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STEM-Related Bills Stack Up in Congress

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STEM-Related Bills Stack Up in Congress

June 13, 2012

A slew of bills focused on foreign students in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields have surfaced in the past few months. But the proposals are unlikely to succeed in the home stretch of the presidential election. Similar bills introduced in the first half of 2012 were unable to gain traction in Congress. 

The SMART Jobs Act (S 3192), introduced by Sens. Chris Coons (D) and Lamar Alexander (R) on May 16, would create a new F-4 nonimmigrant visa for foreign nationals pursuing advanced STEM degrees in the United States. In addition, the Smart Jobs Act would authorize those students to become permanent residents after obtaining employment related to their field of study. Read a PDF summary of the SMART Jobs Act.

A similar bill, the STAR Act or Securing the Talent America Requires for the 21st Century Act (S 3185), was introduced by Sen. John Cornyn (R) just a day earlier, on May 15. The STAR Act would allocate 55,000 new immigrant visas for foreigners who have earned Master's or doctorate STEM degrees from U.S. universities and have job offers. However, unlike the SMART Jobs Act, STAR would offset almost all of the increase in immigrant visas by eliminating the so-called diversity visa program. Read Sen. Cornyn’s press release about the STAR Act.

Another recently introduced Senate bill, known as Startup 2.0, not only creates a green card option for foreign students who have graduated from U.S. universities with STEM degrees. It also creates a new entrepreneur visa for immigrants who establish businesses in the U.S. that create jobs for American workers. Read Sen. Jerry Moran’s overview of Startup 2.0.

Even if these measures don’t seem likely to pass in both houses of Congress and become law, at least they demonstrate a first step toward a key bipartisan consensus — that the United States is better off retaining foreign-born students earning advanced degrees in STEM fields than sending them away.  

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