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The U.S. could lose top talent

Unlike the US, the EU seems to be welcoming foreign professionals.

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The European Union took a step recently that the United States Congress can't seem to muster the courage to take. By proposing a simple change in immigration policy, EU politicians served notice that they are serious about competing with the US and Asia to attract the world's top talent to live, work, and innovate in Europe.

With Congress gridlocked on immigration, it's clear that the next Silicon Valley will not be in the United States.

European politicians face many of the same political pressures surrounding immigration as their US counterparts, and they, too, are not immune to these pressures. Nationalist and anti-immigrant factions in several Western European countries have made political gains in recent elections and are widely viewed as mainstream.

Despite the hot-button nature of immigration issues, though, EU politicians advanced the "Blue Card" proposal in October.

The plan is designed to attract highly educated workers by creating a temporary but renewable two-year visa. A streamlined application process allows qualified prospective workers to navigate the system and start working in high-need jobs within one to three months.

This contrasts starkly with the byzantine system in place in the US, which increasingly threatens America's long-term competitiveness.

The US relies primarily on two programs to augment the American workforce with highly educated, highly skilled foreign professionals. The H-1B visa is a three-year temporary visa that can be renewed once. The employment-based (EB) green card is the program for permanent residency.

Both programs serve the needs of US employers seeking to fill job vacancies in highly skilled professions. Extreme shortages of visas in both these programs are well documented.H-1B visas, which are capped at 85,000 per year, are now gone in one day, with the "winners" determined by lottery.The EB green card program has an annual allotment of 140,000 visas; these are allocated equally across all countries around the world, regardless of population.

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