Crow signs letter in support of rapid visa reform

American immigration laws pose serious threat to US economic competitiveness

ASU President Michael Crow added his name to the signatures of 164 other university presidents and chancellors in a letter urging U.S. President Barack Obama and all members of Congress to provide green cards to foreign-born students who earn advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

The letter, dated Sept. 13, includes leaders in higher education from all 50 states, and calls for much-needed reform of antiquated U.S. immigration laws that ultimately send away highly skilled, trained and educated job creators, once they graduate from American universities with advanced degrees, to go work for U.S. competitors in other countries.

Due to major delays for a permanent U.S. visa – with wait times of up to 9 years – top engineers from countries such as India and China are discouraged from American jobs.

The problem is compounded by a growing skill gap across America's industries.

"One-quarter of U.S. science and engineering firms already report difficulty hiring, and the problem will only worsen: the U.S. is projected to face a shortfall of 230,000 qualified advanced-degree workers in scientific and technical fields by 2018," the letter states.

Describing the issue as "a critical threat to America's preeminence as a global center of innovation and prosperity," U.S. university leaders call for a bipartisan solution that ensures top international graduates have a clear path to a green card.

The letter was organized by the Partnership for a New American Economy as part of the coalition’s campaign to make STEM immigration reform a priority by repeatedly producing evidence of the value of STEM immigration reform and of broad bipartisan support from Americans.  

Partnership research has found:

Foreign STEM graduates create American jobs. Every foreign graduate with an advanced degree from a U.S. university who stays and works in a STEM field creates on average 2.62 jobs for American workers.

Foreign STEM grads drive U.S. innovation. Seventy-six percent of patents from the top 10 patent-producing U.S. universities – including MIT, Stanford, University of Illinois system and University of Texas System – in 2011 had a foreign born inventor.

The United States is facing a shortage of STEM workers. By 2018, there will be more than 230,000 advanced degree STEM jobs that will not be filled even if every single new American STEM grad finds a job.

There is broad support for STEM visa reform among Democratic, Independent and Republican voters.

The United States is losing out to countries that use immigration laws to recruit STEM workers. Canada offers visas to STEM workers even before they’ve earned their degrees and targets its recruitment efforts directly at foreign STEM workers in the US who are frustrated by obstacles to staying. The United Kingdom and Australia offer ways for STEM grads to stay after graduation so they can find employment.

More than 40 percent of the Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children. These include many of America’s greatest brands – Apple, Google, AT&T, Budweiser, Colgate, eBay, General Electric and McDonald’s, just to name a few – and the newest leading companies also are more likely to have an immigrant founder.