Is U.S. immigration policy standing in the way of AI innovation?

On Behalf of | Sep 25, 2023 | Business Immigration

The U.S. has always been at the forefront of technological innovation due in large part to the country’s ability to attract entrepreneurs, investors and tech leaders from all across the globe. However, as research into artificial intelligence (AI) continues to accelerate, some worry that current immigration policies and bottlenecks may put America behind in the race to develop these new emerging technologies.

A recent study found that among AI researchers worldwide, the U.S. was the most desired destination to conduct their work. However, 69 percent of AI researchers residing in the U.S. reported that current immigration and visa policies add significant difficulties to foreign talent looking to conduct their research here.

Foreign talent is crucial for tech innovation

There is growing evidence that having more international talent leads to more innovation in a nation’s economy. The above study details the positive correlation between immigration and innovation – measuring trends in patent submissions, immigrant-owned businesses, scholarly works and more. Researchers also cite previous studies on the subject, including one that showed a 9-18 percent increase in patents per capita for every percentage increase in foreign-born college graduates.

Yet, while looser immigration policies and higher caps on high-skill visas are shown to have a positive effect on innovation, the U.S. has failed to address its immigration challenges. Meanwhile other countries, including Canada, have implemented measures to attract more international talent. In the growing battle for AI dominance, the U.S. may struggle to compete.

Is immigration reform on the horizon?

Immigration policy has been a hotly contested topic on Capitol Hill for decades. On several occasions, the Biden Administration has declared that it wanted to prioritize immigration reform, but there has been little progress among legislators toward coming to a compromise.

However, there is some light on the horizon. While no official reform is on the table, several Congressmen have laid ideas on the table, and representatives from various states are pushing the federal government to implement new immigration policy – especially surrounding highly-skilled work.

As U.S. immigration continues to recover post-pandemic, it seems inevitable that changes to the existing system will be made in the coming years. If implemented properly, these changes could set the U.S. up for success in the race for effective AI technology.