Immigration Policy and the U.S. AI Sector

Zachary Arnold, Roxanne Heston, Remco Zwetsloot & Tina Huang
Date of Publication: 
September, 2019
Source Organization: 

The United States’ ability to attract foreign talent is a unique and crucial national security advantage. Historically, immigrants have helped America lead the world in technological innovation. Artificial intelligence is no exception. Foreign-born talent fuels the U.S. AI sector at every level, from student researchers in academic labs to foreign and naturalized workers in leading companies. Rather than displacing domestic workers, immigrants and visitors fill a critical AI talent gap in the United States – one that is likely to persist and possibly grow over time, even with the most ambitious domestic workforce development efforts. They lead many of America’s top AI companies, contribute groundbreaking original research in AI disciplines, and handle much of the essential, ongoing work to deploy and manage AI throughout the public and private sectors.

To maintain America's AI advantage in an increasingly competitive global market for talent, U.S. employers need an efficient, accessible immigration system that allows them to recruit and retain the world’s best and brightest. And those best and brightest, the great majority of whom want to come to the United States permanently, need a clear and realistic pathtoward long-term legal status. Unfortunately, the current U.S. immigration system is not up to the challenge. This preliminary paper describes that system as it relates to AI talent, identifies features of the system that are doing the most harm to America's AI advantage, and proposes reforms.

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Arnold, Z., Heston, R., Zwetsloot, R., & Huang, T. (2019). Immigration policy and the U.S. sector. Center for Security and Emerging Technology. Retrieved from