On Friday, the House voted 245-139 to pass the STEM Jobs Act (H.R. 6249). The bill would offer visas for skilled immigrants who earn advanced degrees from American institutions. Many Democrats are opposed to the bill because it includes the abrogation of the diversity immigration program, which allocates visas by lottery. The 55,000 visas originally distributed by the diversity program would be redirected to foreign graduates of U.S. universities who hold master’s or doctoral degrees in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Democrats have advocated for the additional visas to be created for STEM graduates. The legislation easily cleared the Republican-controlled House, but is unlikely to clear the Senate and in response to the vote, the White House issued a veto threat.
Democrats have expressed concern that the bill lacks a path for high-skilled immigrants’ family members to receive green cards. Under the STEM Jobs Act, spouses and children of STEM graduates would have their wait time to move to the U.S. reduced to one year. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) lauded the legislation, saying “Our commitment to foreign STEM graduates is a commitment to job creation. We need to bet on students who bet on America.” Democrats further criticized the legislation, citing a lack of language ensuring unused STEM visas can be rolled over, as currently there are fewer STEM graduates than the allotted number of visas. The NEC recently advocated in support of increasing the number of permanent resident “green cards” available to foreign-born graduates with advanced STEM degrees.
As a member of New England Council, we publish the DC Shuttle each week featuring higher ed news from Washington. This edition is drawn from the Council’s Weekly Washington Report Higher Education Update, of Dec. 3, 2012.
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