The House Education and Workforce Committee’s Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training held a hearing Wednesday on the benefit of encouraging foreign graduates of U.S. universities to remain in the U.S. Employment visas are currently restricted to 140,000 annually, with no more than 7% going to any single country. Supporters discussed various possible strategies for preventing the brain drain of highly educated foreign nationals leaving the country after graduation, including eliminating the annual visa cap or tying an American visa to achieving an advanced degree in the science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) fields. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), ranking member of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Policy Enforcement, took the opportunity to endorse her IDEA Act (H.R. 2161), which would grant visas to foreign nationals who achieved a master’s degree or higher and were offered employment in the U.S. The bill would also help foreign nationals who start businesses which employ U.S. citizens to remain in the country. Judiciary Committee Chair Lamar Smith’s (R-TX) Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act (H.R. 3012) would phase out the employment visa cap over four years. At Wednesday’s hearing, he cautioned against creating a “visa pot of gold” which could lead colleges to target immigrants seeking visas purely for their tuition money. Lindsay Lowell from the Institute of International Migration warned that simply “bringing in more immigrants isn’t going to necessarily produce great results,” and argued that there isn’t sufficient evidence to suggest that the U.S. isn’t producing enough domestic students on STEM career tracks.
From the New England Council’s Weekly Washington Report Higher Education Update, Oct. 11, 2011. NEBHE is a member of the Council and publishes this column each week.
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