To create the most attractive setting for study, research and commercialization—and to attract international students, scholars, scientists, engineers, and mathematicians—the United States government needs to take steps to encourage international students and scholars to remain in the United States. These steps should be taken because of the contributions these people make to the United States and their home country.
As discussed in COSEPUP’s international students report, a knowledge-driven economy is more productive if it has access to the best talent regardless of national origin. International graduate students and postdoctoral scholars are integral to the quality and effectiveness of the US science and engineering (S&E) enterprise. If the flow of these students and scholars were sharply reduced, research and academic work would suffer until an alternative source of talent were found. There would be a fairly immediate effect in university graduate departments and laboratories and a later cumulative effect on hiring in universities, industry, and government. There is no evidence that modest, gradual changes in the flow like those experienced in the recent past would have an adverse effect.
High-end innovation is a crucial factor for the success of the US economy. To maintain excellence in S&E research, which fuels high-end innovation, the United States must be able to recruit talented people. A substantial proportion of those talented people—students, postdoctoral scholars, and researchers—currently come from other countries.
The shift to staffing research and teaching positions at universities with nontenured staff, which depends in large part on a supply of international graduate students and postdoctoral scholars, should be the subject of a major study.
Multinational corporations (MNCs) hire international PhDs in similar proportion to the output of university graduate and postdoctoral programs. The proportion of international researchers in several large MNCs is around 30-50%. MNCs appreciate international diversity in their research staff. They pay foreign-born and domestic researchers the same salaries, which are based on degree, school, and benchmarks in the industry.
It is neither possible nor desirable to restrict US S&E positions to US citizens; this could reduce industries’ and universities’ access to much of the world’s talent and remove a substantial element of diversity from our society.
One study of Silicon Valley illustrates the importance of international scientists and engineers to the US economy. It found that
By the end of the 1990s, Chinese and Indian engineers were running 29 percent of Silicon Valley’s technology businesses. By 2000, these companies collectively accounted for more than $19.5 billion in sales and 72,839 jobs. And the pace of immigrant entrepreneurship has accelerated dramatically in the last decade….