Seventy percent of foreign-born, noncitizen recipients of U.S. science and engineering doctorates remain in the U.S. after graduation ORISE report suggests proportion staying five and 10 years after graduation at highest level since data series was developed in 2001

April 26, 2018

OAK RIDGE, Tenn.—The proportion of foreign-born, science and engineering doctoral students who remain in the United States after graduation has increased to its highest level with an estimated 70 percent remaining in the U.S. five years after graduation. These are the latest findings in a series of periodic reports that have been produced by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education and funded by the National Science Foundation.

The latest report, Stay Rates of Foreign Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities, 2013, documents a study in which data from the National Science Foundation’s Survey of Doctorate Recipients were used to estimate the proportion of foreign-born, noncitizens receiving science and engineering doctorates from U.S. universities that stay in the U.S. after graduation. This group had temporary visa status at the time they received their degrees.

The 2013 stay rate for this group, based on those graduating five or 10 years earlier, was 70 and 62 percent, respectively. Compared with estimates of stay rates in 2001 of 58 percent after five years and 56 percent after 10 years, these latest rates indicate that the proportion of temporary visa holders staying in the U.S. after graduation is at its highest level. 

The majority of foreign-born, science and engineering doctoral degree recipients from U.S. institutions are from China and India, and students from these two countries had the highest five-year and 10-year stay rates in 2013 at 84 and 85 percent, respectively after five years and 86 percent for both countries after 10 years.

Five- and 10-year stay rates for U.S. science and engineering doctoral degree recipients with temporary visas at graduation: 2001–2013

Five- and 10-year stay rates for U.S. science and engineering doctoral degree recipients with temporary visas at graduation: 2001–2013

A small proportion of foreign doctorate recipients reported that their graduate education was financed with money from foreign sources, most likely in their home country, and this group had much lower than average stay rates 10 years after graduation with rates in the 20 to 25 percent range. 

“This is the first time we estimated the rate that these temporary visa holders became U.S. citizens, finding that rate is low for the first five to seven years after receiving their degree and only rising to about 30 percent after 12 years,” explained Leigh Ann Pennington, co-author of the ORISE report and economist for Oak Ridge Associated Universities. “Based on the data from this report, one could assume that these individuals are finding additional employment opportunities in the U.S. even after completing one or more postdoctoral appointments.”

By academic discipline, engineering and computer and mathematical sciences have high five-year stay rates (75 percent), and engineering had the largest number of foreign nationals receiving degrees five years earlier. The lowest five-year stay rate was seen in the social and behavioral sciences at 51 percent.

Temporary residents receiving science and engineering doctorates in 2007-2009 who were in the United States in 2013 by degree field

Degree Field


Stay Rate

Physical and related sciences



Computer and mathematical sciences



Life (biol., agri. & environ.) and health sciences






Social and related sciences



Total, all fields



Source: National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Survey of Doctorate Recipients, 2013.

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The Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) is a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) asset that is dedicated to enabling critical scientific, research, and health initiatives of the department and its laboratory system by providing world class expertise in STEM workforce development, scientific and technical reviews, and the evaluation of radiation exposure and environmental contamination.

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