The Partnership On AI Is Calling For Immigration Policy Changes

The nonprofit group The Partnership on AI, is calling for changes to immigration laws and visa rules so it’s easier for AI experts to travel around the world. If you’re not aware of the Partnership on AI, they were one of the organizations who last week joined up with Facebook and Microsoft to launch the Deepfake Detection Challenge.

The new policy paper released this week, addresses the impact of what it calls current visa and immigration laws on AI and machine learning development. It says these restrictive policies are impeding the ability of students, researchers and industry experts to travel freely, this results in, slowing the progress of AI research.

AI Researchers in the past have faced challenges from immigration officials. At the 2018 NeurIPS ( the world’s largest AI conference) some attendees from Africa, Eastern Europe, and Asia ran into problems when trying to enter Canada. These incidents lead to a lot of backlash in the AI community, including from Google’s AI chief, Jeff Dean.

The report cites the problems at NeurIPS specifically as a reason for changes.

“It is tremendously important to have international scholars be able to meet in person to discuss issues in technology ethics, especially in AI, which is transforming the world so rapidly,” said Brian Green, director of technology ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University.

The Partnership on AI argues the technologies cannot advance without experts being able to meet in person, hold discussions, share ideas and collaborate. AI/ML researchers and experts must be able to “obtain visas in time to contribute their diverse voices to important international conversations.” says the group.

This new policy paper, intends on helping to foster these interactions. The paper details a number of recommendations for governments and conference organizers to implement as a means of improving the accessibility, evaluation and processing of visitors working in the field of AI.

For governments, recommendations include accelerating the process of visa application review, and the creation of new AI/machine learning visa classifications, including establishment of special categories of visas for AI students and interns. The nonprofit also stressed training officials in the language of emerging technologies.

The paper recommends that the AI and ML community explain technical terms plainly to government officials. Conference organizers are recommended to work more closely with governments and immigration officials, including sharing relevant information like the number of invited participants, and copies of invitation letters to help reduce some friction.

“[The recommendations] will also serve as a useful resource for the broader community, in support of balancing government public safety responsibilities with the benefits of immigration, freedom of movement, and collaboration,” says the Partnership on AI.

Given how much AI is shaking up the economy, and the roles we are seeing AI take in healthcare – to say nothing of the existential threat the likes of  Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk have expressed fear over – it seems we should all want the most qualified people in the world as part of the discussion.

Header Image: “Artificial Intelligence – BBC Newsnight” 

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