A bipartisan groups of U.S. senators today unveiled a proposal for comprehensive immigration reform. Most of the attention is focused on the fact that they would create a pathway to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants in the U.S.
But of particular interest to Canada may be a provision that was first proposed by Mitt Romney during the presidential campaign: awarding automatic permanent residence (including the right to work in the U.S.) to students who earn advanced degrees in certain fields at U.S. universities.
The senator’s “framework” says:
The United States must do a better job of attracting and keeping the world’s best and brightest. As such, our immigration proposal will award a green card to immigrants who have received a PhD or Master’s degree in science, technology, engineering, or math from an American university. It makes no sense to educate the world’s future innovators and entrepreneurs only to ultimately force them to leave our country at the moment they are most able to contribute to our economy.
I wrote about this when Romney first proposed it. Some analysts say the move could create a new challenge as Canada competes for skilled immigrants around the world — and seeks to keep its own skilled labour at home:
A policy of automatic permanent residency to foreign students would have “fairly large implications for Canada,” which has sought to attract skilled workers from around the world by taking steps to help foreign students settle permanently in Canada after graduation, says Christopher Warwick, an immigration economist at Carleton University. For foreign students choosing between the U.S. and Canada, “the knowledge that you could get permanent residency and a path to citizenship makes the U.S. more attractive,” he says.
It could also mean more Canadian students would seek to study and stay in the U.S., sparking a “brain drain.” Already, the largest source of foreign-born, masters and PhD students in the U.S. come from Canadian schools, says Don DeVoretz, an economics professor emeritus at Simon Fraser University who specializes in immigration. “This,” he says “would accelerate it.”
Worth watching this one.