The Issue of Foreign-Nationals in STEM Careers

Obama’s reelection has surely disappointed some STEM graduates. Foreign individuals in these fields were hoping to see Romney win the White House and follow through on his promise to provide them with permanent residency. In his Website, Romney said he wanted to retain highly-skilled immigrants through the emission of green cards. Read Romney’s immigration stance.

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Here are some statistics:

  • According to a report by Georgetown University, in 2008, about 44% of the foreign students on F-1 visas came to the United States to study STEM fields.
  • According to the same Georgetown University report, in 2009, 63% of foreign students who studied STEM were in graduate programs.
  • According to the National Science Foundation, in 2009, half of all graduating with doctorates in computer science were foreign-born and in the U.S. with a temporary visa.

But what happens after these foreign nationals get their degrees? Some are allowed to work a couple of years with a window of time called the Optional Practical Training (OPT). With OPT, some foreign professionals can work for 29 months after graduation. But this isn’t the case for all. Some professionals have to go back to their countries in a much shorter time.

There are some professionals who get to work under the H-1B visa, which is a visa for specialty occupations. In his first term, Obama limited H-1B accessibility: Not only were the H-1B visa fees increased, but due to the stimulus package, some major firms were prohibited from pursuing H-1B visas for potential employees.

Romney said on several occasions that he wanted to staple U.S. Green Cards to STEM degrees attained by foreign-nationals. If this was to ever happen, it is safe to assume that more foreign students would pursue STEM careers, which would ultimately contribute to the country. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that a mere 5% of U.S. workers today.

Foreign-nationals in STEM careers can expect to have this issue addressed in Obama’s second term. They will find out whether he will grant Green Cards to graduates or provide a different measure.