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Stay Rates of Foreign Doctorate Recipients

ORISE Staff Monitor How Well U.S. Does at Attracting and Retaining Foreign Scientists and Engineers

International scientists in a laboratory

The Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) analyzes labor trends to assess the degree to which the nation’s science education programs are contributing to the development of a highly-qualified, scientific and technical workforce.

Michael Finn, senior economist at ORISE, oversees preparation of biennial stay rate reports that document the tendency of foreign students receiving doctorates in the United States to remain in this country and pursue their careers.

“In many fields of science and engineering, foreign students make up the majority of doctorate recipients,” Finn said. “Universities, research labs and other high-tech employers have become dependent on these scientists and engineers.”

The most recent Stay Rates of Foreign Doctorate Recipients report (PDF, 400KB), released in January of 2010, found that two-thirds (67 percent) of foreign citizens who received science or engineering doctorates from U.S. universities in 2005 continued to live in the United States in 2007.

By tracking stay rates every two years, ORISE is able to estimate the degree to which these talented professionals, trained in part through ORISE Science Education Programs, are continuing to choose to stay in the U.S. and contribute to technological advancement in this country.

Earlier reports indicated that the two-year stay rate peaked at 71 percent in the earlier part of this decade; thus, the more recent 67 percent rate represents a slight decline in the stay rate of foreign doctorate recipients.

“Some of the actions taken to improve security after 9/11 were widely seen as having made it harder for foreign doctorate recipients to obtain visas,” Finn said. “In addition to security issues, the macroeconomic performance of the U.S. economy may have been a factor as well. There was a weakness from 2002–2003 that may have contributed to the minor decline in the stay rate. This report indicates that the adverse impact on stay rates was quite small—the U.S. is still keeping about two-thirds.”