Press Release

The STEM Brain Drain: Lifting the Immigration Cap on STEM Ph.D.s

As the Department of Defense (DoD) ramps up its efforts to bolster U.S. cybersecurity in response to increasing cyberattacks on U.S. systems, the agency will require a larger pool of high-skilled workers with science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) credentials to combat these threats. In a new insight, AAF’s Douglas Holtz-Eakin and Whitney Appel explore the potential impact of the America COMPETES Act provision and similar proposals that would lift the cap on the number of highly skilled STEM-focused Ph.D. immigrants who are allowed permanent residency in the United States.

Join us today, June 1, at 12:00 p.m. on Capitol Hill for an in-person panel event on this issue. Register here!

Key points:

  • The Russian invasion of Ukraine and rising cyberattacks have increased concerns over high-tech threats to U.S. national security, especially cybersecurity; meanwhile, as DoD steps up its cybersecurity efforts in response, the agency may face a shortage of the highly skilled STEM workers it will need to counter these threats.
  • A specific provision in the House-passed America COMPETES Act would allow non-citizens with a qualified STEM Ph.D. to bypass any green card backlogs and per-country limits, giving them a direct pathway to U.S. permanent residency—which is typically required for DoD employment.
  • This specific provision alone could provide DoD with enough highly skilled workers to support current STEM hiring rates for the next three years.

Read the analysis