National Security Innovation Pathway Act provides visa and residency pathway to create pipeline of essential scientific and technical experts to bolster innovation for national security

WASHINGTON – Representatives Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Elise Stefanik (R-NY), the chair and ranking member, respectively, of the House Committee on Armed Services’ Subcommittee on Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities, will introduce the National Security Innovation Pathway Act, legislation to help the nation retain top talent by providing a pathway to an immigrant visa for non-citizens engaged in essential work to promote and protect national security.

“The United States attracts some of the best minds to our universities and innovative companies and develops their expertise,” said Langevin. “They can fortify national security and protect our citizens, critical infrastructure and interests. Unfortunately, much of that talent leaves because there are few options to remain. This critical legislation to retain and leverage researchers and technologists will boost the innovation that backs our national defense efforts.”

“The National Security Innovation Pathway Act is a bipartisan proposal to ensure the United States is able to both attract and retain the top minds all over the world for technological innovation and national security expertise,” said Congresswoman Stefanik. “It’s critical that our country remains competitive in the national security space. This bipartisan legislation will ensure the United States has the ability to provide a pathway for those who are able to fortify and bring further innovation to our national security strategy.”

“The National Security Innovation Pathway Act takes a smart and modernized approach to the global race for talent. While America’s leading research universities draw the top minds from around the world, our nation’s outdated visa system requires many of these individuals to return home to compete against us,” said Mary Sue Coleman, President of the Association of American Universities. “We applaud Chairman Langevin and Ranking Member Stefanik for their leadership in recognizing that innovative pathways are needed to retain preeminent scientists and researchers while adequately investing in STEM education for American students.”

“America’s ability to attract the best and brightest talent from around the world has always given the United States the edge in geostrategic competition,” said Ronald Reagan Institute Task Force on 21st Century National Security Technology and Workforce co-chairs, former U.S. Senator Jim Talent and former Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work. “To prevail in the long-term technological competition we now face, we must win the war for talent. Creating a new pathway for the world’s top technical talent to contribute to our innovation base will benefit the country and our national security.” The Reagan Task Force report included a recommendation that “Congress should create a ‘National Security Innovation Base (NSIB) Visa’ that would encourage appropriately vetted, highly skilled workers to come to the United States or foreign national students graduating with relevant degrees to stay in the United States… to contribute their education and talents to the long-term benefit of the NSIB.”

“The National Security Innovation Base requires a pipeline of top-tier talent to provide scientific innovations that will contribute to our military’s technological capabilities,” said National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence Chair Dr. Eric Schmidt. “The United States benefits from a premier educational system that attracts foreign born students who, if given the opportunity, would stay and continue to contribute to our National Security Innovation Base. I thank Chairman Langevin and Ranking Member Stefanik for their leadership on this important issue as their legislation is a necessary first step for the United States to maintain its leadership in STEM talent.”

The legislation aims to establish a pathway to permanent residency for students and professionals engaged in fields such as artificial intelligence, quantum information sciences, biology, robotics, and hypersonics. Beneficiaries may be employed in work related to national security innovation, involved in related government funded research at institutions of higher learning, or possess scientific and technical expertise that will advance the development of critical technologies.

To address the most pressing national security challenges and help prepare for potential threats, the U.S. needs a workforce that will fuel innovation and ensure the nation’s continued technological edge. Creating opportunities for talent to come to or remain in the country and contribute in specialized fields is vital to that goal. In 2018, over 60 percent of international students attending U.S. colleges and universities were in science and engineering fields, yet only a small portion had the opportunity to stay after graduation.

Fees collected from the processing of petitions to receive special immigrant status will be used to establish a National Security Innovation Fee Account within the Department of the Treasury to offset costs incurred by the federal government for the implementation of the program. A portion of the fees will also be allocated to scholarships under the Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) Defense Education Program, providing additional educational support for exceptional American students pursuing Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) career opportunities.

The legislation already has the support of the Association of American Universities (AAU), American Council on Education (ACE), Federation of American Scientists (FAS), American Physical Society (APS), Association of Public Land-Grant Universities (APLU), and the Coalition for National Security Research.