    by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @04:18AM (#29782679)

    Case in point, my ex attends college here free, working on her PHD. In fact she said that there's so much free money he plans on getting a second masters as well.

    It'd be nice when the US Government would invest in it's own citizens.

    What field is your ex in? Biomedical research? Chemistry? As long as it isn't something like "theater" or "english," I'd argue the US government IS investing in it's own citizens, just not -specifically- it's own citizens. Grad students are pretty cheap compared to other researchers, if he's helping to advance the sciences, like say working on cancer, then that IS going to benefit US citizens. It's also potentially going to be cheaper than paying someone with their doctorate already in hand.

  • Re:Surprised? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @04:28AM (#29782701) Homepage Journal

    Making the standard of living radically better is a good thing.

    It is for the small minority for whom that's true.

    The vast majority in the interior are still dirt poor and local government is disgustingly corrupt which helps to keep them that way.

    CNN and the like don't show all that though. The comfy hotels are where the skyscrapers are, so let's make another article about handbag shops.

  • by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @04:30AM (#29782705) Journal
    Historically, America has been the land of opportunity. It was the place people went to to start a completely new life. None of the squalor, starvation, and domestic wars of Europe. None of the harsh totalitarianism of China. Of course, a journey for the family would cost a fortune, so it was only going to be one way.

    It's just not like that any more. It's a nice place to live, but so is everywhere else if you have money. Money can be earned if you have experience. And flights are quick and cheap. Even people from relatively poor countries can afford a flight to another continent.

    Returning home was always the plan. People miss their home. Returning home after a few years and getting a good job in their home country has always been part of the plan. If you have a few years' experience working at a major US tech firm, everyone wants you to work for them.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 18, 2009 @04:34AM (#29782721)

    In most countries, especially Asia, advanced degrees are simply given more esteem compared to the US. More money AND more chicks.

    Parent speaks the truth.

    In Thailand, when the owners of the hotel where I lived found out I was a published author, they immediately discounted my room rate by about 15%. Their explanation for this was, "As a writer of educational books, you bring honour to our hotel by allowing us to serve you. We would be remiss if we did not do something to show our gratitude." The staff practically worshipped me (and thanked me regularly for allowing them to serve such an important person!), and I pretty much had the run of the place.

    At first, I thought, "Hey, this Honourable Exotic Foreign Writer In Residence thing is pretty cool, eh. Discounts, freebies, bowing and scraping, pretty Thai ladies asking me if I would care to bring them a little extra honour in the privacy of my suite. Damn, this is the life."

    But as time went on, I begin to see that this wasn't just some formality, or for show, or in hopes of big tips -- they bloody well meant it.

    I have never been so humbled in all my born days.

    And it led to a big shift in my outlook on life.

  • Re:Sounds good to me (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 18, 2009 @04:35AM (#29782725)

    Fix your immigration system. There are plenty of foreign US-educated science and engineering PhDs that would love to continue working in the U.S. and settle down here. However, unless you are an absolute super star who's published 20 papers coming right out of your PhD and can get your green card application processed under the national interest category, the rest of us have to apply through the employer-sponsored channel, which has huge backlogs and quotas depending on country of birth. How does it make any sense to turn away highly skilled, US-trained professionals who want to live here and contribute to this country? Why is the current immigration debate not about fixing the multitude of problems with LEGAL immigration?

  • by Alioth ( 221270 ) <no@spam> on Sunday October 18, 2009 @05:00AM (#29782791) Journal

    I worked in the US for a few years. So why did I leave?

    Of course, everyone says the grass is greener in the US, but compared to home, really it's not - it's just different. But there were enough downsides to being in the USA which made me eventually leave. In order:

    1. Family. I would prefer being close to them, 4800 miles isn't close enough. (I now live 10 minutes walk from my Dad).
    2. The INS Dehumanization programme - the Kafkaesque manner in which visas and green cards are processed. I just wasn't willing to go through that any more. I hear it's even worse for people from places like India and China, I guess I'm lucky coming from Europe.
    3. Healthcare - I like living somewhere where I never need to ever worry about getting healthcare, even if I fall upon bad times.
    4. Bigotry and illiberalism - I lived in Texas. Too many religious people, and when I left, also Bush was President.

    Don't get me wrong, I think overall the United States is a good country, and one of the best in the world - despite its faults. Any country has faults. But I just wasn't prepared to go through the unpredictable, abitrary and dehumanizing immigration processes to live somewhere that's just as faulty as my home country, but is also 4800 miles from my family.

  • Re:Surprised? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Paul Jakma ( 2677 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @05:49AM (#29782947) Homepage Journal

    Water dispenser machines that automatically boil the water for you are very common in Chinese homes and elsewhere. Bottled water is also readily to hand across China.

    Does it suck compared to having potable water flow out the tap, sure, and no doubt the chinese will in time invest an fix it. The situation however is much *better* than my memories of holidaying in various parts of the European mediterranean as recently as the 80s.

  • Re:What a surprise! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Paul Jakma ( 2677 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @06:02AM (#29782995) Homepage Journal

    You know that PhD and (to a lesser extent) masters students are basically the dogs-bodies of academia, right? I.e. they're usually the ones doing the heavy-lifting investigative work to support the research interests of their supervisor. If you seriously constrain the pool of available PhD students, then you're making it harder for your professors and Universities to get their research done.

    The sheer ignorance on display in some parts of this discussion are amazing. Doubly amazing when you consider /.'s readership is biased towards being significantly more educated than the average American. If this represents mainstream thinking in the USA, then one must worry the USA is doomed to a dark period of shoot-in-the-foot policies driven by xenophobism.

    (I say this as someone who believes the health of the USA's economy is vitally important to that of the globe's, and has a mostly-positive opinion of it. NB: the country I live in also is experiencing some measure of xenophobist-pandering policy setting).

  • Re:Quality of life (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @06:21AM (#29783049)

    Working hours are ludicrous which seems to stem from the "at will" factor - people are too scared not to work those extra hours for fear of being fired.

    While that certainly does occur, my experience is that it is rare - at least at the professional level, maybe less so at the burger-flipping level. That most people work overtime because they want either the extra money or to get ahead in their career (presumably to get more money). Making it illegal to work more than 48 hours seems crazy from my perspective its like that saying "the nail that stands out gets hammered down."

    And the final straw is that you don't even get decent vacation time for all those hours, I get 5 weeks here and I know plenty of people who get more.

    Maybe we take our vacation in a different form. Consider the american pre-occupation with big houses, nice cars, giant televisions, etc. These are all little mini-vacations that we experience everyday. Is that better than taking a month off at the end of summer and traveling to the other side of the continent? Maybe, maybe not. But I think that ignoring it is to miss a fundamental difference in the societies.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 18, 2009 @07:21AM (#29783175)

    Similar situation here, my visa will be up for renewal in 6 months and I'm not taking any chances. I'm going to return and leave the company even we both would like to continue the employment. Having family on 10 day notice to leave is just not feasible and US is not really that exceptional. Vacation times are terrible, children's education average, suburbs horrible, and political environment disgusting. Other than that very nice place, good people and great coworkers.

  • Re:Sounds good to me (Score:2, Interesting)

    by iwulinux ( 655433 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @07:24AM (#29783189) Homepage

    >>subsidized higher education is the best investment we can make for ourselves

    Just be careful to avoid the situation I see in the Netherlands, where those who are considered "gifted" enough to get into a University program (as opposed to a technical or vocational school) are basically SOL if they don't get a Master's degree. I call it educational inflation: when all of your peers have an MA, you need an MA just to get your foot in the door for a normal job, and an MPhil/PhD to get a really good job.

  • Re:Quality of life (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dr. Evil ( 3501 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @07:25AM (#29783197)

    My manager, frustrated with his long working hours, said to me "You know, in India, I earned one third the salary. My wife didn't have to work and I had servants. Why am I wasting my life working like a dog here?"

    ... well, it was funny when *he* said it.

  • Re:Sounds good to me (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 18, 2009 @08:18AM (#29783395)

    That is how it is in the US. For a lot of jobs, a B. S. is what a high school degree would have been around 10-15 years ago. Now, I have seen a number of job postings demanding a master's degree to be even considered. Employers have the whip hand now, so one of the way they filter candidates is if they have the time or cash to make it through one round of grad school.

    Ironically, PhDs are viewed differently. They are viewed as specialists by HR people, perhaps overqualified for most positions except education. So, if you want the "sweet spot" of education, pretty much gun for a M. S. and then look for work, unless you want to go for an education career.

    You also need a B. S. as a stepping stone for a law degree. Once you become a member of the bar in good standing, it becomes almost impossible (barring disbarring or felonies) to not find executive level work that can land you into the top middle class anywhere in the US.

  • by DaveV1.0 ( 203135 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @08:33AM (#29783457) Journal

    With so many out of work software engineers who are American citizens, why should your H1-B visa, which is supposed to be used to fill critical positions, requiring a specialized skill set, for which an American citizen can not be found. Sounds to me like while you worked hard and worked long hours, you did nothing that any one of the thousands of out of work American software engineers could not do.

    You should never have been granted the H1-B visa in the first place.

  • by yet-another-lobbyist ( 1276848 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @08:39AM (#29783499)
    In our University, we notice that the overall strength of the graduate student applicants from overseas significantly decreased over the past few years. While we were under the impression to get the best and the brightest from countries like China a few years back, this does not seem to be the case any more. We think this is because many of them now find great opportunities in their countries and don't come here in the first place!
    And no, this is not a good thing. Similarly to what was mentioned further above, we would LOVE to admit more U.S. students to our body, however there are simply not enough domestic student applicants who are strong enough to keep our cutting-edge research program going. So when we're no more getting the top foreign students, we are in trouble!
    One more thing: there are significant differences in the qualities that U.S. students bring with them compared to foreign students. In China, the students seem to grow up in a very authoritative system, where discipline is very important. That is actually detrimental to out-of-the-box-thinking and creativity. So in this respect, the U.S. students are actually much better, and this is why we would like to have more of them. However, that's only one of the necessary qualities you need. Obviously, you also need a robust background in the sciences, and you need to be really motivated and hard working if you want to succeed in cutting-edge science and research.
  • by DaveV1.0 ( 203135 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @09:02AM (#29783593) Journal

    treating H1-B's like slave labor

    Which is why we need to do away with H1-B visa. There is no need for H1-B visas in this economic climate.

    Remember H1-B visas are supposed to fill positions for which there are no American suitable candidates, but with so many workers, including IT people, out of work, it should not be a problem to fill those positions with Americans.

  • by qbzzt ( 11136 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @09:10AM (#29783643)

    "At will" employment scares me especially since you can be fired without any good reason.

    How do European companies handle it when people don't bother to do a good job? How do they handle it when there's a downturn and they can't afford to keep all the people they hired? Or when there's a surge in demand and they need people to work longer hours?

  • Re:Sounds good to me (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SerpentMage ( 13390 ) <[ ] ['' in gap]> on Sunday October 18, 2009 @09:11AM (#29783645)

    American's as a general populace don't give a shit about about science and engineering. Otherwise why on earth are people more interested in reality TV, and think that the bible is *real science*.

    The real problem is that only geeks, nerds and ninny's according to North American English speakers go into engineering. I know me and my wife are North American educated engineers. Yet here we are in Europe and have been here since two years after graduation. My wife is French Canadian and her family has been in Canada for about 425 years. She is the first one in her family in about 400 years to leave Canada.

    The problem in the North American english speaking society is that there is a deep distrust of scientists and people who are "smarter". For crying out loud only in North American English society is there a debate on whether or not evolution exists. People elect those people who are good "drinking buddies". They don't elect those that might actually make their lives better. It is freaken sad.

    So to say that you have unfair competition due to those foreigners, how about you get more of your high school buddies to study engineering and science.

    What you forget in your statistics is that other countries might actually have a good university. You are making the arrogant assumption that ONLY in America can you get a good education. Take a look at the latest university rankings why don't you ok? Other countries have good Universities as well.

  • Actually (Score:4, Interesting)

    by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @09:21AM (#29783685) Journal
    That would have been the case had W done his part. Per the clinton agreement, in 2002, CHina was to allow their money to be freely traded AND they were to drop trade barriers. Right now, China still controls their money and has 25% tariffs on all goods. To make matters worse, they are purposely discouraging trade. For example, look at pollution control. This is technology that they DO NOT HAVE, but the west is loaded with. But they have 4 TRILLION dollars surplus. China says that they want the west to GIVE THEM THE TECH FOR FREE and will not buy ANY OF THE WESTERN CONTROLS. Lately, they have been stealing the plans for these. It is obvious that they will be selling pollution controls to other nations soon based on those stolen designs.
  • Re:Sounds good to me (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jvin248 ( 1147821 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @09:21AM (#29783689)
    Alas, no 'regular' people in the US are encouraged into the sciences.

    It's more cool to be a half-drunk celebrity reality show subject than a top Engineer. Rock Stars and Sports Athletes are where the media and society encouragement pushes kids (gotta get that football 'scholarship').

    Movie cliches with technical people in taped-up glasses do not the professional merits.
    Tons of shows about lawyers and physicians but where are the cool Engineer dramas? CSI/NCIS/etc may be helping, but too profitable for the studios to make the next follow-around-this-crazy-person reality show.

    Most other countries place their Engineers and Scientists at the same level of respect held by doctors and lawyers.
    Until that happens here only a few talented kids will find their calling and invent stuff.
  • Re:What a surprise! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by moosesocks ( 264553 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @09:23AM (#29783699) Homepage

    As a physicist, this sort of thing has me really worried, as it's becoming increasingly clear that physics research in the US is now in the process of "winding down." None of the new big projects on the table are even being considered for the US, as we lack the willingness and capacity to help them.

    Fermilab has a few years left, but even its experimental projects face an uncertain future. Their big accelerator, the Tevatron has a year or two left (thanks to the LHC's persistent issues), while their smaller accelerators will continue to provide beams to a small number of neutrino experiments until around 2015. After that, the lab's fate is uncertain.

    The story is the same at many of the other big labs around the country. Meanwhile, we continue to funnel funding into CERN and other international collaborations that provide few opportunities for American scientists and students.

  • by canadian_in_beijing ( 1234768 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @11:01AM (#29784327) Homepage

    It's not just Indians and Chinese 'sea turtles' going back overseas.... I have no background in China, born a Canadian of European background and spent the past 5 years in Beijing. Found thousands of Canadians and Yanks just like myself living in China. Who are these people? Most are highly ambitious entrepreneurs from good families that are searching for the new wild west, the land of opportunity. They could easily stay and work in the US but some of (maybe lots of) todays youth are not happy working in mega corporations who don't give a shit about their employees, long hours, little recognition/room for advancement, no loyalty, etc...

    By many China is seen as the new wild west with new opportunities, challenges, and a sense of adventure that can't be found back home. One billion people where everyone needs new products and ideas. At least that's what the new expats believe. Easy road to riches... but that's not the case. I never met anyone over in Beijing that made a fortune off of China except the expats on big overseas packages. Most small foreign start ups are loosing or breaking even... and as a foreigner in China your chances of success are severely crippled because of your lack of Guanxi.

    Benefits of living in China: Cheap cost of living, nice modern apartments with all the amenities (pools, gyms, squash, etc), extremely safe, maids, cooks, drivers, cheap taxis, new restaurants opening every day with fanatical service, rapidly expanding nightlife, modern architecture that puts most US cities to shame, cheap shopping, ability to grab weekend vacation flights around Asia for cheap, holidays like the Chinese new year with all the fireworks are amazing, etc. It is possible to live very well on $1-1500/month. Most foreigners just out of university get by on significantly less. Overall there is a great sense of adventure in daily life, nothing is routine.

    Disadvantages: pollution! ...remember some days not being able to see 5 feet in front of my face, most days not being able to see a building 200 feet away... covered in smog. Hard to find quality western groceries. Chinese people are very friendly overall but it takes lots of time to build up connections and guanxi. You can't just go over there and expect to start up the next Google in a year because the locals will shut you out. In Beijing there is little life on the streets except for Wanfujing... central development has left most streets deserted because there's no shops or culture around lots of areas. Old Beijing and the hutongs are disappearing at an alarming rate to put up shiny new skyscrapers. Office culture is a nightmare in terms of productivity. Trying to get anything done that requires innovation is like building the great wall because nobody will stick their neck out and take a chance. Managing most local Chinese people is difficult and requires detailing every aspect of their job, productivity is slow. Government regulations require you to hire so many locals and it is becoming harder to fire non performing people. Office rents can be as high as in the US. Overall I found the overall cost of doing business in China was on par with costs in the US. Also government policies are highly unpredictable and can severely cripple your companies ability to do business. Long terms there are many risks and uncertainties.

    Why did I leave China? Got fed up with the quality of life and lack of opportunities in China. Also there was some Chinese government visa changes. When I left about half of my friends were also planning on leaving. Lots of expats were planning on moving their business out of the country to places such as India or finding work in Dubai or elsewhere in Asia.

    US is not the land of opportunity it once was. The bush era has left a bad taste in everyones mouth and it will take a long time to get over. Where are all the opportunities in the US if there's no commons (manufacturing, R&D, etc) in things like solar, electric cars, electronics, etc? The US needs to keep these hubs of innovation in the US or the talent will keep going overseas.

  • Re:Surprised? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cenc ( 1310167 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @11:25AM (#29784469) Homepage

    You need to get to know China a bit better, and what they are doing.

    They lifted a population equal to or greater than the U.S. population out of extrema poverty in less than a generation. Most of my friends in China have stories about relatives and friends that starved to death. I am not talking 50 years ago either. I mean like 10 years ago.

    It would be impossible with a population that large to simply flip on the democracy light. Millions really would die in civil war and unrest. I am not advocating repression, but it is simply a practical fact of having population of more than billion people. The "communist" in communist party is mostly just symbolic now. Yes, it is corrupt. In fact, I believe China on some level is only functioning because the corruption keeps things moving. There is very little in common with western ideas of "communism" and "socialism". Perhaps an oligarchy is s better description of what they have. It in many ways today is much more free than many of the "allies" of the United States (e.g. all of the middle east), not to mention how well Russia is doing on that front.

    An Nobel winning economist (can not remember his name right off hand), in an interview once pointed out that the big difference between the transition of Russia to open markets and democracy and the transition of China, is that the Chinese even under extreme repressive communism always had a tradition of commerce and trade. Local markets functioned, trade of goods and services went on. Russia never had that. Russia had even under the royal families a tradition of tightly controlled centralized resources.

  • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @11:37AM (#29784541) Journal
    Britain put a gun on China and made them do their will. We will disregard the other issues (civility, legality, etc), and just focus on RAMIFICATIONS. China has spent the majority of their economic gains on THEIR MILITARY over the last decade. In addition, they have focused the majority of that effort on OFFENSIVE weapons, not defensive. Basically, China could not stop a western attack that involved America. BUT, once that looks likely to happen, China WILL ATTACK. Why? They now have the ability to attack our communication and GPS network. In addition, they are in the process of building new military only space stations. That holds ZERO advantage over automated systems EXCEPT for ability to control a weapon. In addition, they are now building new nuclear subs at an extremely high rate. They are spitting out 1-2 new ATTACKS subs AND 1-2 new BOOMERS EACH YEAR. America has 14 boomer capable, but only 10 are in use as such. China appears to now have 8-10 boomers TODAY (with more on the way). In addition, they have restarted their neutron bomb productions combined with regular hydrogen bombs.

    What it amounts to, if you put a gun on China today (and only nuclear will work), then China WILL ATTACK. And they CAN WIN or at the least stop the west.

    That option is no longer viable. Personally, I am thankful for that. OTH, Chinese leaders are thinking that they CAN win in a nuclear war. That twisted idea is going to cause a new WW.
  • Re:Sounds good to me (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SerpentMage ( 13390 ) <[ ] ['' in gap]> on Sunday October 18, 2009 @12:07PM (#29784723)

    The world is borderless....

    Want to know about "borders"

    Read about it on wikipedia. []

    The idea of borders, haves and haves nots is a relatively recent concept. Thus to say you need to enforce and keep people out is crap!

    People used to move from one place to another ALL the time. So long as you paid your local taxes and gave all of your servitude everything was cheeky.

    If we went back to borderless countries we would all be in much better shape because people would travel however they would please.

    So do your history and then understand what I am getting at...

  • Re:Sounds good to me (Score:2, Interesting)

    by SerpentMage ( 13390 ) <[ ] ['' in gap]> on Sunday October 18, 2009 @12:13PM (#29784759)

    Yeah I saw an ugly American is what I saw...

    America is an immigrant country and sitting there complaining about the "foreigners" like the GP was doing is a pile of crap! Because everybody was once a foreigner.

    So to say the foreigners of today are problematic, and the foreigners which were your parents are good is speaking with a split tongue.

  • Re:Sounds good to me (Score:4, Interesting)

    by happyemoticon ( 543015 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @12:34PM (#29784899) Homepage

    So a lot of Americans don't care about education. That should surprise no one - heck, like half of China and India are still working in agriculture.

    The qualitative difference, though, is that China and India have public educational programs that separate the wheat from the chaff early on. In America, we waste huge amounts of resources educating anti-social malcontents who invariably grow up to be criminals, and, more importantly, don't want to be educated. 10% of the class makes 40% act out, and prevents the rest from learning or enjoying school. Put that 10% in a military-style education program and they might just come out productive citizens, because we have a teaching population of lily-white middle-class women, and all these thugs respect is a big, tough, loud muscular man who wants to humiliate them and make them do pushups.

    It's not about the character of the American people. Sure, I'd love it if the dominant urban youth culture wasn't racist, homophobic, sexist and anti-intellectual, but we can't control that. What we can do is separate the disruptive element from the bulk, either by giving them a program that destroys their diseased individuality or by kicking them to the curb.

  • Re:What a surprise! (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 18, 2009 @01:28PM (#29785257)
    No, they're (largely) not. It's actually more insidious than that. China is the country I'm most familiar with as a source of foreign graduate students, so I won't talk about elsewhere. China has gotten very ambitious and creative about educating it's citizens. They now actively woo American professors with seminar talks (read: free vacation and CV filler) who while they're there, will find that China is the land of opportunity and cheap labor. A near-standard deal is that the Chinese government will pick up a portion of the expense of training a graduate student, around 25-33%. The Americans pick up the rest. That's a great deal for the American professor: get three Chinese graduate students for the price of two Americans. The catch, and what a beautiful catch it is, is that the Chinese graduate student upon completion of their Ph.D. must immediately return home. American profs line up both for the ego stroking and for the fact that there is nowhere near enough money to go around in science. Short term payoff for them, longterm massive screwjob for the US. The profs that are brought over are naturally the biggest and brightest people the Chinese can get. This increases competition for those incredibly rare spots in top labs, where an American graduate student must outcompete 1.5 Chinese on price/performance. Those early experiences are critical in the development of scientific talent. We're training China's future professors, and they're investing heavily in their university system at a time when the American system is crumbling from long-term chronic underfunding.
  • by six11 ( 579 ) <johnsogg&cmu,edu> on Sunday October 18, 2009 @02:42PM (#29785765) Homepage

    I'm really sorry to hear about your H1-B issue. I'm a citizen, but my girlfriend is not. She was recently hired as a university professor, but almost didn't make it because the H1-B process got screwed up. Her PhD is in operations research with a concentration in project management; the RFI included questions such as "why is her PhD appropriate for teaching project management and operations research". It is obvious to even a casual observer that the question was not asked in earnest, but instead was a delaying tactic for some reason. So we had to get lawyers involved (since her university was basically worthless in helping the situation get sorted). Our lawyer told us the government was issuing significantly more RFIs, most of which were ludicrous such as yours.

    The way my government treats "foreigners" is enough to make me seditious. You say the US is the greatest place on Earth. Obviously that's a judgment call and I'm not going to argue. But certainly the volume of bogons [] the USA is emitting these days is unforgivably pathetic.

    I hope you can find a way to make it back to the US, because you sound like the kind of person that we want living and working here.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 18, 2009 @03:19PM (#29786089)

    You have some excellent points.

    1. A Sr. Software Engineer position at my company is more than just coding. There are tertiary skills involved in doing my job too. For instance, I also work with clients (most of them CTO, CIO etc.) so you have to be an excellent communicator (and taking a shower everyday is
    However, it is also about being very analytical and being able to become a subject matter expert in not just development/management but also in whatever space you end up in (I've worked through my company on Investment, Insurance, Medical imaging etc.). When you are with a client, they look to you for the answers. An inability to provide them and follow them through would mean loosing repeat business and future clients (contact based selling).

    2. Sorry I should have said, the question was asked of the company and not me. I have paid all my taxes as has the company. Not only that, I paid toward Social Security too (which as a H1-B) I will never see. YOU ARE WELCOME! :-)

    3. Yes but also to track whether you have worked outside the current city where your company is based. H1-Bs are not allowed to work outside the city for the company. (Its tied to an LCA #).

    4. There is no way to guarantee that a client will keep you on for 3 years. There is also no way to provide future contracts. Also I'm not sure companies want to provide contracts to the government.

    I really prefer it here but if I have to leave, I will. But I will miss you! :-)

  • by Alioth ( 221270 ) <no@spam> on Monday October 19, 2009 @05:45AM (#29791553) Journal

    Touched a nerve, did I?

    If you re-read my post, you'll see I didn't say that where I live is "perfect", indeed, I said it had plenty of faults. I am under no illusions of the imperfections of where I live.

    However, having lived in both places (not just visited, but lived) I can honestly say bigotry is a much bigger problem in all the places I've lived in the United States than it is here. Not just the usual ignorant us-vs-them racism which exists here too, but the intolerant Christian fundamentalism, such that to put a Darwin fish on my car would be to risk being physically attacked.

Forty two.