In April 1997, 26.1 percent of holders of doctorates in S&E in the United States were foreign born. This is shown in text table 3-22 with data from the 1997 NSF/SRS SESTAT data file, a large national sample of those with U.S. S&E degrees and those with foreign S&E degrees who were in the United States in 1990. The lowest percentage of foreign-born doctorates was in psychology (7.2 percent) and the highest was in civil engineering (52.0 percent). Almost one-fifth (19.2 percent) of those with masterís degree in S&E were foreign born. Even at the bachelorís degree level, 9.7 percent of those with S&E degrees were foreign bornwith the greatest proportion in chemistry (15.9 percent), computer sciences (15.6 percent), and across all engineering fields (14.9 percent).
In 1993 only 28.5 percent of college graduates employed in computer occupations had computer science degrees, with another 2.9 percent having degrees in the closely related field of computer and systems engineering and 6.7 percent in the sometimes closely related field of electrical engineering (text table 3-21).[*] Perhaps reflecting the role of business departments and schools in initially introducing computer training on many campuses, 17.7 percent had business degrees. Altogether, 32.5 percent of those in computer occupations in 1993 had degrees in fields outside science, engineering, or technology (SE&T), and another 29.6 percent had degrees in SE&T fields not directly related to computing. This picture is very different for computer workers under age 30: 45.2 percent have computer science degrees, 4.9 percent degrees in computer and systems engineering, and 8.9 percent in electrical engineering. Only 16.5 percent had degrees in non-SE&T fields.[*]
1993 is the only year in the 1990s for which both field of degree and occupation are available on a major workforce survey for all college graduates. The 1993 SESTAT file augmented with the non-S&E records from the 1993 National Survey of College Graduates provides a valid national sample for this population.
Immigrant scientists come from a wide variety of countries. Countries contributing more than 30,000 natives to the 1.5 million S&E degree holders in the United States are shown in figure 3-15. Although no one source country dominates, 12 percent originated from India, 9 percent from China, 6 percent from the Philippines, and 6 percent from Germany (including those born in the former East Germany). By region, 57 percent originated in Asia (including the Western Asia sections of the Middle East), 24 percent from Europe, 13 percent from Central and South America, 6 percent from Canada and Oceania, and 4 percent from Africa.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) counts of permanent visas issued to immigrants in S&E occupations are shown in figure 3-16. The most recent data for 1998 show a continuing decrease in permanent visas for each S&E occupation from their peaks in 1992 and 1993, after a statutory increase in the number of work-related permanent visas. The total number of immigrants with S&E occupations is now less than in 1991 before the law took effect. (See the sidebar, "Foreign Scientists and Engineers on Temporary Work Visas.")
Permanent visa numbers in recent years have been greatly affected by both immigration legislation and administrative changes at the INS. The 1990 Immigration Act led to increases in the number of employment-based visas available, starting in 1992. The 1992 Chinese Student Protection Act made it possible for Chinese nationals in the United States on student or other temporary visas to acquire permanent resident visas. These changes resulted in at least a temporary increase in the number of scientists able to obtain permanent visas.
One area of policy discussion in recent years has been the use of various forms of temporary work visas by foreign-born scientists. Many newspaper and magazine stories centered on legislation which temporarily increased the 65,000 annual quota for the H-1b visa program through which individuals can get a visa to work in an occupation requiring at least a bachelor's degree for up to six years. Although this is often thought of as a visa for information technology workers, it is used to hire a wide range of skilled workers. Even when a company does not at all consider a worker to be a temporary hire, an H-1b visa can be the only way to put a worker on the job while waiting for a permanent visa. Occupational information on H-1b admissions has not been released, but data are available on the occupations for which companies have been given permission to hire H-1b visa holders (text table 3-23).[*] Because applications are filed by companies for positions, rather than for a particular individual, many times more applications are filed than either visas issued or applied for. Almost half (47.5 percent) of H-1b certifications were for computer-related or electrical engineering positions. Another 29.2 percent were in medical occupations, primarily as various types of therapists and technicians, but also some medical researchers. Other S&E fields were 9.0 percent, education (including professors) was 3.6 percent, and all other occupations only 10.6 percent of total 1996 H-1b certifications.
Scientists and engineers may also receive temporary work visas through intracompany transfer visas (L-1 visas), high-skill worker visas under the North American Free Trade Agreement (TN-1 visas-currently a program primarily for Canadians, but with full access for Mexican professionals coming into place in 2004), and work visas for individuals with an outstanding ability (O-1 visas), as well as several smaller programs.In addition, there is little doubt that much research is done by students (F-1 and J-1 visas); and by postdocs and visiting scientists (J-1 visas, but often H-1b or other categories). Counts of visas issued for each of these categories are shown in text table 3-24.[*] The annual quota on the number of H-1b visas is controlled through the issuance of visas to workers, rather than the applications from companies. Anecdotally, some firms that expect to hire multiple workers on H-1b visas seek permission for many positions, which will also affect the distribution of occupations in text table 3-23.
How many of the foreign students who receive S&E Ph.D. holders from U.S. graduate schools stay in the United States? According to a report by Finn (1999), 48 percent of 1992Ė93 U.S. S&E doctorate recipients with temporary visas were still in the United States in 1994. By field, this percentage ranged from 29 percent in the social sciences to 55 percent in physical sciences and mathematics. (See text table 3-25.) Within each discipline, the percentage of the Ph.D. graduation cohort found in the United States increases with years since degree, reaching 53 percent in 1997. The increase in the stay rate occurs despite considerable evidence from other sources that large numbers of foreign Ph.D. recipients with U.S. degrees leave the United States after completing a postdoc, or at later points in their careers. This suggests a very dynamic picture of the international migration of Ph.D. scientistswith some graduates of U.S. schools returning to the United States even as others leave.