The Battle for Foreign Talent
Upon his first day in office, President Biden introduced the comprehensive legislation known as the “U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021.” As a whole, this legislation would introduce reforms allowing the United States to be better equipped to manage borders, preserve safety, and regulate migration. In particular, this bill aims to alleviate the burdening citizenship process for immigrants recently graduating from U.S. universities in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields. Most immigrants are apprehensive about their ability to remain in the U.S. and find employment upon completing advanced degree education. But President Biden's new legislation proposes a hint of hope for international students.
If immigrants can remain in the U.S. after graduation, it would be easier for them to find employment faster. Many international students currently face employment-based visa backlogs, extensive wait times for visas, and per-country visa quotas, but this citizenship legislation aims to eliminate all of these burdens. Additionally, Biden would increase the number of visa cards allocated for permanent, employment-based immigration. International students would be more willing to come to the U.S. to study and eventually to work. The National Science Foundation stated that fifty-seven percent of engineering PhDs in 2018 had become issued to student-visa holders. And in mathematics and computer science PhDs, a little over half were awarded to student-visa holders. Immigrants are a large majority of STEM doctoral graduates and can contribute to the U.S. economy immensely. If the new legislation is approved, talented immigrants in the STEM sector would be able to gain citizenship faster and easier and have a better opportunity of being employed in occupations that match their high skill set.
The U.S. is in dire need of this legislation to grow the technology sector of its economy. The U.S. State Department conducted a study known as the 2020 Open Doors Report, which revealed that in the 2019-2020 academic year, there were 32,000 fewer new international students compared to the 2015-2016 academic year. Not only did this impact U.S. universities financially, but it also translated into an employment predicament for the large U.S. technology industry. And it seems that the U.S. is not the only one in search of such foreign talent. Countries like Germany and Canada have made changes to their immigration policies to make the process easier for immigrants to become citizens, subsequently leading to immigrants quickly becoming employed. President Biden's new legislation would allow the U.S. to enact significant changes for immigrants qualified for STEM careers. And hopefully, more international students would seek out the U.S. as a destination for their education and employment. Concerning those born in America, this legislation does not promote competition but seeks to find an additional supplier for the rapidly growing STEM industries.
As promising as this proposal is for immigrants, the reality of achieving such is much more difficult. While some praised Biden for his attempts at reforming immigration, others ridiculed him as they viewed the legislation as the most radical in history. And with the current divisive political climate of the U.S., it will be long before the Democrats can get Republican votes on this legislation. It is more likely that a piecemeal approach, certain parts of the legislation passed, will be taken. Nevertheless, even some components of the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 enacted will lead to pronounced reform to immigration policies since 1996.
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“Biden Vows Immigration Reform to Attract Top Talent to the US.” Science|Business, 21 Jan. 2021, sciencebusiness.net/news/biden-vows-immigration-reform-attract-top-talent-us.
VOA Learning English. “Proposed Law Could Make It Easier for Foreign STEM Students to Stay, Work in US.” VOA, 6 Mar. 2021, learningenglish.voanews.com/a/proposed-law-could-make-it-easier-for-foreign-stem-students-to-stay-work-in-us/5802044.html#:%7E:text=Embed%20share-,Proposed%20Law%20Could%20Make%20It%20Easier%20for%20Foreign,to%20Stay%2C%20Work%20in%20US&text=On%20his%20first%20day%20in,the%20chance%20to%20gain%20citizenship.
Studies, Center For Migration. “The US Citizenship Act of 2021: What’s Inside and Who Could Be Eligible for Immigration Relief.” The Center for Migration Studies of New York (CMS), 11 Mar. 2021, cmsny.org/citizenship-act-2021-explainer.
House, The White. “Fact Sheet: President Biden Sends Immigration Bill to Congress as Part of His Commitment to Modernize Our Immigration System.” The White House, 25 Jan. 2021, www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/01/20/fact-sheet-president-biden-sends-immigration-bill-to-congress-as-part-of-his-commitment-to-modernize-our-immigration-system.