- Biden has asked Congress to relax visa restrictions for highly educated Russians to move to the US.
- This would help rob Putin of his “best innovators and best brains,” said a White House official.
- Thousands of Russians have already left the country since the war in Ukraine began.
President Joe Biden has proposed looser visa restrictions for highly educated Russians looking to enter the US, a move the White House hopes will draw the country’s “best brains” away from Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s regime.
Biden asked Congress last week to change the Immigration and Nationality Act so that Russian professionals with master’s or doctoral degrees in the fields of science, technology, engineering, or math can apply for a working visa without needing to be sponsored by an American employer, according to the request document.
The change would also require the Department of Homeland Security to “expedite consideration of such applications,” it said.
The relaxed regulations won’t last forever: the amendment will be terminated four years after being enacted.
However, at least in the shorter term, it “would help the United States attract and retain Russian STEM talent and undercut Russia’s innovative potential, benefitting US national security,” the document said.
A White House official told CNN that the administration hopes the move will start “robbing Putin of his best innovators and his best brains” by giving Russian scientists a “clear pathway” into the US.
“We believe this will advance our own national security and bolster our economy by adding highly skilled individuals to our workforce, and that it will also weaken Russia’s innovation base while simultaneously strengthening our own,” the official said, per CNN.
In principle, Biden’s proposal is similar to the Soviet Scientists Immigration Act of 1992, which allowed up to 750 engineers and scientists from the Baltic states and the former Soviet Union to live in the US with their families as employment-based immigrants.
The Act, passed in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse, applied to those working in “nuclear, chemical, biological, or other high technology defense projects.” Biden’s proposed plan describes a broader range of eligible scientific fields, including cybersecurity, advanced computing, artificial intelligence, and space technologies.
If enacted, the amendments could be a further blow to Russia, which is already facing international sanctions and the widespread pullout of Western companies.
Thousands of Russians have left the country since the war in Ukraine began, The Telegraph reported in March. And at least two million people have departed Russia since Putin came into power 20 years ago, accelerating the country’s decades-long “brain drain,” per a report by The Atlantic Council.
“Educated people do not like living in a dictatorship with censorship and other limitations of basic human rights, and this results in brain drain,” Oleg Itskhoki, an economics professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, told Insider’s Jason Lalljee in March.