Our policy toward the world's best and brightest is currently: "Welcome! Enjoy this expensive education. Now go home!" Does that make any sense?
Behind Door #1 are people of extraordinary ability: scientists, artists, educators, business people and athletes. Behind Door #2 stand a random assortment of people. Which door should the United States open?
In 2010, the United States more often chose Door #2, setting aside about 40,000 visas for people of extraordinary ability and 55,000 for people randomly chosen by lottery.
It's just one small example of our bizarre U.S. policy toward high-skill immigrants. Every year, we allow approximately 140,000 employment visas, which cover people of extraordinary ability, professionals with advanced degrees, and other skilled workers. The number is absurdly low for a country with a workforce of 150 million. As a result, it can be years, even decades, before a high-skilled individual is granted a U.S. visa. Moreover, these 140,000 visas must also cover the spouse and unmarried children of the high-skilled worker, so the actual number of high-skilled workers admitted under these programs is less than half of the total. Perhaps most bizarrely there is a cap on the number of visas allowed per country regardless of population size. How many visas are allocated to people of extraordinary ability from China, a country of over 1 billion people? Exactly 2,803. The same number as are allocated to Greenland.