April brings the deadline for new H-1B Visa applications – the programme that enables US companies to recruit talent globally. Used largely by technology firms, the programme is always over-subscribed. Last year, more than 125,000 people applied but the Congressional quota only allowed for 85,000. The real demand is probably greater. Some US companies conclude that in addition to uncertainty, the programme has too many regulatory obstacles; an off-shore location may work better – go where the talent is now or where there are fewer barriers to importing professionals. Some places are seizing on this dynamic. To enlarge its talent pool, Alberta recruits current H-1B holders from the US, without requiring employer sponsorship.

In addition to facing quota limits, US businesses receiving TARP (Troubled Assets Relief Program) funding face new restrictions. The ‘Stimulus’ law requires TARP companies to prove they have not or will not lay off any native US worker whose background is similar to a proposed H-1B candidate. Banks have rescinded job offers to foreign students who are graduating from US universities this spring.

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These challenges to talent immigration receive ample criticism – whichever nations have the best brainpower may at least have a better chance to win. The new restrictions also seem at odds with the Statue of Liberty’s words. Franklin Roosevelt folklore includes his speech to the Daughters of the American Revolution. Historians note that he did not say it quite so bluntly but he did remind them that he and they were descended from immigrants. Those who assess comparative strengths among cities, states and countries may also be reminded of Mr Olson’s Rise and Decline of Nations test.

Daniel Malachuk works with business and government leaders on global direct investment strategies. He has advised many of the world’s

leading companies and served in the public sector as director of White House operations.

E-mail: daniel.malachuk@gmail.com