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Rethinking Immigration Policies for STEM Doctorates

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A streamlined process for awarding green cards to international STEM doctoral students graduating from U.S. universities could benefit American innovation and competitiveness, including leveling the field for startups eager to attract such highly skilled workers, according to a study by researchers from Cornell and the University of California, San Diego.

The new Biden administration backs policy reform aimed at achieving that end, which was part of bipartisan legislation proposed more than a decade ago. But progress has been stalled by broader concerns about visas — particularly the temporary H-1B, commonly used to hire guest IT workers — that critics say displace Americans with lower-paid foreign labor and should be scaled back.

The new study presents evidence that the same concerns shouldn't apply to foreign-born STEM doctorates from U.S. universities, says Michael Roach, the J. Thomas and Nancy W. Clark Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship in the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, in the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business.

"Given that these doctorates often possess highly specialized skills and training at the leading edge of research in areas like vaccines, artificial intelligence, robotics, and space, blanket visa restrictions could significantly impact U.S. firms' ability to hire and retain the best and brightest scientists," Roach says.

"Rethinking Immigration Polices for STEM Doctorates," by Roach and co-author John Skrentny, professor of sociology at UC San Diego, is published in the journal Science.

From Cornell University
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