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Lehman, Lee & Xu - China Immigration Lawyers Alert

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Congress must reform immigration laws that send top STEM graduates to China


Jonas Korlach left Cornell with a Ph.D. in biochemistry, a patent on technology that effectively reads the entire human genome, and an idea that spawned a company now employing 285 people and generating more than $30 million in revenue per year. Yet because of American immigration laws, Dr. Jonas would have been kicked out of the United States, along with his invention, the jobs he created, and the revenue his company generates, had a US Congres

Thousands of immigrants earn advanced degrees from top US universities every year. They train under our best faculty (many of whom are also immigrants), conduct cutting-edge research, and leave with the skills and knowledge necessary to power our innovation economy. But with a dysfunctional immigration policy, America is now losing these creators of tomorrow’s great companies to competitors abroad.

OPINION: 3 reasons why China isn't overtaking the US 

Consider the case of Dr. Neta Zach, who came to New York City as a postdoctoral associate and became an intern to learn business development at Cornell’s Center for Technology Enterprise and Commercialization. Dr. Zach was offered several positions with innovative companies eager to use her knowledge and skills, but they all fell through due to visa restrictions. Even receiving a faculty position at another university was not enough to extend her visa, and she had to leave the US. She is now living in Israel, where she works as a scientific director for a nonprofit company that drives the development of treatments for Lou Gherig’s disease.

Zach isn’t alone. She and other talented foreign-born graduates – particularly those in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields – face bureaucratic hurdles and delays in accessing the few visas and green cards allotted each year that would grant them temporary or permanent residence in the US.

Before the emergence of a global economy, it made sense to require foreign students to return to their home countries when they completed their degrees. By educating future leaders, American universities were helping to build robust bonds between cultures and establish long-lasting relations between their governments. Returning home, foreign students also helped to stimulate demand for American know-how, technology, and products. In turn, this meant jobs for American workers.

These days, when barriers to international commerce have all but disappeared, America’s outdated immigration policy has become a drag on our national economy. The bipartisan Partnership for a New American Economy recently found that of the more than 1,500 patents filed by the 10 leading US universities or university systems in 2011, more than 75 percent have foreign-born inventors.

Many more of these patents, like Jonas Korlach’s, could lead to American companies and American jobs if Congress had the political courage and discipline to overhaul our immigration laws. Top graduates from China and India face backlogs of up to nine years before they receive their green cards, and the bottlenecks have gotten so bad that new applicants from India face projected wait times of many months to decades.

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Edward Lehman 雷曼法学博士
Managing Director 董事长

LEHMAN, LEE & XU China Lawyers
Founder of LehmanBrown

Lehman, Lee & Xu is a top-tier Chinese law firm specializing in corporate, commercial, intellectual property, and labor and employment matters. For further information on any issue discussed in this edition of China Immigration Lawyers Alert or for all other enquiries, please e-mail us at mail@lehmanlaw.com or visit our website at www.lehmanlaw.com and Mongolia www.lehmanlaw.mn.

Lehman, Lee & Xu Mongolia is one of the first and only international law firms with a full time presence in Mongolia.  Our Ulaanbaatar office is staffed with resident foreign legal consultants having significant experience in Mongolia and qualified Mongolian attorneys. The firm’s foreign legal consultants and local attorneys are fully acquainted and experienced with Mongolia’s laws and legal system, business climate and political affairs. For any Mongolian legal matters please refer to our Mongolian website www.lehmanlaw.mn.

© Lehman, Lee & Xu 2012.
This document has been created for educational purposes for clients, potential clients and referrers of services to Lehman, Lee & Xu, and to alert readers to the services provided by Lehman, Lee & Xu. It is not intended to serve as definitive professional or legal advice, and should not be relied upon as such. Lehman, Lee & Xu does not endorse any personal opinions which may be contained herein.
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