Commerce Department Rejects Proposal on International Scholars

Arielle Gorin, Daily Princetonian, Feb. 9, 2006

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Commerce Department has rejected a policy proposal that would have restricted researchers’ access to technologies based on country of birth rather than country of citizenship, after the University and peer institutions expressed serious concerns about the proposal.

Other prospective regulations regarding foreign scholars’ use of technology remain on the table, however, drawing fire from the University and other U.S. institutions worried about a possible drain on American research capabilities.

Christopher Carter, associate director of the University’s Office of Government Affairs in Washington, said the University is pleased with the abandonment of the first proposal. The University’s views on the subject, he said, were determined by the need to attract the highest-quality foreign researchers.

“The big concern [about] what impact the proposal would have had,” Carter said, “is that we do not want to deter the best and brightest from all over the world—which is really the pool that Princeton and other research universities pull from—from coming here and studying here.”

The Commerce Department’s original proposal, recorded in the Federal Register in March 2005, recommended requiring foreign nationals who are “originally from countries of concern” to obtain export licenses before accessing sensitive technologies in the United States.

The policy would have applied even if the researchers have become citizens of nations that are not considered “countries of concern” and would not normally require export licenses. The report cited the example of an Iranian-born researcher who had become a citizen of Canada or established permanent residency there.

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