While President Barack Obama’s announcement halting the deportation of many illegal immigrants 30 or younger was welcome news, immigrants who are considered highly skilled are still having problems obtaining a green card, according to Forbes.
Currently, many immigrants with skills and/or advanced degrees in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects face wait times between five years and decades for green card approval. By changing current policies, however, this excessive backlog could quickly be diminished.
An analysis from the National Foundation for American Policy argues that these extended wait times are hurting not only the individuals vying for green cards, but current U.S. citizens who are vying for jobs.
“Some have argued that providing green cards to highly skilled foreign nationals harms the job prospects of Americans,” the report stated. “However, that argument ignores that skilled scientists, researchers and professionals help create more jobs and innovations.”
NFAP’s report recommends that Congress make two reforms to current immigration policies. Although some countries have recently been given higher caps for annual green card numbers, the report recommends eliminating these limits for employment-based immigrants altogether. In addition, NFAP believes a federal exemption should be made for individuals with master’s degrees or higher in STEM fields from a U.S. university.
Although no overarching changes have yet been created, the Department of Homeland Security announced in May that it had expanded its current list of STEM designated degree programs that qualify grads on student visas for optional practical training extensions. The OPT program allows students to stay in the United States for 12 months after they graduate as they receive training in their field. Students in designated STEM degree programs can stay an additional 17 months after graduation through an OPT STEM extension.