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Foreign Talent wasted in the United States

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On Thursday, December 12th, 2013, the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) held a conference in Washington, DC, to tackle the worrying brain waste among immigrant professionals in the United States. The event “marked the release of MPI’s final project report on international cooperation for the mutual recognition of foreign credentials”.

The Migration Policy Institute in Washington, DC states that “Immigration and the circulation of skilled professionals has become a major source of human capital in the United States and across the advanced industrialized world. Despite this reality, internationally mobile workers are often unable to put their skills and experience obtained abroad to good use. The resulting waste of human capital represents a loss to employers, destination economies, and immigrants themselves” (MPI).

This event, a two year research initiative by MPI, brought together international experts and policymakers such as Constantinos Fotakis, former Employment and Social Analysis Advisor to the European Commission; Johan E. Uvin, Assistant Secretary of Policy and Strategic Initiatives in the US Department of Education’s Office of Vocational and Adult Education, Eric Theroux, Quebec’s Assistant Deputy Minister, Ministry of International Relations, La Francophonie, and external trade, among others.

The talent of hundreds of highly skilled foreigners (architects, artists, doctors, teachers, engineers, and business professionals) is wasted as they are forced to work as taxi drivers, cleaners, waiters, and cashiers when they arrive in the US.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, in this country there is a shortage of more than 5,800 primary care physicians; 4,600 dentists; and 3,700 mental health HPSAs, who are urgently needed to meet the needs of the American public. Still, stringent requirements set up particularly daunting barriers that keep capable foreign doctors and nurses from working in their professions when they move to the US.

“Because of the United States’ decentralized federal system, no single structure governs professional certification in regulated occupations”, states MPI.

In other countries with high immigration rates, highly skilled migrants are now being recognized. In Germany, for example, the new Professional Qualifications Assessment Act (BQFG) aims to solve the problem of a shortage of skilled workers. So, in Germany, most of the 3 million qualified foreigners will now be able to work in their chosen degrees and specializations.

In the United States, Michigan could perhaps be considered a success story when compared to other states in the country. The automotive industry recognizes that there is a shortage of American students in engineering fields, and that their source of human capital relies on immigrant professionals from countries such as China, Mexico, and India.

MPI’s “Credential Recognition in the United States for Foreign Professionals”, a project funded by the European Union states that “Foreign-trained professionals in the United States often encounter significant obstacles on the path to professional practice”.

Also according to MPI ”…there are approximately 420,000 new legal immigrants to the US every year, a number that has been consistent since 1996. Still, the percentage of employment-preference immigrants varied only slightly between 12% to 22% in the past 10 years.

In 2012, immigrants who came to the US sponsored by US employers represented 14% of the total legal immigration last year.

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