In May of 2012, members of the U.S. Senate introduced three bills aimed at facilitating the permanent residence (“green card”) process for science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) graduates once they are employed in a relevant field. These bills are in line with the Administration’s commitment to promote policies aimed at retaining highly-skilled foreign science and technology graduates educated at U.S. universities.
A brief summary of each of these bills follows.
- The Securing the Talent America Requires for the 21st Century Act (STAR Act) would provide certain immigration benefits for foreign nationals with STEM advanced (master’s and doctorate) degrees, including streamlining the permanent residence process and reducing employment-based immigrant visa backlogs. Some of the key proposals introduced by the bill include: allocating 55,000 employment-based immigrant visas to eligible STEM advanced degree graduates of qualifying U.S. research institutions who have job offers in related fields; offsetting the additional visa numbers by eliminating the “Diversity Visa” lottery program; and allowing dual immigrant intent for qualifying STEM graduate students to enable them to pursue permanent residence status while in student status without jeopardizing their nonimmigrant status.
- The Sustaining our Most Advanced Researchers and Technology Jobs Act (SMART Act) would permit students pursuing a master’s or doctorate degree in a STEM field to enter the United States on a new nonimmigrant (F-4) visa. Once these students graduate from their program, they will have one year during which they may continue to reside legally in the United States while seeking a job in a STEM field. After securing full-time employment in a STEM field, these graduates will be able to adjust their status to that of Legal Permanent Resident.
- The Startup Act 2.0 would create a new STEM visa to allow foreign students who graduate with a master’s or doctorate degree in a STEM program from a U.S. institution to receive green cards. It also would create an Entrepreneur’s Visa for immigrants so that they can remain in the United States, launch businesses, and create jobs, and would eliminate the per-country caps for employment-based immigrant visas.
These bills are still in the early stages of the legislative process and it remains to be seen whether they will be signed into law. Ogletree Deakins is continuing to monitor developments with respect to this legislation.