In a message to Russian scientists and engineers to abandon Vladimir Putin’s Russia, the Biden administration proposed an immigration measure to offer highly educated Russians a better chance at permanent residency and a new life in America. If the measure becomes law, experts expect Putin to be unhappy about losing so much talent.
Background: After Russia invaded Ukraine, tens of thousands of Russian scientists and engineers left the country. Many have sought temporary respites in other countries, such as Georgia, while weighing their options. Those who cannot find permanent accommodation to live and work are likely to return to Russia.
“In a sign that Russia fears a brain drain as a result of the war, the government last month [in March 2022] exempted young tech workers from mandatory military service, offering them low mortgage rates and freeing up IT [information technology] companies from income tax and inspections, as well as giving them access to cheap loans,” according to the FinancialTimes.
the washington post Catherine Rampell advocated that America open its doors to Russian scientists and engineers to “drain Putin’s brains”. One February 2022 Forbes Article discussed why the United States should welcome Russian students and professionals with technical expertise.
What does the immigration measure do? In a letter to the House on April 28, 2022, the Biden administration included a measure on Russian scientists and engineers as part of the legislation requested for the Fiscal Year 2022 emergency supplemental funding for Ukraine. “This authority would help the United States attract and retain Russian STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] talent and undermining Russia’s potential for innovation, to the benefit of U.S. national security,” according to the administration’s description of the provision.
The measure would eliminate the need for Russians with master’s or doctorate degrees in a STEM field to obtain an employer sponsor or be placed in backlog for permanent residency (green cards). It would require a decision within 90 days if possible, taking into account the need for security assessments. The measure would end after four years (unless Congress extends it later).
From a technical perspective, the proposed legislation is necessary to attract Russian scientists and engineers, as it would be impossible for them to obtain H-1B status except with an employer exempt from the numerical limit (such as a university ), while other parts of the United States are unlikely to have the immigration system available to them. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced in April that it received nearly 400,000 more H-1B records than available H-1B applications for fiscal year 2023.
Here is the statutory text of the provision:
“IN GENERAL.—Section 203(b)(2) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 USC 1153(b)(2)) is amended by adding at the end the following:
“(D) Notwithstanding subparagraph (B), the requirements of subparagraph (A) that the services of an alien in the sciences, arts, professions or business must be sought by an employer in the States States do not apply to aliens (and to the parents, spouses and children of such aliens if accompanying or following them) who:
“(i) are citizens of Russia;
“(ii) have earned a master’s or doctoral degree in the United States or an equivalent foreign degree in a field involving science, technology, engineering, or mathematics, including, but not limited to, relevant degrees for the following areas: Advanced Computing, Advanced Materials Engineering, Advanced Gas Turbine Engine Technologies, Advanced Manufacturing, Advanced and Networked Sensing and Signature Management, Advanced Nuclear Power Technologies, Advanced Gas Detector Instrumentation Technologies, particles, Artificial intelligence, Autonomous systems and robotics, Biotechnologies, Communication and networking technologies, Cybersecurity, Directed energy, Financial technologies, human-machine interfaces, hypersonics, advanced missile propulsion technologies, networked sensors and sensing, technologies quantum information, production and storage of renewable energy, semiconductors and microelectro technology, technologies and space systems; and “(iii) seek admission to work in the United States in a business related to science, technology, engineering, or mathematics.”.
“(b) AWARDING AND VERIFICATION. – Petitions and applications submitted under this Section shall be promptly reviewed, as applicable, within 90 days of the submission of all required documents, and shall receive a timely decision, if any, including all the steps necessary to complete a security or fraud assessment of the applicant.
“(c) NUMERICAL LIMITATIONS.—Section 201(b)(1) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 USC 1151(b)(1)) is amended by adding at the end the following:
“(F) Immigrants described in subparagraph (D) of section 203(b)(2).”.
“(d) TERMINATION.—The authority of subsection (a) shall terminate 4 years after the date of enactment of this Act.”
What will Vladimir Putin think? : Gleb Yushin, professor of engineering and materials at Georgia Tech and holder of a BA in physics from St. Petersburg Polytechnic Institute, Russia, applauded the US initiative to provide a streamlined path to permanent residency. for Russian scientists and engineers. “I think it’s an outstanding strategic move to benefit the United States and weaken Putin’s authoritarian regime,” he said in an interview. “The smartest and most creative scientists and engineers cannot thrive in a country that severely restricts their freedom and values natural resources more than people’s ability to innovate.
“It will be difficult for Putin to counter this measure because restricting the exit would ruin his support and his reputation,” said Yushin, who co-founded Sila Nanotechnologies, a US company valued today at more than $3 billion. “Issuing exit visas [as in the days of the Soviet Union] would make everyone want to leave even more. The reality is that many talented and hardworking people are eager to immigrate, but feel that no one would welcome them, especially now. Scientists and engineers want to maximize their positive impact, and they know they have a much better chance of doing so from abroad.
Brian D. Taylor, professor of political science at Syracuse University, agrees with Yushin. “Some experts have estimated that hundreds of thousands of Russians have already left, including tens of thousands in the IT industry,” Taylor said in an interview. “If Russians with the right education can immigrate to the United States without even finding a job sponsor, that will look like an attractive option to many.”
He thinks that the situation would become even more precarious inside Russia if Vladimir Putin declared a general military mobilization for the population. Taylor noted in a previous interview that sanctions and the departure of major Western companies would limit economic opportunities for many Russians.
In his book The Code of Putinism, Taylor explained that in Russia, only about 27% of employed people work in small and medium-sized enterprises, compared to 60-80% of the workforce in the world’s 34 largest market economies. The reason? Corruption and a failing legal system. He blames the “raids” in Russia, where “law enforcement is launching a trumped-up criminal case against a businessman to deprive him of all or part of his business.”
The Biden administration’s immigration measure could be a strategic advantage and counter a key Russian claim – the idea that the whole world is against “Russians” rather than aligned against Vladimir Putin and the Russian government for his actions. in Ukraine. “A significant part of Russian propaganda channels portray Russian citizens as being treated unfairly in other countries,” Gleb Yushin said. “Welcoming Russian scientists and engineers would show the exact opposite.”