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International Students and American Competitiveness

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For more, read AAU President Barbara R. Snyder's blog on the must keep attracting the best and the brightest from around the world.

As the organizations representing the presidents of America’s leading research universities and the chief executive officers of America’s leading companies, the Association of American Universities and Business Roundtable recognize that the United States’ continued global competitiveness depends on developing, attracting and retaining top international science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) talent. International students, scientists and engineers help drive cutting-edge research and development, fill job openings in critical STEM fields, advance national security and bolster the U.S. economy by generating new domestic startups and businesses.

To ensure that America’s doors remain open to international talent, this report will highlight the importance of the international talent pipeline and examine the symbiotic relationship between academic institutions in the United States and the business community. The report will show the many ways that international talent bolsters our nation’s economy and our innovation ecosystem; detail the challenges to attracting and retaining international talent that exist throughout the U.S. immigration system; highlight the increasing competition we face from other countries in terms of attracting and retaining international talent; and present public policy recommendations to ensure that the United States continues to attract the world’s best and brightest.


The recommendations include:

1.) Allowing individuals with advanced degrees in STEM fields from accredited U.S.universities, or foreign equivalents, to be exempted from the employment-based green card limit.

2.) Eliminating the requirement that students prove an intention to return to their home country upon conclusion of their studies to qualify for a nonimmigrant student visa.

3.) Increasing the number of H-1B visas available and exempting from the annual visa cap H-1B professionals with advanced degrees in STEM fields from accredited U.S. universities or foreign degree equivalents.

4.) Reforming or repealing policies that place international students at a disadvantage in obtaining H-1B status.

5.) Creating immigrant and nonimmigrant visa categories for foreign entrepreneurs.

6.) Streamlining the definition of STEM.

7.) Maintaining flexibility in high-skilled visa categories by avoiding overly bureaucratic rules that restrict access to high-skilled workers.

8.) Reviewing visa policies for graduate students to ensure that the evaluation criteria protect American interests and are not so broad as to eliminate suitable candidates.

9.) Attracting and retaining the STEM talent necessary for protecting U.S. national security interests.

America’s strength lies in its openness, freedom of ideas and our historic ability to benefit from the contributions of people from around the world. As our national competitiveness and national security increasingly depend on our ability to innovate, it is crucial that our immigration policies assist, rather than hinder, our pursuit of the world’s top talent. The United States is a nation of immigrants — and we must continue to be if we are to successfully compete as a global science and technology leader.

Read the full report