News Release 

Rethinking immigration policies for STEM Ph.D.'s

American Association for the Advancement of Science

Research News

While U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have supported policies aimed at retaining top U.S.-trained scientists and engineers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, Michael Roach and John Skrentny argue that current immigration policies make the path to permanent residency for foreign-born Ph.D.'s complicated and uncertain. Using data from a survey that followed 1,597 U.S. citizen and foreign-born science and engineering Ph.D.'s from U.S. research universities into their first industry jobs, Roach and Skrentny show that the highly controversial H-1B visa has become the first step many newly minted foreign doctorates follow to obtain permanent residency. While the H-1B is a "non-immigrant" temporary visa and was designed to fill short-term labor shortages by entry-level workers, the authors found that it's used by nearly two-thirds of foreign Ph.D.'s as a first step to permanent residency. And not because it's the required or the most suitable visa for obtaining a green card - but because of inefficiencies and delays in the alternatives available to Ph.D.'s seeking residency. Roach and Skrentny highlight the limitations of the H-1B and the need to streamline the path from doctorate to permanent resident and offer several suggestions for visa reforms tailored to foreign-born Ph.D.'s. "Our findings align with the proposed immigration policies of the President-elect Biden, who within his first 100 days intends to implement a program that would provide recent STEM doctorates from U.S. universities with a green card that is exempt from national quotas," write Roach and Skrentny.

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