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Policy Factsheet

International STEM Students: Key to American Innovation

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Members of Congress should reintroduce and support the “Keep STEM Talent Act,” which would make the United States more attractive to international STEM students.

International Students Benefit U.S. Economy

  • Even amid the pandemic, international students contributed nearly $28.4 billion to the U.S. economy and supported more than 300,000 jobs during the 2020-21 academic year.
  • As of 2022, one-quarter of the billion-dollar startup companies in the U.S. have a founder who first came to America as an international student.

International Students Benefit U.S. Science

Key Contributions of International Students and Scholars, According to American Physicists

Bar chart with three columns: 1. Diverse points of view 85%, 2. New ideas, 79%, 3. Strong scientific knowledge, 85%

Source: APS Building America’s STEM Workforce report

U.S. Losing Ability to Attract Global Talent

Students and researchers considering, or have considered, pursuing a career in a country other than the U.S.

Two donut charts showing willingness to leave the U.S.: 47% of established international scholars who received their PhD before 2018, and 73% of international students and early caereer scientists

Current students and early career researchers are more likely to consider leaving the U.S. than those who got their PhDs earlier.

Reported Factors in Considering Pursuing a Career in a Country Other Than the U.S.

Percentage of respondents that chose the following options

Horizontal bar chart showing reasons early career physicists and students are wiling to leave the U.S.: Bar 1: Pathway to permanent residency or citizenship, 67%, Bar 2: Perception of the U.S. being unwelcoming to foreigners, 53%, Bar 3: Better employment opportunities, 51%, Bar 4: Proximity to family, 44%, Bar 5: Financial considerations, 40%

Results from Fall 2022 APS survey of more than 200 international physics graduate students currently in the U.S. and early career professionals, i.e., APS members who are PhD graduates with fewer than five years of experience, who are working in the United States, and are holding or have held U.S. visas.

The “Keep Stem Talent Act” Puts Us on the Right Track

International students interested in pursuing STEM degrees in the U.S. can be denied F-1 student visas if they declare an intent to live and work in the U.S. upon graduation. After earning their degrees, these students can face difficulties in becoming lawful permanent residents and be stuck on temporary work visas for years.

The “Keep STEM Talent Act” would address these issues by: (1) authorizing international students pursuing advanced STEM degrees in the U.S. to express dual intent and legally declare their plan to pursue careers in the U.S. post-graduation, and (2) exempting international students who earn advanced STEM degrees from U.S. institutions and receive offers of employment from U.S. companies from green card caps.

With competition for the top international students growing, the “Keep STEM Talent Act” would help attract the best and brightest students to U.S. universities and encourage them to become Americans and contribute their skills to our scientific enterprise.

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