After working for a year at a Massachusetts startup, 33-year-old Lakshminarayana Ganti decided to take a quick trip to visit his family in India. Instead, he entered a "bureaucratic nightmare that would cost him his job, his car, and his life in the United States." Ganti's Orwellian journey through the bureaucracy of the U.S. immigration system -- recounted in an article by Ted Alden on the cover of this week's Newsweek International -- is emblematic of a larger problem, Alden writes: the brain drain of skilled immigrants from the United States, which New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has dubbed “a form of national suicide.”

Ganti got an H-1B in July 2007. But to come back into the country, he still needed to be interviewed by a State Department official in India.

When he tried to return to the United States, he was told his application required additional review. His application had raised a red flag, Alden writes, most likely for what's called a Visas Mantis review, because of Ganti's training in electrical engineering. Since Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. government has paid special attention to visa applications from anyone who has skills that could be used militarily.

Back in Massachusetts, Ganti's company was struggling under Wall Street's economic downturn. Ganti lost his job, and with it, his H-1B visa.

"The United States, a country built by generations of ambitious, hardworking newcomers, no longer wants to attract skilled immigrants,” Alden writes. “While there has been much debate about how to secure the southern border against illegal immigration, the deterioration of the system for attracting and retaining skilled immigrants has received scant notice, though the consequences for the U.S. economy are far more significant.”

Among the ways the U.S. is committing "national suicide," Alden writes, its through its "vast, opaque system of visa checks," and the "quota on temporary work visas for skilled foreigners, which is less than half what it was a decade ago."

Some skilled immigrants from India face waits of up to 35 years for a green card, according to Prakash Khatri, former ombudsman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

In a survey of more than 1,000 foreign students at American universities in 2008, Duke University professor Vivek Wadhwa and UC Berkeley professor AnnaLee Saxenian found that only 6 percent of Indian students and 10 percent of Chinese students said they planned to stay in the United States. Three quarters of those interviewed said they were afraid they wouldn't be able to get a visa.

“The United States,” Wadhwa is quoted as saying, “is experiencing a brain drain for the first time in its history, yet its leaders do not appear to be aware of this.”

Ted Alden is a contributing writer to New America Media and author of "The Closing of the American Border: Terrorism, Immigration and Security Since 9/11."