If you’re a foreign student who studied for an advanced math or science degree in the United States, you might know how tough it can be to stay in the country when you’re done with your studies. Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) introduced a bill in the House Thursday morning seeking to ease that process.
The Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills (SKILLS) Act would open 55,000 green cards to foreign students who have received advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) fields. It would also drastically increase the number of H-1B high-skilled worker visas available to non-students, to 155,000 from 65,000 and includes a so-called “entrepreneur’s visa.”
In a compromise with labor groups who argue that increasing the availability of high-skilled visas is anti-worker, the bill hikes up the fees employers would pay for H-1B visas to fund domestic STEM education programs.
“The SKILLS Visa Act will allow the best and brightest foreign graduates of American universities to stay in the U.S., encourage entrepreneurs and investors to grow our economy, and create American jobs,” said Issa in a statement. “The United States is a country of innovation and opportunity that has long been a bastion for the world’s best and brightest.”
Several leading technology lobbies, including the Consumer Electronics Association and the Internet Association, support the bill.
The SKILLS Act may complicate the immigration debate in Congress: The Senate gave up on stand-alone high-skilled immigration reform bills and instead included tech-friendly provisions in its comprehensive immigration reform bill, which moved out of the committee this week. The House drafted its own version of immigration reform, separate from the SKILLS Act, which is under wraps as intense closed-door negotiations continue. It’s extremely unlikely the House would bring two separate immigration bills to the floor.
Goodlatte and Issa’s SKILLS Act can be read in its entirety below. Should we increase the number of green cards for foreign-born STEM students? Share your thoughts in the comments.