Building an Evergreen $1 Billion Fund for Science and Technology Career Advancement

How to Expand H-1B Fees for Innovative Workforce Training and Inclusive Graduate STEM Education

Authors: Lindsay Milliken, Doug Rand


The H-1B visa for “specialty occupation” workers has become a significant element of the U.S. employment-based immigration system. Less well-known is that employers of H-1B workers annually pay hundreds of millions of dollars for domestic education and training programs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), administered by the Department of Labor (DOL) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). This fee-based funding stream was created in the late 1990s and has not been meaningfully updated by Congress in the succeeding decades. It is mandatory funding, tied to a continuous flow of H-1B filing fees rather than the annual congressional appropriations process. Both the Obama and Trump administrations seized on this unique pot of money for advancing education and training priorities for Americans without new legislation or appropriations.

The Biden administration can take even greater advantage of this funding to launch innovative programs that advance U.S. economic competitiveness and diversify the STEM talent pipeline—two mutually reinforcing goals. Specifically, in this paper we recommend:

● Reestablishing the TechHire Initiative to rapidly train U.S. workers for in-demand technology jobs

● Establishing a new Advanced Research Projects Agency—Labor (ARPA-L) to conduct high-impact R&D programs that create breakthroughs to meet America’s workforce challenges

● Significantly increasing the number of graduate research fellowships dedicated to students in STEM fields who completed their undergraduate education at non-R1 universities

● Significantly increasing the number of faculty training grants in STEM fields where a dearth of professors has created a bottleneck for graduate education (e.g. artificial intelligence)

In addition, Congress should increase the fees paid by H-1B employers to reflect (a) the increase in inflation over the past two decades, as well as (b) the ability of major corporations, which are often the most prolific sponsors of H-1B workers, to pay more than small businesses.

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About the Authors

Lindsay Milliken is a Policy Analyst for Science, Technology, and Innovation at the Federation of American Scientists. She supports the Congressional Science Policy Initiative and the Technology and Innovation Initiative. Previously, she worked as a Legislative Research Assistant at Lewis-Burke Associates, a government relations firm specializing in science policy and higher education. Lindsay received her BA in Political Science with a minor in Physics from American University in Washington, DC. During her time at AU, she worked at the National Association of Biomedical Research, which supports the humane use of animal models in medical research. Her research interests include artificial intelligence, high skill immigration policy, and finding creative ways to support evidence-based policymaking on Capitol Hill.

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Doug Rand is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Technology and Innovation Initiative at the Federation of American Scientists, focusing on the intersection of immigration policy and artificial intelligence (AI) in advancing the nation’s national security and economic growth. Doug is the co-founder of Boundless, a technology company that empowers families to navigate the immigration system more confidently, rapidly, and affordably. Doug served in the Obama White House for over six years as Assistant Director for Entrepreneurship in the Office of Science and Technology Policy, with a portfolio spanning inclusive high-growth entrepreneurship, access to capital, clean energy innovation, commercialization of federally funded research, and high-skill immigration. Doug was co-founder and CEO of the innovative publishing company Playscripts, Inc., as well as a co-founder of the theater review aggregator StageGrade. He is a graduate of Yale Law School and the Yale School of Management, and received Master’s and undergraduate degrees from Harvard, where he studied evolutionary biology. As a writer, Doug’s plays have been performed thousands of times worldwide.

The authors would like to thank Amy Nice, Ryan Burke, Remco Zwetsloot, Diana Gehlhaus, and Mark Elsesser for their insightful recommendations during the drafting of this report.