Richard Porter spends his days with some of the brightest, most ambitious minds in the nation. As an administrator over International Student and Scholar Service offices at several large public universities over the past Porter works to help international scholars excel in their studies and, upon graduation, look for work. But that’s where his job gets complicated. “It’s increasingly difficult for them to stay after graduation, given the labyrinth of complexities and limitations in their pathway,” Porter says, referencing the limited number of visas available to these students. “So what happens is, we have all these minds who want to work in STEM fields and in the humanities, but for them to get a visa is basically like winning the lottery.”
If we could paint a portrait of the type of person we want to come to the United States to live and work, it’s these folks.
When Porter sees students return to their home countries after graduation, he knows the United States is missing out on a great deal of talent—and economic potential. “They’re going to go out and create companies, create jobs,” he says, adding that they’ve already boosted the economy by studying here. “They’re here legally, they’re contributing to their local economies, they’re paying more in tuition than our domestic students, and then it’s difficult for them to transition to non-student life after they graduate. Why are they faced with barriers when our doors should be wide open to these highly educated people—people we educated—who want to better our economy?”
In addition to increasing the number of visas made available to international students, Porter would also like to see immigration reform that puts these people on a quicker path to residency and, if they wish, citizenship. His thoughts on the subject are both professional and personal. Porter’s wife, who is from Japan and received her doctorate in the United States, is living and working here thanks to residency received through their marriage, and her work—research on autism—has the potential to benefit Americans across the country. She’s just one example, Porter says, of the type of talent we need to retain.
“If we could paint a portrait of the type of person we want to come to the United States to live and work, it’s these folks,” he says. “They’re trying to obey the laws, but the laws are discouraging. It’s counterproductive for the growth of our economy.”