It has been suggested that offering green cards to Russians with STEM degrees can be an effective sanction against Putin. What would the political process for that be? Which political body in the USA could make such a decision?

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    This question is not opinion based in the least, neither in this version nor as originally posted. The political process for modifying immigration criteria can be described objectively. The powers of various US government entities in making such decisions are well specified by constitution, statute, and regulation. Measures that American and Russian citizens can take to bring about these changes are well known (though for Russian citizens there's not much on the list). I've voted to reopen the question.
    – phoog
    Mar 2, 2022 at 15:44

2 Answers 2


Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, millions of "Russians" have emigrated to western countries, mostly to the United States (see here) and Israel (Jewish Russians, see 1990s post-Soviet Aliyah), and to lesser extent to Europe and Australia. I put "Russians" in quotation marks, since westerners has been for decades calling Russian everyone coming from the USSR, even if they were Ukrainians, Georgians, Latvians, etc.

This immigration included many skilled immigrants, notably scientists - that is not simply people with advanced University degrees, but some world-known E.g., Alexei Abrikosov received his Nobel Price as an American for the work that he had done many years ago while working in Soviet Union. Garry Kasparov is another high profile example of a former "Russian" living in the US.

With Russian borders open (unlike during the Soviet era), anyone wishing to develop their research or engineering career in US or Europe was free to do so, as long as they had enough talent to compete with the locals and those coming from elsewhere (India and China are two notable sources of qualified Western manpower).

Thus, what we are facing now is rather a possibility of a reverse trend: in its desire to hit "Russians" some western countries crack on scholarships and visas for Russian citizens (e.g., Belgium) - ironically hitting the very people who are more pro-western. This is not a new phenomenon - e.g., Japanese Americans were famously interned in concentration camps during the World War 2 (see Internment of Japanese Americans). Similarly, Jewish and political refugees from Germany wandering in Europe were interred in camps at the beginning of the war as enemy citizens, and later often delivered to Germany, when the host country was overrun by the Wehrmacht.

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    I don't think this answers my question. Entrance to USA is not currently free, one needs a visa. An H1B visa takes half a year to get, and there are quotas. An O1 visa can take years to obtain mobile.twitter.com/alexeyguzey/status/1498051043925581826 Many USA companies require permission to work in USA before you can apply for a job.
    – seed
    Mar 2, 2022 at 13:10
  • @seed The point is that by now there is not much left to drain: all those who wanted to leave Russia, but couldn't do so previously, have done so in the last three decades, whereas the newly minted degree owners are not more valuable than those coming from elsewhere - there is no reason to give them special advantage. Note also that Universities are exempt from the H1B quotas, and student F-1 visa has rather favorable conditions for further staying in the US.
    – Roger V.
    Mar 2, 2022 at 13:16
  • But there are reasons: 1. It would weaken Putin's regime and punish him for the aggression; 2. It would make USA richer and create jobs, since a huge proportion of immigrants become entrepreneurs; 3. It would make the immigrants themselves richer and give them access to basic human rights... US visa policies never treated all foreigners equally in the first place, e.g. there is a Visa Waiver Program for some countries but not others, and the Jay Treaty gives some people a special advantage based on their race. Anyway, my question is how to achieve this, not whether you approve of it.
    – seed
    Mar 2, 2022 at 13:56
  • You might have a somewhat distorted view of Russia: it is a developed country, where people do have basic human rights (despite possible problems with democracy) and where the level of life, although lower than North America or the EU, is still comparable to those - people buy cars and houses, go to vacations to warm countries, etc. This especially applies to those with university degrees.
    – Roger V.
    Mar 2, 2022 at 14:04
  • Article 5 of Universal Declaration of Human rights: No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. People get routinely tortured in Russian prisons. Article 7: protection against discrimination. Gay propaganda is banned. Article 15: No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality. Oleg Sentsov was issued a Russian passport against his will. 18, freedom of religion: Jehova Witnesses are banned. 19, freedom of opinion: people go to prison for expressing opinions. 20, freedom of assembly: rallies get dispersed, participants arrested.
    – seed
    Mar 2, 2022 at 15:10

What would the political process for that be?

Congress could amend the Immigration and Nationality Act, which establishes the criteria for admitting new immigrants to the US.

Which political body in the USA could make such a decision?

Congress, through the normal procedure for enacting statutes (which means that the president must assent or that congress must override the veto). There are various decisions vested in the president or the Secretary of Homeland Security, but they do not have the authority to create new categories of immigrants, and they do not have the authority to increase the number of immigrants eligible for existing categories. The president can increase the refugee quota but cannot make refugee status contingent on educational credentials.

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