AIAA Statement on Student Visitor Program and H-1B Visa Restrictions Written 14 July 2020

July 14, 2020 – Reston, Va. –The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), the largest technical society representing the aerospace industry, is concerned with the drastic changes to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program and H-1B visa policy. Such changes can potentially weaken an already struggling aerospace and defense (A&D) industry, potentially ceding hard-won U.S. leadership to other countries. The long-term costs of these initiatives are likely harmful and not readily understood. 

On 6 July, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced modifications to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program where international students would be prohibited from remaining in the United States if their schools and/or programs are entirely online as a result of COVID-19. This follows a 22 June executive order suspending H-1B and other temporary work visas through the end of the calendar year. Such actions can undercut our nation’s economic well-being and destabilize the foundation of the United States.  

U.S. workers benefit from international students who earn advanced STEM degrees in this country and stay. For every 100 of the U.S.-educated immigrants who make the United States their home, 262 new jobs are created and filled by U.S.-born workers, according to a national study by the American Enterprise Institute and New American Economy. 

The A&D sector needs a diverse workforce. Collectively this diverse workforce drives economic growth, innovation, and the entrepreneurial spirit that has continually pushed the aerospace community to accomplish the seemingly impossible. Increasing H-1B visa holders actually decreases unemployment rates with results suggesting the presence of H-1B visa holders boosts employment and leads to faster earnings growth for U.S. workers, according to a 2020 brief from the National Foundation for American Policy, which looked at data from 2005 to 2018. 

The Institute has joined nearly 100 other scientific and technical societies in calling on ICE to reconsider their plans to modify the Student and Exchange Visitor Program. We stand ready to work with the administration and Congress to draft, implement, and support policies that strategically address immigration challenges as well as national security concerns, while simultaneously promoting STEM education domestically and helping retain foreign-born students and professionals. The two are not mutually exclusive.

AIAA is a global organization with 17 percent of its members living outside the United States. It does not serve our community or society to limit the potential contributions and knowledge sharing of members of our workforce because of where they were born or what passport they hold. We must continue to welcome non-U.S. citizens who wish to be educated and trained at our top institutions and who want to contribute to the advancement of our A&D industry. 

Media contact: Michele McDonald,, 703.264.7542 

About AIAA
The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) is the world’s largest aerospace technical society. With nearly 30,000 individual members from 91 countries, and 100 corporate members, AIAA brings together industry, academia, and government to advance engineering and science in aviation, space, and defense. For more information, visit, or follow AIAA on TwitterFacebook, or LinkedIn.