Malign Foreign Talent Recruitment Program (MFTRP)

Many countries sponsor talent recruitment programs to attract researchers in targeted fields, utilizing legitimate mechanisms for this purpose. However, some foreign government-sponsored talent recruitment programs seek to misappropriate research and intellectual property through illicit or illegal means. The federal government has identified such programs as “Malign Foreign Talent Recruitment Programs” (MFTRP).

The Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) & Science Act of 2022 prohibits participation in any foreign talent recruitment program by personnel of federal research agencies and prohibits participation in a MFTRP by covered individuals involved with research and development awards from those agencies.

As part of the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, participation in a MFTRP is prohibited for researchers applying for receiving federal funding. 

The Office of Science and Technology issued guidelines for federal research agencies regarding foreign talent recruitment programs (Feb 14, 2024)

What is a Foreign Talent Recruitment Program?

A foreign talent recruitment program is any program, position, or activity that includes compensation in the form of cash, in-kind compensation, including research funding, promised future compensation, complimentary foreign travel, things of non de minimis value, honorific titles, career advancement opportunities, or other types of remuneration or consideration directly provided by a foreign country at any level (national, provincial, or local) or their designee, or an entity based in, funded by, or affiliated with a foreign country, whether or not directly sponsored by the foreign country, to an individual, whether directly or indirectly stated in the arrangement, contract, or other documentation at issue.

What is a Malign Foreign Talent Recruitment Program (MFTRP)?

If the arrangement is described in Boxes A and B, the arrangement falls within the Chips and Science Act’s definition of a MFTRP (Section 10638(4) of the Act).

Any program, position, or activity that includes compensation* by a foreign country at any level that involves one or more of the following:

  1. Unauthorized transfer of IP, materials, data products, or other nonpublic information;
  2. Recruitment of trainees or researchers to enroll in the program;
  3. Establishing a lab or company, or accepting a faculty position or other appointment, in the foreign country;
  4. Being unable to terminate the foreign talent recruitment program;
  5. Being limited in the capacity to carry out a research and development award, or requires engagement in work that overlaps or duplicates a federal award;
  6. Being required to apply for funding from the sponsoring foreign government;
  7. Being required to omit acknowledgement of the recipient institution (UH) or the federal agency sponsoring the research;
  8. Being required not to disclose participation in the program to the federal research agency or employing institution (UH); or
  9. Having a conflict of interest or commitment contrary to a federal award.

* Compensation broadly includes cash, in-kind compensation, research funding, promised future compensation, complimentary foreign travel, things of non de minimis value, honorific titles, career advancement, or other types of remuneration or consideration. 

And is sponsored by one of the following:

  1. A foreign country of concern as defined by the Secretary of State, and currently includes China, North Korea, the Russia Federation, and Iran;
  2. An entity based in a foreign country of concern; or
  3. An academic institution or foreign talent recruitment program on the lists developed under paragraphs (8) and (9) of Section 1286(c) of the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (10 U.S.C. 4001 note; Public Law 115-232) (Reference pages 17-21).

What is not a Foreign Talent Recruitment Program?

A foreign talent recruitment program does not include the following international collaboration activities, so long as the activity is not funded, organized, or managed by an academic institution or a foreign talent recruitment program on the lists developed under paragraphs (8) and (9) of Section 12(c) of the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (10 U.S.C. 4001 note; Public Law 115-232):

  1. Making scholarly presentations and publishing written materials regarding scientific information not otherwise controlled under current law;
  2. Participating in international conferences or other international exchanges, research projects or programs that involve open and reciprocal exchange of scientific information, and which are aimed at advancing international scientific understanding and not otherwise controlled under current law;
  3. Advising a foreign student enrolled at an institution of higher education or writing a recommendation for such a student, at such student’s request; and
  4. Responsible international collaboration with institutions and scholars, including those in countries of concern. For more information about what is not considered a malign foreign talent program, please see the Office of Science and Technology Policy’s February 2024 Memo on MFTRPs.

Additional Resources about Foreign Talent Recruitment Programs