Immigration is one of those topics that I don’t like to think about, because the current mess we have in this country tends to just get me depressed. Earlier today, I saw a flowchart from Reason’s October 2008 issue showing how complicated and screwed-up our immigration process is. The basic takeaway is that barring a couple of exceptions (mostly if they have a spouse, parent, or child who is a citizen), even getting to the point of having a green card can take many years, with citizenship often taking far longer than that.
I saw this a lot in the Philippines while I was on my mission. Lots of people I knew who put off getting formally married in order to increase their odds of getting a green card (the plan typically being that once they had one, they’d go back get married, and bring their family over). Which, in case you couldn’t guess my feelings on the matter, I think was a particularly perverse incentive.
The frustrating part though for us in the commercial space industry though is that it means that it becomes nearly impossible to recruit foreign talent–even from friendly countries like Canada. In order to legally share ITAR restricted information with someone, without permission from the State Department, they have to be either a US citizen, or at least a permanent resident (ie a green card holder). As you can see from the chart, if a potential foreign employee doesn’t have a relative who is a US citizen or permanent resident, it can take several years between when they start working for you and when they get their green card. Unfortunately, for aerospace work, an H-1B visa isn’t (as I understand it) sufficient to meet the requirements of ITAR, so you would have to employ the person for several years in some sort of position that didn’t expose them to ITAR-sensitive data. Or alternatively you’d have to go through the process to get State Department approval to speak with your own employee.
All this just goes to show how self-destructive and short sighted both of these bureaucratic messes are. Part of what made America great was its ability to attract and assimilate the best and brightest from around the world. But in the case of Aerospace, not only is the government making it harder to speak with foreigners in general, but its also making it harder for US firms to actually hire away the best and brightest. But I guess that’s what happens when scare mongering against the Scary Brown Other and trying to score cheap political points by sticking-it to those “treasonous libruls” takes precedence over promoting the security, prosperity, and competitiveness of ones own country.