More Green Cards for STEM Graduates Proposed

Currently, the United States has a long backlog of green card applicants who are waiting for the key step toward citizenship to take place. The Wall Street Journal found that not all applicants have been created equal over the past 20 years, as some have had to wait nearly 24 years before gaining permanent residency status. However, Rep. Darrell Issa introduced a bill June 20 that would grant up to 55,000 green cards for foreign-born students with STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – degrees.

According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, the proposed legislation would increase the annual number of visas distributed to high-skilled workers from 65,000 to 155,000. The SKILLS Visa Act, or Supplying Knowledge-Based Immigrants and Lifting Levels of STEM Visas Act, would make it possible for foreign-born graduates who attended U.S. universities to stay and grow the technology sector.

Projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimate that the number of computer information and technology jobs will grow by 22 percent between 2010 and 2020 and math-related occupations will increase by 17 percent by 2020.

“Although high-skilled immigrants are often in demand by American employers, many of them end up on the green-card waiting list for years,” Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said June 20. “Consequently, many of these foreign workers and students go back to their home countries and work for one of our global competitors.”

Additionally, the new bill would repeal the current cap that limits the number of green cards distributed to residents of a specific country. Currently, the law allows for 675,000 green cards to be available to all countries for employer- and family-based applicants. Each country is limited to 7 percent of the annual total of green cards that are given out.

This bill is one of the most recent in a number of individual bills submitted to the House, but is separate from the comprehensive legislation moving through Congress.