Bookmark and Share

AIBS Public Policy Report for 7/6/04


Several of you have contacted AIBS over the past few years to express concern about U.S. policies affecting recruitment of international students and postdocs. AIBS has been invited to provide comments to a National Academy of Science panel that is exploring the policy implications of international students and postdoctoral scholars in the United States. AIBS will present comments at the panel's next meeting in Washington, D.C. on July 19-20. Information regarding the panel and its study purpose is pasted below. More information can be found at: //

If you have any comments or feedback on this topic, we would appreciate hearing from you as we prepare our comments. Also, we encourage your society to submit comments to the panel as well at

Charge to the Committee:

The committee will undertake a broad examination of the current status and role of international graduate students and postdoctoral scholars in the United States. Based on the available data and other information it gathers, the committee will develop recommendations to guide national policy regarding international graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. Particular attention will be paid to the desire to recruit the best talent from both domestic and international sources, and concerns that the presence of international students may discourage domestic talent from entering science and engineering careers.

Specifically, the committee will address the following tasks:

-What factors should be taken into consideration when developing policy regarding foreign students and postdoctoral scholars?
-For example, what is their impact on the advancement of science, the American and international economy, American undergraduate and graduate education institutions, processes, and students, and national security and international relations?
- Further, what is the impact of the American academic system on foreign graduate students and postdoctoral scholars on their intellectual development, careers, and perceptions of the United States?
-How do these impacts differ when they stay in the United States or return to their home country?
-What information and data is available regarding each of these factors? What findings and conclusions can be drawn from that data?
-What policy options are available for increasing and reducing the flow of foreign students and postdoctoral scholars? (e.g., visas, immigration rules)
-What principles should guide national policy regarding foreign graduate students and postdoctoral scholars?


The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) confirmed the new $100 application fee for foreign students seeking a student visa to study in the U.S. The fee, proposed in October 2003, will go into effect on September 1, 2004 and will be levied to cover the cost of the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). SEVIS is an automated, internet-based database that stores updated information about foreign students studying in the U.S., such as academic standing and field of study. Schools are required to report any changes in a student's status to SEVIS through an electronic interface; SEVIS compliance became mandatory in August 2003. Both SEVIS and the imposition of a fee on applicants to cover its cost were authorized by Congress in 1996.

Numerous academic groups commented on the proposed fees after the publication in the Federal Register in October 2003. Some commenters suggested that the $100 fee was excessive: an independent consulting firm hired by DHS in 2002 estimated that a $54 fee would cover the cost of SEVIS. DHS responded that the $100 covers enforcement costs that the consulting firm's analysis did not include, such as SEVIS Liaison Officers who visit schools to provide assistance with the system and ensure compliance.

Others expressed concern that the fee could reduce foreign students' desire to study in the U.S., pointing to a report by the Council of Graduate Schools that there was a 32% overall decline in applications by foreign students to U.S. graduate schools between the admission cycles for Fall 2003 and Fall 2004. (By comparison, the European Union has proposed the creation of a fast-track visa for scientists; see // Some believe that the fee contributes to the impression that the U.S. does not welcome foreign students anymore. (In comparison to the U.S. fee, student visa fees are $84 to the U.K., $46 to Germany, and $118 to France.) DHS countered that it is under Congressional mandate to impose a fee to cover the cost of SEVIS, regardless of its effect on foreign students. It also suggested that $100 is a small amount compared to the total cost of studying in the U.S. so it is unlikely to deter students from studying in the U.S.

The $100 must be paid, by mail or online, at least 3 days before the visa applicant appears at the U.S. consulate to obtain the visa. Some commenters noted that this only adds more hassle to an already lengthy visa application process. DHS replied that the delay is necessary to verify the payment, but said it will allow third parties (such as the sponsoring school or advocacy groups) to pay the fee, and may try to develop other, potentially more convenient means of payment, such as outsourcing fee collection to foreign financial institutions.

The $100 fee applies to all applicants for F-1, F-3, M-1, M-3, or J-1 status, whose I-20 or DS-2019 Forms are issued on September 1, 2004 or after. A reduced fee of $35 applies to some J-1 applicants (au pairs, camp counselors, and summer work/travel). Exchange visitors under federally sponsored exchange programs are exempt from the fee, as are family members of visa applicants.

The DHS website on SEVIS is:


Recognizing the importance of strong math and science education for students from elementary to graduate school, Representatives Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) and Mark Udall (D-CO) have established the Congressional Science and Math Education Caucus. As the Congressmen noted in a letter to House colleagues, "The U.S. Department of Labor projects that new jobs requiring science, engineering and technical training will increase four times faster than the average national job growth rate." The nation's continued economic growth and global leadership requires that all workers require a "fundamental understanding of math, science, and engineering as well as technical know-how to succeed." The bipartisan caucus will promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics education to members of Congress. Issues that will be addressed include K-12 education, undergraduate and graduate education, workforce and industry-related issues.
The Congressional Math and Science Education Caucus co-chairs, Representatives Vernon Ehlers and Mark Udall are working to recruit additional Caucus members. Individuals interested in helping to build Congressional support for increased funding for K-16 science education, for graduate and post-doctoral training programs, or reducing barriers to international student exchange, among other issues, are encouraged to contact their United States Representative and request that they join the Congressional Math and Science Education Caucus. If your Representative is already a member of the Caucus (see list below), you may wish to contact them to thank them for their support for science education.

Current Caucus Membership:
Reps. Baker (R-LA), Baldwin (D-WI), Biggert (R-IL), Boucher (D-VA), Castle (R-DE), Crowley (D-NY), Doggett (D-TX), Ehlers (R-MI), Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), Gilchrest (R-MD), Hayworth (R-AZ), Holt (D-NJ), Honda (D-CA), Johnson (Nancy, R-CT), Lee (D-CA), Lewis (D-GA), Lofgren (D-CA), McIntyre (D-NC), McCarthy (Karen, D-MO), McGovern (D-MA), Miller (Brad, D-NC), Schiff (D-CA), Simmons (R-CT), Smith (Adam, D-WA), Smith (Nick, R-MI), Udall (Mark, D-CO), Upton (R-MI), and Waxman (D-CA).

Why your Representative should join the Caucus:

-The Caucus will provide information on science, technology, engineering and math education (STEM) issues.
-The Caucus will increase the visibility of STEM issues in Congress, and the nation.
-The Caucus has a strong connection to many grassroots groups and STEM stakeholders in the science, education and business communities.

Benefits of STEM education:

-Economic vitality and national security depend on innovation, and innovation requires scientists and engineers.
-The number of U.S. students choosing to pursue advanced studying in the STEM sectors is declining.
-According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics high tech jobs are growing faster than other sectors.
-It has been estimated that businesses and colleges spend at least $16.6 billion a year in remedial science and math education.

Request that your Representative contact Rep. Ehlers or Mark Udall for more information about the Congressional Math and Science Education Caucus.


In 1992 and 2000 the National Academies issued reports which included recommendations for ensuring quality presidential science and technology appointments. Recently, the National Academies announced that it plans to issue another report shortly after the November 2004 elections. The forthcoming report will not only address issues associated with senior presidential appointments, such as director of the National Science Foundation, but will also include recommendations designed to ensure qualified individuals are selected to serve on presidential and federal science and technology advisory committees. On 29 June 2004 the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) provided recommendations to the National Academies concerning the issue of ensuring the independence and quality of federal science advisory committees. Briefly, AIBS identified five important criteria for organizing advisory committees and selecting committee members: 1. scientific competency, 2. flexibility, 3. appropriate balance and representation of expertise, 4. appreciation of differences in scientific culture, and 5. a need for improved public understanding of the nature of science. The recommendations may be read in their entirety at


The trend toward greater earmarking of funds for biological research concerns some science policy analysts, who believe that, over time, this funding pattern may have less than beneficial effects on the basic research enterprise. In 2001, Science magazine reported that "up to 10% of the Environmental Protection Agency's $550 million R&D budget has been consumed by pork in recent years." Likewise, NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) had been forced to trim competitive life science grants in its research and development programs. At least partially in response to these administrative challenges, in 2001 budget officials in the White House Office of Management and Budget sought a commitment from leaders of the academic and science policy communities to oppose earmarking. Given the continued growth in earmarking since 2001, such a pledge has apparently proved elusive.

Continue reading as:


- Give your society or organization a voice in public policy decisions affecting your areas of science. Support the AIBS Public Policy Office's ability to work with you, on your behalf. See

- AIBS special symposium. Evolutionary Science and Society: Educating a New Generation. Nov. 12th and 13th, 2004, Chicago IL at the National Association of Biology Teachers annual conference. Program and registration at

- BioScience for $12/yr! The BioScience Bulk-Purchase Program for Member Societies and Organizations. See

The American Institute of Biological Sciences is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) scientific association headquartered in Washington DC, with a staff of approximately 30. It was founded in 1947 as a part of the National Academy of Sciences and has been an independent organization since the mid-1950s, governed by a Board of Directors elected by its membership. The AIBS membership consists of approximately 6,000 biologists and 80 professional societies and other organizations; the combined individual membership of the latter exceeds 240,000 biologists. AIBS is an umbrella organization for the biological sciences dedicated to promoting an understanding and appreciation of the natural living world, including the human species and its welfare, by engaging in coalition activities with its members in research, education, public policy, and public outreach; publishing the peer-reviewed journal, BioScience; providing scientific peer review and advisory services to government agencies and other clients; convening scientific meetings; and performing administrative and other support services for its member organizations. Website:


back to Public Policy Reports

Bookmark and Share