Executive Retention Services

Keeping Top Talent in America:
a Necessary STEP Program for All Institutional Clients

Many of the United States’ most innovative entrepreneurs have been immigrants, from Andrew Carnegie to Elon Musk. These highly-skilled immigrants make huge contributions to the US economy. Intel was founded by a Hungarian immigrant. Google was co-founded by a Russian immigrant. Pierre Omidyar, a first generation immigrant from Iran, and the founder and chairman of eBay, became a billionaire at the age of 31 following eBay’s initial public offering in 1998. Nearly half of Fortune 500 companies and one-quarter of all new small businesses were founded by immigrants, generating trillions of dollars annually, employing millions of workers, and helping establish the United States as the most entrepreneurial, technologically advanced society on earth. Despite all these advancements, industry-leading companies are experiencing problems retaining foreign talent due to outdated immigration laws. Working with our institutional clients, STEP America seeks to address the looming shortage of the tech-savvy graduates vital to keeping the U.S. competitive in the years ahead.

This past November, top global CEOs were invited to Washington, D.C., for the annual meeting of The Wall Street Journal CEO Council. More than 100 chief executives of large companies and politicians assembled to discuss some of today’s most pressing public policy and business issues. Among the participants in the deliberations were President Barack Obama, Carlos Ghosn, Rupert Murdoch, Stephen Schwarzman, Larry Summers and others. Although balancing the Federal Budget with President Obama’s newly formed Universal Health Care program had dominated the mainstream media headlines, the discussions taking place within the confines of the conference were aimed at the prospective roadblocks for 2014. The CEO Council’s recommendations were published on November 25, 2013, in a worldwide special report of The Wall Street Journal. View the 2013 special report. At the top of their list of priorities was the need for immigration reform. CEOs had unequivocally proclaimed the need for immigration reform in the U.S. to retain top talent from abroad who have been educated in the U.S., a freer flow of people into and out of the county, and an immigration policy that mirrors labor needs.

The coveted top talent sought by Silicon Valley are those typically in the advanced science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs of U.S. universities. These programs depend on students from the Asian continent: more than a third of the US doctoral-level science and engineering workforce was born outside the United States, reports Bruce Stokes, transatlantic fellow with the German Marshall Fund of the United States. At a time when the global demand for advanced degree holders is rising, the United States sends an estimated 50,000 educated workers out of the country every year. As a result, the U.S. economy is losing some of the world’s brightest minds. Economists have warned against the effects of sending the educated away after funding their studies and awarding them degrees from U.S. institutions. Given how much the U.S. has already invested in these students, and their high potential to contribute to the economy, it would be sensible for the U.S. to tap into their talents. To do this, our immigration policy needs reform. In response to these regulatory hurdles, STEP America can navigate institutional clients in attaining and maintaining their top talented employees from abroad. By utilizing tools already embedded in the U.S. immigration laws, STEP can create a customized campaign for the needs of each corporate or institutional client. By building controlled retention programs, STEP seeks to elevate their clients’ positioning and reinstate the cutting edge ideas that keep America globally competitive.

Temporary guest worker visas, known as H-1B visas, are among some of the tools STEP America employs. Yet, H-1B annual caps and limitations are preventing technology companies from bringing in new foreign workers, so these companies are being forced to grow their operations abroad. Meanwhile, other countries are changing their immigration policies to attract foreign talents. For example, the Chinese government has introduced a program under which Chinese scientists who move home from abroad can get free housing, a bonus of 1 million yuan (more than $157,000) and, in some cases, a prestigious academic title attached to their name. In light of international advancements, critics of the 112th United States Congress point to the 2012 congressional session as the most unproductive since the 1940s. STEP America understands that changes to an archaic immigration system cannot change at the rapid rate necessary for Silicon Valley. STEP America can work with companies that refuse to wait for policy change and are insistent on taking control of the legal limitations placed on their hiring and retention of their international executives.

Earlier this year President Barack Obama made an economic and moral case for the need for comprehensive immigration reform, vowing he would send legislation to Congress and insist on a vote if bipartisan efforts fail. He proclaimed that “It won’t be a quick process, but it will be a fair process, and it will lift these individuals out of the shadows, and give them a chance to earn their way to a green card and eventually to citizenship.” STEP recognizes that comprehensive immigration reform appears on the legislative horizon which may include provisions that would make it easier for employers to hire highly skilled foreign workers by increasing the number of H-1B visas that could potentially be granted to employers. By monitoring all the changes STEP America will assist institutional clients in attracting and keeping the smartest, most innovative scientists and engineers in the world–irrespective of creed, gender, nationality, and to the extent the law allows, citizenship status.