American-trained foreign engineers and high-tech workers, who immigrated here in search of opportunities, are returning home to establish their own companies and taking not only their skills but hundreds of jobs with them.
An affordable labor force, lower cost of living, American limits on visas and a favorable economic climate are drawing them back to their native lands that will benefit from their research, innovation and development of new products and services rather than the United States.
Visa issues prompted Kunal Bahl to return to India to found his company SnapDeal in 2007. The business, which sells travel packages and consumer goods online, has become the No. 1 e-commerce site in India, USA Today reported. The company, with annual revenue of $20 million, now has 400 workers and is hiring 70 employees a month.
It is an example of what President Obama was referring to when he said last month that if we bring high-skilled immigrants here, "why wouldn't we want them to stay? They are job generators. We don't want them starting an Intel in China or France. We want them starting it here."
While there are no firm numbers of returning workers, the Chinese Ministry of Education estimates that nearly 135,000 Chinese returned home last year, a 25 percent increase over 2009.
The founders of the foreign start-up firms are competing with their former U.S. employers for skilled workers as well as experienced engineers. Improved economic opportunities in China and India are making it more difficult to recruit workers here.
"It is super hard to hire talent in the U.S.," said Sabrina Parsons, CEO of Palo Alto Software, which serves small businesses.
But it is not just overseas countries benefiting. Canada is, too, with American-based companies relying on engineers in offices just across the border.
To encourage U.S. development, Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Richard Lugar, R-Ind., have drafted the Startup Visa Act of 2010, which gives immigrant entrepreneurs two-year visas if they have support from a U.S. investor.
"We want to establish a way for the smartest and most entrepreneurial individuals in the world to come to the United States and create jobs," Sen. Lugar said.
Immigration reform can begin with legislation to accomplish that goal.