Artificial intelligence innovation thrives with international students in the USA

International Students are crucial for AI advancement in the USA Education Beyond Borders Podcast

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21–JUL–2023 | A recent report by the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) reveals that international students play a significant role in driving artificial intelligence (AI) innovation in the USA. More than 40% of the top AI companies in the country have a founder who arrived as an international student, while over two-thirds of postgraduate students in AI-related fields are from overseas.  

The study focused on 43 US companies listed in Forbes Artificial Intelligence 50, and it found that 65% of these leading AI companies were established by immigrants. Impressively, 42% of these immigrant founders initially came to the USA as international students. The impact of international students on entrepreneurship is evident, with a quarter of billion-dollar-valued start-ups in the USA having been founded by them.  

Let’s take a few examples to illustrate this trend: OpenAI, co-founded by Wojciech Zaremba from Poland, who earned a PhD in deep learning at New York University; Adept, founded by Niki Parmar and Ashish Vaswani, both international students from India; and Moveworks, founded by three former international students, two from India and one from China.  

The numbers speak for themselves: 70% of the 129,501 full-time postgraduate students in AI-related fields at US universities are international students. In computer and information sciences fields, this figure rises to 71% of postgraduate students coming from overseas.  

The authors of the report cited that one of the major challenges faced by international students is obtaining H-1B visa status and permanent residence under current immigration rules. These barriers often lead talented international students to pursue careers in other countries, which affects the USA’s potential for AI leadership.   The authors believe that the US needs to make it easier for foreign-born individuals to start businesses and work in the country after receiving an education from US universities, especially in technical fields relevant to AI.  

In conclusion, the study highlights the indispensable contribution of international students to AI research and development in the USA. Fostering an environment that encourages these talented individuals to stay and innovate in the country will be crucial for sustaining America’s leadership in the field of artificial intelligence.

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