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Retaining international student graduates is key to a thriving U.S. workforce, new data shows

FWD.us recently published a new report that states doing so could add $233 billion to the American economy.

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When it comes to the prosperity of the past, current, and future of the U.S. economy, there can be no denying the value and importance of immigrants. 

A new report released by FWD.us highlights the importance that international students in the United States have, and the tremendous potential they can add to the economy. 

The bipartisan political organization estimates that 100,000 international student graduates from U.S. colleges and universities each year want to stay and work in the country, but are forced to leave after graduating.

This is due to a lack of immigration revenue for continued U.S. residency, immigration reform and targeted legislation, which would create a monumental difference to the economy.  

According to FWD.us, allowing such graduates to work permanently in the U.S. could add up to $233 billion in wages to the U.S. economy this decade, including $65 billion in combined federal, state, and local taxes. 

“If Congress enacted legislation providing international students with a direct avenue to permanent residency after graduation, the country would benefit from hundreds of billions of dollars in economic stimulus,” the report reads.

A 2020 report from the New American Economy Research Fund reported that 44% of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children. 

“Granting international student graduates a pathway to permanently remain in the U.S. and eventually obtain U.S. citizenship could reap even greater economic dividends than their own wages,” the report said. 

While the U.S. has remained a global leader in higher education and among the top destinations for international students worldwide, the competitive edge is starting to dull as other nations ramp up their efforts to recruit prospective students. 

“Some of the best and brightest minds from around the globe come to the United States from our superior education and research opportunities,” said Phillip Connor, FWD.us senior demographer. “As the world competes for STEM-educated workers and struggles with health care staff shortages, we cannot afford to lose out on the economic, technological, and research-based benefits highly-skilled and educated international graduates would add to the United States.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. has over 3 million job vacancies in professional/business service and healthcare/social assistance industries, up from about one million vacancies in 2010. 

In 2019, the international student population in the U.S. saw its first decrease in several years, and with the pandemic saw a continued decrease the following year. 

The report notes that if the trend continues, America’s competitive edge will only continue to deteriorate over the next decade. 

In addition to the report, FWD.us also published five proposals for Congress to increase retention of international student graduates. They are: 

  • Establish direct pathways to permanent residency
  • Establish a post-graduate work visa and formalize optional practical training (OPT)
  • Exempt advanced degree holders from H-1B caps
  • Permit dual-intent for student visas
  • Create an entrepreneur visa and expand existing entrepreneur parole 

“Congress should urgently enact common sense reforms to improve our failed immigration system that provide opportunities for international students and the U.S. economy and businesses alike,” said Connor. 

To read the full FWD.us report, click here

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