Global collaboration is critical to achieving innovative outcomes in scientific research. No matter what country you examine, scientific achievement would be nonexistent without a global network of perspectives and resources that help create an international framework for solving problems and improving lives. America is no exception to this fact, and that is why ICEB-2019-0006, a proposal by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Bureau (ICE) is a direct threat to the success and future of American scientific research. For the good of all Americans who depend on advances in technology and healthcare, this policy should be roundly rejected.
Education is not a linear path. International students enrolled in scientific studies undertake complicated projects that often change and evolve through the course of their research. A traditional Ph.D. program involves a minimum commitment of five to six years; well beyond the proposed limitation of two to four years now outlined in this policy. Postdoctoral scholars, who utilize J visas, also take usually around five to six years to complete their research projects and are one of the important pillars for scientific progress. Placing international students into unrealistic time frames hinders their education and threatens to limit their contributions to our universities and institutions.
Within the current system, applications to extend visas can take up to 19.5 months to process (1). Requiring students to submit these applications more frequently will overload the system, creating unprecedented delays, excessive financial burdens, and unacceptable levels of uncertainty for the applicant.
Beyond the implications for the students, this policy change is unnecessary and costly to American taxpayers. The policy itself states that it would require an annualized cost ranging from $229.9 million to $237.8 million to implement (2) when in reality every academic institution is already required to have a designated Visa officer to report on the status of international students who are in the United States with an F, M, or J Visa. There is absolutely no indication that this system is not working, and in fact, the number of international students who overstay their visas is documented to be only 1.52%, well below the average for foreign visa entries in other categories (3).
The presence of international students is good for the economy. In Florida, where there are more than 45,000 international students, $1.6 billion in economic contributions can be attributed to this group. International students studying at U.S. colleges and universities contribute $41.0 billion and support 458,290 jobs to the U.S. economy. For every seven international students, three U.S. jobs are created and supported by spending occurring in the higher education, accommodation, dining, retail, transportation, telecommunications, and health insurance sectors.(4)
The relationship between an international student and an academic institution is far from one sided. While international students gain degrees during their stay in the United States, thousands of United States universities and research facilities gain talented scientists with diverse perspectives and creative approaches to problem-solving.
At the postdoctoral level, the participation of foreign doctorate holders is 56% in engineering, 50% in mathematics, and 42% in physical sciences. Data show that since 1990, approximately 50% of the U.S. Nobel laureates in the scientific and technical disciplines were foreign-born. The success of scientific discoveries and progress in research and development in the US is thus to a large extent dependent on foreign nationals playing an essential role in the US research environment(5). The scientific community needs international students and postdocs if we are going to continue to achieve ground-breaking results that position our country as a world leader in innovation.
Scientific research benefits every single one of us. Therefore, we urge the Department of Homeland security to reject ICEB-2019-0006 in order to advance the best interests of all citizens of our nation, and the world at large.
CEO and Scientific Director
Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience
Douglas A. Bingham
Executive Vice President, Florida Operations
How to Help:
to leave a comment opposing these unnecessary and costly restrictions to scientific innovation or contact your representatives to voice your concern about the adoption of this policy.
- https://egov.uscis.gov/processing-times/ I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, California Service Center as of March 25, 2019
- Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 187 / Friday, September 25, 2020 / Proposed Rules 60531
- National Research Council (US) Committee on Policy Implications of International Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Scholars in the United States. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2005.