Our Silliest Immigration Policy…

I approach most things from a relatively strategic manner so I am probably thinking more from a business perspective than a political perspective, but I think the USA has one of the silliest immigration policies regarding foreign students.  The USA doesn’t grant permanent citizenship to foreign students.  We let them get educated here, work here for a few years and then we essentially kick them out.  That makes no sense.

This is like a major league baseball team that forms a farm team to cultivate talent for OTHER teams.  Can you imagine the Boston Red Sox creating a farm team, spending time, money and resources to cultivate talent for…THE NEW YORK YANKEES?  Of course not.  That would make no sense.

At the end of the day, we have to think strategically about this.  The US government isn’t a business, but it is in the business of helping create better living standards for all of us.  And allowing foreign students to obtain US citizenship is just smart strategic planning.

In his press conference today, President Obama said “we should make it easier to stay here” (referring to foreign students).  No, we shouldn’t make it easier to stay here.  We should make them WANT to stay here.  This has nothing to do with politics.  It just makes good sound sense.


Got a comment or question about this post? Feel free to use the Ask Cullen section, leave a comment in the forum or send me a message on Twitter.

Cullen Roche

Mr. Roche is the Founder of Orcam Financial Group, LLC. Orcam is a financial services firm offering research, private advisory, institutional consulting and educational services.

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  • Mikael Olsson

    Speaking personally.. way back when, I almost went to the US for uni studies (mostly to do something different, not because the same thing didn’t exist here, plus there’s no tuition for uni in Sweden).

    But what I already knew is that there was no way I’d be staying to raise a family. Coming from a world where becoming unemployed and ill doesn’t spell doom, or getting a kid with a disability doesn’t mean no insurance coverage, just made it a no-brainer choice for me.

    Granted, some of this is changing lately.

  • SS

    This is all a political debate. That’s why it doesn’t make any sense. I know you try to separate the two, but this is a contentious political debate for the two sides.

  • Kirill

    Funny. I got a PhD from top university in US, got about 10 years work experience at top companies in US and find it ultimately funny that I need to prove anything to immigration clerks… In a sense I am still trying to understand why would I need green card? In order to pay tax on my worldwide income? Or to pay higher taxes in the future to support baby boomers? Ironically I know that my job will stay with me, does not matter in US, China or Europe. So at the end in real economy those countries should be fighting for my tax dollars, not otherwise…

  • ES71

    I personally would’ve preferred to live in Europe but they don’t grant citizenship to foreigners.
    My choices were US, Canada and Australia. And the circus I went through for 15 years to get citizenship could easily fill a month of late night comedy. It was a good thing I am not indian or chinese, then it would’ve taken 20 years.
    For example, after taking my fingerprints 6 times over 4 years they found no records of me anywhere. No criminal hisotry. Imagine that. This didn’t compute with the Homeland Security. So in the end they sent me to the local police office to get a paper that they don’t have any records on me. Then why waste all this time doing FBI checks on me and fingerprinting?
    US immigration policy is a disgrace, pretty much like almost everything that US government touches. Sometimes you think that US government workers hate this country.
    I don’t think immigration issue will ever be resolved in a reasonable manner because most americans see immigrants, especially legal immigrants as taking “good paying jobs from americans”.

  • Mikael Olsson

    By “Europe” I guess you mean “UK”. Yeah their immigration policy is equally atrocious. It’s even hard to go there from other EU countries.

    I have american friends that migrated to Sweden though. Easy as pie. We are also the world’s #1 (non-native) English speaking country according to the latest studies. One friend is happy because he gets by just fine on English. Another (a language geek) swears because when he tries to speak Swedish (he’s learning and liking it!) to clerks they switch to English on him.

    If you come from a western country, have an attractive education, get lined up for a job, a residence permit is pretty automatic and painless. Health care included. Permanent residence pretty automatic a few years after that. Citizenship (if you care, but it’s really only about passport & voting rights) a few years after that.

    [end move-to-Sweden ad]

  • Cowpoke

    Here’s fuel for the fire,

    Makes perfect Business sense. Educate a foreign terrorst from univerities in America that loath everything about America then
    send him back home to wage war against you and then you have a reason to go to war blow stuff up and sell all sorts of things.

    So the Industrial Milatary Complex makes money as well as Academia in educating them.

  • Mikael Olsson

    Now where did I put my tinfoil hat…

  • Pierce Inverarity

    So cynical!

    Anyhow, I’m with Cullen. We’d all benefit if we can keep educated immigrants within our borders. America has a history of immigrants being the most entrepreneurial of our citizens.

  • Cowpoke

    Yes, immigrants that strive to participate in the America Idea and way yes, but do not fool yourselves that there are those that do not and our system should be better policed to protect itself, case in point:

    Many Westerners are confused by the willingness of university-educated middle-class Muslims to perpetrate barbarous acts of terrorism. It appears to be a reversal of the usual process: typically college students raised in religious households become more secularized by exposure to the humanities and sciences, and the rationalist values of the European Enlightenment. Yet when embryonic jihadists attend Western universities they graduate with their faith intact: 9/11 terrorists Mohammed Atta and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed were both beneficiaries of Western university educations. These men, who sought to advance themselves with Western training and technical skills, ultimately turned against, and attempted to destroy, the very society that provided them with the means to that advancement. Instead of employing their newly acquired learning and knowledge to improve the lot of their fellow countrymen and co-religionists, they turned this very learning and knowledge against their Western benefactors.


  • Geoff

    You forgot to mention the most important selling feature. Swedish women are hot.

  • Mikael Olsson

    Hahahaha sorry sorry. I’m blind to them myself. Me? My better half is a beautiful brown-eyed brunette from Portugal ;)

  • Mikael Olsson

    Can we drop this line of reasoning here please. Not really on-topic for this site.

  • jaymaster

    Actually, quite a few of them do stay or come back to work in the US (at least in my industry), just not as citizens.

    A large number of H1-B visa workers were educated in the US on student visas, then hired on for 3 year stints under the H1-B program. If they’re good, they can be re-instated in 3 year intervals up until the time they get accepted for a green card.

    I don’t want to start a war on H1-Bs here. I don’t like the program. I’ve personally seen situations where an H1-B engineer was making $40k a year while a US citizen in the same job was making $80k.

    The employers have the H1-B workers hanging over a cliff. They can fire the workers at any time, or just not renew their application after 3 years, and the worker must leave the country.

    A faster path to citizen ship would take away a lot of the employers’ leverage (which might be one reason why this never gets done…).

  • DJ

    The problem with H1B is that it hasn’t kept up with the times. It used to be for genuinely high tech work, doctors, etc. Now, any programming work qualifies. Earlier, programming was high-tech and there was a genuine shortage of skilled labor, now its about cheaper labor.

    I don’t think that’s right. H1B workers should be those who are really interested in high-tech work, or research work and who genuinely value the scientific heritage of the US. If they are just a bunch of cheap programmers, the jobs of which can be filled by anybody, then that’s contrary to the spirit of the H1B. Those workers aren’t keen on assimilating either.

  • Cowpoke

    I have seen the same where the H-1B’s Also head back to home country to help set up shop for said company and then company drops the $80,000 US employee and has the foreign one running the show over seas for a lot less. I know multiple older folks who have lost thier Jobs because of this.

  • EconFan

    CR, I assume you are talking about a student in a field for which there is a shortage ? there is a H1B program which allows companies to hire these students as long term contractors.

    but from an economic viewpoint, couldn’t the market take care of such structural shortages by increased productivity or moving people from other areas or creative destruction ?

  • Cowpoke

    Ever heard of Bangalore India? Here’s the economic point, It is Cheaper for companies to bring in Nice folks from India, put them in apartments have YOU educate or train them, and then send them back to India to a room full of computers and guess what.. The company no longer needs you.
    I have witnessed it at 3 companies I have worked for.

    Before I worked for 3m, they had apprenticeship programs to train people for Jobs. Once the digital revolution took hold where anything and everything could be digitized and outsourced to cheaper labor it has been.
    I don’t buy the OH well American workers are not educated enough.. Bull Hockey. I have done work for several 50+ year old people who had very good paying “programing jobs” and skill sets.
    The problem was not in their skills and ability, the problem was in their PAY and AGE.

  • Dennis

    Hi Cullen,

    Great fan of your!

    It makes sense from your point of view. Perhaps, I can share a small idea of mine. The US government wants foreign students to study here in the US, gain some work related experience then return home, not staying here in the US. If you look at the foreign students, most of whom come from wealthy families, well connected families, and whose families have political ties (connection). If these students stay here in the US, they can improve the US in many ways. However, if these students return home to their countries, they will bring our knowledge, culture, and ideologies home and practice them to improve their countries. This is a process of democratization. We, the United States of America wants to share its wealth, knowledge, culture, and ideologies with the world to make this wold a better and a peaceful place to live for generation to come. This view is strictly on foreign students!

    “When our thousands of chinese students abroad return home, you will see how china will transform itself” Deng Xiaoping. Look at china, it has become a red capitalist after 3 decades of reforms. Also, if you look at history, you will see clear evidences that the majorities of the leaders who reformed their countries or states for the better of worse (mostly for better) are educated in the US or in Europe.

  • Cowpoke

    Did you know that Kim Jong-un and Bashar al-Assad were western educated?
    Or That Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of Libyan tyrant Muammar Gaddafi, studied in Vienna and later at the London School of Economics. He was seen by many to be a liberal who within the government had advocated democratic change. There were even some who thought he would abandon his father’s faltering regime, and join the opposition. Instead, four days after the revolution began, he went on television and vowed to crush the rebellion using extreme violence.

    I think this pollyannaish view that we can invite people born of differing Ideology in and educate them and suddenly think that they will become western is naive at least.

    On the Chinese students, there is a lot of information about Chinese students stealing corporate information from US companies. Here, look what Dison said from Australia:
    Chinese students steal secrets: inventor James Dyson
    THE inventor Sir James Dyson has warned that Chinese students are infiltrating British universities to steal technological and scientific secrets and even planting software bugs to relay the information to China.

    AND here from a more trusted news source than American mainstreams:

    Spies from China, Russia and Iran infect American universities to steal government and corporate secrets

    “American universities have become infected with foreign spies posing as humble students and researchers, who are working to steal government secrets and new technologies to take back to their own countries.
    Untold numbers of foreign agents are hidden among the thousands of legitimate international students who are studying science, technology and engineering in the US.
    China, Russia and Iran are among the nations who are attempting to exploit the culture of openness and transparency in American higher education.
    Attempts by China and other East Asian countries to use academic channels to get their hands on classified information or corporate secrets rose eight-fold between 2009 and 2010, alone, Bloomberg reports

    There’s TONS of cases and info out there. I’m not trying to bash or diss anyone from another country that has good intentions of coming to American, assimilating and contributing BUT I am cautioning those that think that evil bad people do not use this avenue to do us harm and take advantage of our way of life because they do.

  • Dennis


    Thank you for pointing out the side effects and some of the most vile leaders. I am well aware of it. However, you have yet to mentioned the leaders who lead their countries to democracy. Please see my notice earlier “Also, if you look at history, you will see clear evidences that the majorities of the leaders who reformed their countries or states for the better of worse (mostly for better) are educated in the US or in Europe.” Policies are like medicine-it cures, prevents, or improves something. And medicine is not without side effects. So, a medicine is not a bad medicine just because it has a few side effects if can cure cancer.

  • Cowpoke

    Dennis, would you be so kind as to post me links to read about these great leaders who have reformed their countries to democracy thanks to their US education and enlightenment?

    I am more that hopeful that there are MINION of people who have come to western nations to be enlightened by JEFFERSONIAN DEMOCRACY Ideas and then went back home and planted them and today we have what???

    Please show me where JEFFERSONIAN DEMOCRACY is flourishing in other parts of the world where Judeo Christian values are lacking..
    I would love to read about it.. With all due respect.

  • Cowpoke

    My Brother Mikael, with all due respect here is a quote from Cullen in this thread topic ” We should make them WANT to stay here. This has nothing to do with politics. It just makes good sound sense.”

    Well, I agree, They SHOULD WANT to stay here and ASSIMILATE but the troubling fact is that there are in FACT those who do not wish to and seek only to exploit our nations open kindness in ways that hinder us less able to be a nation that is a shining light on the hill for all.
    The world is a bad place and the US should be a shining beacon for those who TRULY seek refuge.. However, we must also be vigilant that despots are for real and their ideology is ever alive seeking to latch on to what ever weakness we may show, and if it be VIA Unwittingly College kids be their vehicle, THEY WILL USE IT.. Just sayin..

  • Frenchy

    Just sharing my personal experience as a recent graduate of University of San Diego:
    – I am a French citizen who arrived in the US in 2008 to study under an F1 student visa
    – Graduated in Finance in USD in May 2012
    – As a part of the F1 visa, I am allowed to stay 1 year to work (temporary work permit called OPT).
    – Problem: no one wants to hire you if you do not have a green card or a x-year long work authorization such as H1B (this is a very hard visa to get if you are not an engineer; companies are extremely reluctant to sponsor young individuals without work experience).
    – The few alternatives for someone like me who desires to stay in the US are (basically the ways to obtain a green card and therefore the right to work):
    => Get married with an American woman (my girlfriend is Spanish).
    => Apply for an EB5 visa which states that you need to invest…wait for it…$1,000,000 in a company of your choice (preferably where you can have some control over the management of the company), or invest $500,000 in a regional center where you have absolutely no control over your investment.
    => Apply for an E2 investor visa which allows you to stay in the US between 2 and 5 years (visa is renewable) if you do the following: invest $100,000 in a NEW business, create at least 2-3 full time jobs. ObviousIy if you are not profitable it becomes very problematic. I am going for that one.

    This is no random BS as I have been meeting with several immigration lawyers to find out all the possible ways to stay in my situation.

    Good luck to the rest of you like me out there.

  • zmt63

    The benefits of Cullen’s arguement greatly outweigh the negatives – – and fortunately there are a few poticians on both sides of the aisle that agree. The only problem is that there are too few. Canada has been a primary beneficiary of the US’s backwards immigration policy. It has not seemed to hurt them one bit….

  • Dennis


    Please see Lee Kuan Yew, Corazon Aquino (yellow revolution), Mikheil Saakashvili (rose revolution), just to name a few. When you investigate further of these names, surely you’ll find controversies or skeletons. That’s normal. We’re only human, not a saint. Their achievements maybe pale, but keep in mind that just because individual wants to change their countries for the better and enrich the lives of their fellow countrymen does not mean that they’ll be successful. This is understandable. Human do not like changes, for we are creatures of habits. It is all about making small and continuous progress. So the transformation sometimes will not be done within our lifetime. By the way, when you mention planting seed, you know that planting the seeds to the time you get an apple tree that yields delicious apples will take years (hence a Chinese proverb: 10 years to plant a tree, 100 years to plant people), and it’s impossible for an apple tree to yield equally delicious apples without a few bad ones.

    This’s a link that provide the names of a few leaders that doing good for the world and their countries. http://www.isionline.org/ChurchPartners/WorldLeaderswhostudiedintheUS.aspx
    There is a longer list of world leaders who obtained US education and transforming their countries available on the internet for your curiosity.

  • Mikael Olsson

    But ehrmagehrd! Dey tewk arr jerbs!

  • William Bedloe

    I didn’t realize Al Qaeda and other offshoots are trying to establish major footholds in Sweden. You learn something new every day!

  • William Bedloe

    The funny thing that happened in our company (after the not so funny layoffs of most of the less protected workers in the UK, US and Australia) happened in India and other countries like Egypt. The people our company hired for Help Desk found better paying jobs with the competing international company that had offices down the street and staged a mass walk out! 30 employees did not show up for work one day after they were trained by our company – they got better paying jobs and moved on! They still get paid far less than their counterparts in the US, but even their salaries are inching up!

  • ES71

    > The US government wants foreign students to study here in the US

    I don’t think US govenment wants it actually. It doesn’t promote it at all and refuses student visas quite often.
    It is US universities that want foreign students because they pay 2-3-4-5 times more than an american student. They are profitable.
    You give US govenment more credit than it deserves.

  • ES71

    > there is a H1B program which allows companies to hire these students as long term contractors.

    H1B program is not big enough to hire them all, there is a quote of 75 thousand per year which gets filled in January-Febraury. Most students have hard time getting H1B visas.
    Yet US brings at least 5 times as many people to the US on family unification visas. Many of these people are going to be dependents and not contribute to the economy.

  • William Bedloe

    Unfortunately, when you speak of immigration today, the well seems poisoned. Lost in all the talk of dealing with illegal immigration is LEGAL immigration. There is nothing wrong with making it attractive for the best and brightest in the world to want to stay here, because in the end, it benefits us all. However, illegal immigration hurts everyone. When I was a kid, there was nothing wrong with getting a job cutting grass or working at McDonald’s. It was a good way to earn some money – now, it’s frowned upon by many young people as work that is beneath them. So, you have immigrants filling the void, some of them legal, some of them not. For me, I would rather have kids today working for their fancy smartphone as opposed to stealing money from mommy’s purse. In the end, it is important to make the distinction – doing so makes it less of a talking point and more of a serious issue.

  • ES71

    > The problem with H1B is that it hasn’t kept up with the times. It used to be for genuinely high tech work, doctors, etc. Now, any programming work qualifies.

    This is not exactly true ion my experience. Because of dififcultues with H1B visas companies started hiring rank-and-file programmers in India, i.e. offshore.
    The end results? US is losing the expertise because the younger generation of programmers now resides in India while americans get no programming jobs.
    It is the law of unintended consequneces – restricting H1B program lead to talen investment abroad and worse outcome for the US.
    But americans don’t want to acknowledge that they are wrong.

  • Lucas

    Even stranger, if you happened to get married while in the US and have a child or two, unless your spouse was a US citizen, there is no mechanism that will facilitate parents staying in the country to care for their born-US-citizen children. Remember these children are citizens of the US with all the rights thereto. US immigration says that when the child is 18, the child can apply for an expedited green card for their parents. Problem is by the time a child is 18, the parents do not NEED to stay in the US to meet their child care responsibilities. If these parents want to raise their US citizen child in the US, they have to go back and forth on tourist visas. Hard to establish a secure career base that way.

  • bob

    the bigger question is; why are we educating the rest of the world (whether they stay here or not)? shouldn’t we be more concerned with getting our own citizens educated without crushing them under a mountain of student debt?

  • ES71

    Don’t worry . It is not done out of charity. If US colleges didn’t bring foreign students then american students would have to pay significantly more. Foreign students are a big source of revenue for US colleges.

  • MG

    Agree…US immigration policy is a nightmare….

    Worse after 9/11….in trying to keep the bad apples out, a lot of good people can’t stay in…


  • Mikael Olsson

    My cunning plan is to fool Americans into coming here to Sweden and bombing the hell out of them here, well out of reach of the department of homeland security.

  • Bond Vigilante

    This is the most compelling evidence that the US education system is broke/broken. When the US can’t recruit enough talent from its own population and has to rely on foreigners then it tells how bankrupt the US education system.

  • Mikael Olsson

    PISA studies already showed US education being… well.. sub-par. Of course we know that the answer will be “more private schools! they are the way forward!”. Which completely contradicts everything that the PISA studies point at – public schools, with well-paid positions attracting smart people that want to teach.

  • Dave Francis


    Over the first two year period, Nov. 4, 2012 will mark the National Remembrance Day for those killed by illegal migrants and immigrants. The National Remembrance Day was conceived by the Tea Party Immigration Coalition (TPIC) and last year, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) announced his sponsorship of a declaration making the first Sunday of every November the day we honor those Americans killed by illegal aliens. These numbers are in the hundreds of thousands, from drunken drivers, female assaults to child molesters. These daily occurrences hardly ever hit the headlines, because the Liberal media suffocates the facts to the general public. For far too long, we have sat around and watched as our fellow citizens die every year at the hands of illegal aliens, while our elected officials simply ignore the ever-growing crisis. The federal government does not keep comprehensive statistics (may be intentionally) on the number of crimes committed in this country by illegal aliens. On November 3, Rep. King, stood in silence just outside the Capitol building with Congressman Walter Jones, activists Jeff Lewis and TPIC founder John Stahl stood alongside Jamiel Shaw Sr.( a California athlete shot because he was dressed in the wrong colors) and Ray Tranchant My 16-year-old daughter, Tessa, was killed by a drunken illegal alien in Virginia Beach three years ago while sitting at a stop light (both of whom lost their children to the uncontrolled and even murderous actions of illegal aliens) and said:

    “These are real human misery stories, where there’s real hurt and real agony going on a daily basis in the United States of America, and we treat it as if it’s just some kind of acceptable disruption of our lives. It’s not. It’s an interruption of innocent lives that takes place because we have years of administrations that refuses to enforce immigration law.” Even before the Obama administration little was done to cauterize the murderous rampage of foreign nationals in our nation. For those lost, there are no wreath-laying ceremonies, no flag lowering or community congregations. For those families who are left behind truly suffer in silence. Perhaps if one of the immediate family members of politicians was slaughtered on the highway, or one of their children disappeared or a spouse was attacked, then they would expedite the right laws to stop these hideous travesties. Let us see how quick Democrat majority leader Harry Reid would fly into legislative action if on a Nevada highway he was holding in his bloody hands his injured daughter or GOP speaker of the House John Boehner, that one of two daughters was assaulted in Cincinnati, Ohio.



  • micro2macro

    Dave, Have you been skipping your medication again?

  • Mikael Olsson

    I think you will find that the vast vast vast majority of crime is committed by American citizens. Just sayin’.