A Desperate Need for United States Immigration Reform

By: Jocelyn Schultz

Since September 11, 2011, the United States has made it increasingly more difficult for foreign students to obtain visas to study and work in the United States. The difficulties that foreign students face are rejections at their consular interviews, visa delays, denials of status for technical violations revealed by the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), and few opportunities to adjust their status. To remain in the United States after the completion of their school programs, foreign immigrant students must apply for an H-1B specialty working visa. These visas are essentially the only visas that will allow a student to stay and work in the United States after graduation. However, because these visas are in such high demand, the possibility of obtaining one immediately is difficult, which has caused many highly skilled foreign students to take their talent and U.S. education outside of the U.S.

Highly skilled immigrant students have made many contributions to the U.S. They have made contributions as innovators and entrepreneurs. Also, they have increased the economy, increased innovation, and job creation. For example, foreign graduates have founded an estimated 2,340 U.S. companies that employ over 100,000 people. Although many foreign students have contributed to this country, the arguments are made by U.S. citizens that foreign students take “American jobs,” reduce wages, and cause a “brain drain” in their home countries. However, increased foreign immigration has refuted those arguments.

The U.S. has often overlooked foreign students’ contributions to society, but countries such as Canada have not. Canada has put in place a green card provision in its immigration law: this allows foreign students to apply for permanent residence if they obtain a Canadian college or graduate degree. On this path, Canada has set itself up to surpass the United States in human capital by recruiting highly skilled workers. The author of this Note suggests that the United States follow the framework of Canada’s new immigration law and address the issue of foreign students and how they can remain in the United States legally.

The Note goes on to argue that although the United States does have potential solutions to keep strong foreign minds in the country, the U.S. really needs new legislation to integrate a conditional residence requirement. With this requirement, Congress could alleviate the protectionist concerns and keep highly skilled foreign students in the country. The retention rate of foreign students is low, and the immigration law at its current state gives very limited options for students to obtain permanent U.S. residence. The legal barriers that foreign students face are detrimental to the United States, especially in a time where the U.S. economy needs to be reenergized and a large portion of the country’s scientists and engineers are retiring. The need for the U.S. immigration law reform also stems from the fact that other countries have been actively recruiting foreign students for years; making the time for United States immigration reform past due.


Katherine L. Porter, Retain the Brains: Using a Conditional Residence Requirement to Keep the Best and Brightest Foreign Students in the United States, 40 Hofstra L. Rev. 593 (2011).

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