Foreign-Born Ph.D.’s in Science Stay in U.S. After Graduation

Report: “Stay Rates of Foreign Doctorate Recipients From U.S. Universities, 2011″

Author: Michael G. Finn, senior economist, Oak Ridge Associated Universities

Organization: Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education

Summary: Almost two-thirds of international students in science and engineering fields remain in the United States a decade after they earn their Ph.D., says the report, which uses 2011 tax records to estimate the proportion of foreign doctorate recipients who were still in the United States five and 10 years after graduation.


  • The 2011 stay rate for all foreign doctorate recipients, including those on permanent visas at graduation, was 68 percent for those graduating five years earlier and 65 percent for those graduating 10 years earlier.
  • Stay rates vary by discipline. Graduates in computer science and computer and electrical engineering are most likely to remain in the United States, while those who earn degrees in economics and agriculture are more likely to return to their home countries.
  • Doctoral students from the two largest sending countries, China and India, are among the most likely to stay. The two countries account for two-thirds of foreign science, technology, engineering, and mathematics graduates still in the United States after five years.
  • Female graduate students are more likely to remain in the United States after earning their degree, and the difference in stay rates for men and women grows over time.

Bottom Line: Educators and elected officials have criticized American visa policy for making it difficult for international students to stay in the country and work, but most foreign-born Ph.D.’s aren’t going home after graduation.

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