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Biden Seeks to Lure Russia’s Top Scientists to the U.S.

President Joe Biden delivers remarks supporting Ukrainians in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, on Thursday, April 28, 2022. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)

President Joe Biden delivers remarks supporting Ukrainians in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, on Thursday, April 28, 2022. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden wants Congress to expedite visas for Russian scientists eager to leave their country in the midst of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, an effort to accelerate a brain drain already underway and further deprive President Vladimir Putin of some of Russia’s top talent.

An administration proposal sent to Capitol Hill as part of a larger package requesting $33 billion in spending on the war would suspend for four years the requirement that scientists applying for H1-B visas have a sponsoring employer, eliminating one of the biggest obstacles for many seeking to come to the United States.

The measure would apply only to Russian citizens with master’s or doctoral degrees in science or engineering fields such as artificial intelligence, nuclear engineering or quantum physics. Administration officials argued that such a move would have dual advantages — costing Russia while benefiting America.

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The vast majority of such visas for the technology industry go to workers from India. About 1,800 Russians obtained lawful permanent resident status each year before the pandemic based on an immigrant classification reserved primarily for outstanding professors, researchers, and advanced degree professionals, if they had employer sponsors.

Even with the latest proposal, all applicants would still have to meet other requirements, including a security vetting process.

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