Visas & Immigration

In order to encourage the best and brightest international students to continue to apply to U.S.-based STEM programs, APS requests that Congress allow F-1 student visa holders to express “dual intent” — a policy provision that already has bipartisan support in Congress.

In 2017, there was a sharp drop in the number of international graduate student enrollments in STEM fields – reversing a trend of consistent growth. In 2018, a survey of 49 of the largest physics Ph.D. programs in the U.S. found there was a nearly 12% decline in international applications between 2017 and 2018. These unexpected declines of both application and enrollment, along with other proposed visa policy changes, warn that the pool of international STEM students at U.S. programs will continue to drop.

This decrease in international STEM students is detrimental to the U.S. economy. According to a 2012 ITIC report, research has found that “every foreign-born student who graduates from a U.S. University with an advanced degree and stays to work in STEM has been shown to create on average 2.62 jobs for American workers — often because they help lead in innovation, research, and development.” In fact, economic analysis performed by NAFSA found that, during the 2016-2017 academic year, international students and their families at U.S. universities and colleges contributed $36.9 billion to the U.S. economy.

Under the current Immigration and Nationality Act, the F-1 is a non-immigrant visa that requires that students prove they are only in the U.S. on a temporary basis and have no intention to stay after they graduate. By contrast, dual intent visas (such as K, L and O visas) allow holders to have legal intent to immigrate.

The decline in international STEM applications could be reversed by allowing students in STEM fields to express dual intent on F-1 visa applications. International students would be incentivized to bring their talents to the U.S. with the possibility of acquiring gainful employment in America post-graduation which would contribute to our economy.

Talented international students that have received an education in the U.S. would be able to stay — helping U.S. companies fill their currently unmet STEM workforce needs — rather than being sent back to their countries of origin where they would directly compete against Americans.

APS firmly recognizes the importance of international STEM students. Allowing the F-1 visa holders to express “dual intent” would encourage these students to continue to enroll in U.S. STEM programs and ensure that talented, U.S.-educated international students have the opportunity to stay and contribute to our country.

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