Friday, January 15, 2010

Retaining Top Foreign Born Scientist

The US has long been a leader in scientific discovery. Many of the leading scientists of the last 50 years have worked or lived in the US, and a great number were foreign-born. Foreign scientists have played a significant role in pushing the US into its leadership role. Seeing this trend, other nations have started to work hard to lure their scientist back home, and have been having success. Unfortunately, US immigration law, as administered by USCIS, can actually discourage top scientists from remaining in the US. An example will serve to illustrate. Jin Yuelin (a fictitious name) and his employer applied for a green card based on the fact that he is an “Outstanding Researcher.” The application was denied because USCIS found that the evidence did not establish that he is outstanding. To the eyes of all but USCIS, Jin Yuelin is clearly among the best and the brightest. His academic field is Geography, specializing in Geographic Information Science (GIS). GIS is the academic theory behind the development if geographic information systems. The GPS that so many of us enjoy in our automobiles is a type of geographic information system. Over his career, Dr. Yuelin has published 30 scholarly articles in peer-reviewed journals, has developed a widely used geographic software package, has had his work cited by other scientists in the field as authoritative over 300 times, has served as a reviewer of the scientific work of others, has been awarded numerous research grants, and has presented his original research findings at scientific symposia all over the world. In support of the petition filed before CIS, eight internationally known scientists wrote letters to CIS attesting to his outstanding abilities. Scientists with less going for them are approved by CIS as outstanding researchers on a regular basis. But, for some reason, Dr. Yuelin’s petition was not. To immigration practitioners, inconsistent adjudications such as this one are nothing new. The academic institution has appealed this decision and is awaiting a determination. In the meantime, Dr. Yuelin’s life is in limbo. In a recent trip to his native China, he was offered a position by a Chinese employer who was quick to see the value that this employee would add. Dr. Yuelin declined because he wants to remain with his US employer, but he did so with great anxiety.

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