Opinion The U.S. can make easy fixes to welcome immigrant students

Friday, June 23, 2023

First published by The Washington Post

The June 19 Education article “Workers trained in U.S. universities looking elsewhere for employment” should be a wake-up call for our political leaders.

International students — especially graduate students — have a critical role to play in enabling the United States to stay competitive in rapidly advancing fields such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing, where we’re aggressively challenged by China and other nations. Yet the United States has an immigration system that increasingly tells top international students that the United States is not sure it wants them to come to study — and not sure it wants them to stay.

Though the United States needs comprehensive immigration reform, the nation can’t afford to keep waiting for that. The State Department should make the granting of visas for graduate students much more timely and more predictable. Congress should ensure that international graduate students with jobs lined up in the United States are given a green card as soon as they graduate — and create a special visa category for start-up founders that does not require employer sponsorship.

These changes would send an important signal to ambitious young people around the world that the United States still warmly welcomes them. International graduate students are one of the 21st century’s most valuable resources. It is time for the United States to start treating them that way.

Ezekiel J. Emanuel, Philadelphia

The writer is vice provost of global initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania.

L. Rafael Reif, Cambridge, Mass.

The writer is the Ray and Maria Stata professor of electrical engineering and computer science and president emeritus of MIT.