Executive Order Suspends Work and Student Visas in the United States

SPIE strongly opposes the order and will continue to support the international exchange of science, technology, and engineering
23 June 2020

On 22 June, the United States Administration issued an executive order that immediately suspends the H-1B visa program and certain categories of the J visa program. The order, effective through the end of 2020, will not affect current visa holders or renewal of those visas but will prevent new applications from being processed. Notably, this suspension includes cap-exempt applications.

As the US looks to continue to grow innovation in certain critical technology areas such as AI, Quantum, and 5G, the changes announced today could be a considerable obstacle in accomplishing this goal. In particular, foreign scientists' ability to work through the H-1B visa program and study via the J-1 visa program is essential to the research and technology communities. Halting these programs will stall a large portion of the workforce pipeline crucial to both industry and universities.

SPIE supports policies that allow for the international mobility of scientists. Sharing knowledge and talent through collaboration has been core to scientific breakthroughs for over a century and will continue to be vital to innovation across the sciences. Countries instituting policies that prevent, restrict, or discourage the movement of researchers put themselves at a disadvantage while also hindering scientific progress.

"This order is in complete disregard to the long history of US leadership in science and technology that relied on the brightest from around the world to come to learn, contribute, and innovate. The economy of today and the comforts we enjoy are living examples of the impact of international innovation and collaboration. Today's order questions the United States' desire to continue its role as the leader in science, technology, engineering, and medicine," said SPIE CEO Kent Rochford. "SPIE strongly disagrees with this executive order and its implications and will continue to support the international exchange of science, technology, and engineering."

As our development of technology, the sciences, and engineering grows by leaps and bounds, the U.S. must embrace and nurture a workforce capable of developing these areas in innovative and exciting directions. SPIE encourages all of its U.S. based constituents to reach out to their elected representatives and ask for support in challenging this order. SPIE will continue to monitor the situation and keep constituents informed of changes and opportunities for action.

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