Successful companies recruit new employees by pursuing the best and brightest with a diverse set of experiences, education, and skills to grow their business. America’s immigration policies should similarly seek to recruit limited numbers of immigrants from a diverse set of nations who offer the most value to grow America’s economy for the 21st Century.

In 1970, roughly half of our immigrants came from the top 10 leading economies. Today the world’s 10 leading economies (following the U.S.) include China, Japan, Germany, U.K. France, Brazil, Italy, India, Russia, and Canada. While these 10 nations contribute to 45% of global GDP, they represent only 18% of our immigrants over the last 30 years.

We should be targeting immigrants from the most innovative nations across the world. Bloomberg recently ranked innovative nations based on their research and development, high-tech companies, and patents among other factors. The U.S. ranked third behind South Korea and Sweden.  Other leaders included Japan, Germany, Denmark, Singapore, Switzerland, Finland, Taiwan, and Canada.

We can also target immigrants coming from the world’s leading education systems: Canada, Finland, Japan, Poland, Singapore, Estonia, Hong Kong, South Korea, China, and Taiwan.

Yet instead of targeting immigrants from leading economies with innovative and educated workforces, the top 10 countries of origin for immigrants since 1986 include:


These 10 nations represent 60% of our legal immigrants over the last 30 years. Instead of tapping the largest, most successful economies, half the list ranks outside the top 50. Only two nations rank in the top 50 for innovation. Only three nations rank in the top 40 for education.

When you look at the full list of countries of origin for U.S. immigrants, you will see some shocking results:

  • The U.S. welcomed more immigrants from the poor, tiny island nations of the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Jamaica than all of Europe.
  • We have roughly the same number of immigrants from our hostile adversaries Iran and Pakistan as our closest allies Canada and the U.K.
  • In 1970, Italy had the largest share of immigrants, today Italy ranks 55th, with twice as many coming from Iraq than Italy.
  • Nearly five times as many come from Afghanistan (with a 28% literacy rate) than our key ally Australia with the 12th largest economy.
  • More immigrants come from the Philippines than China or India who each have 10 times the population and economy.
  • Japan with the third largest economy is on par with Trinidad and Tobago, the 100th largest economy.
  • We welcome more from Bangladesh (one of the world’s least developed nations) than economic superpower Germany

As we seek to grow our economy for future generations, the U.S. clearly is not recruiting immigrants from the world’s leading nations. Why are we issuing millions of visas to some of the poorest, uneducated nations in the world? In addition to reducing the number of visas issued annually from one million, the U.S. must also reallocate the visas issued among nations. To grow our economy for the 21st Century, the U.S. must prioritize visas for educated immigrants coming from thriving, innovative economies.

The author of this guest opinion is a federal policy analyst.