U.S. Representative Lamar Smith (R-Texas) is expected to announce legislation that would make lawful permanent resident status available to over 50,000 foreign nationals with advanced degrees in the STEM fields – science, technology, engineering or math – in a closely watched measure that would eliminate the current diversity visa lottery.
According to the STEM Jobs Act of 2012, which may be introduced as early as Friday, foreign nationals who earn a STEM doctorate or master’s degree from U.S. universities with significant levels of research activity will be eligible to receive “STEM” visas provided that certain additional criteria are met, including agreeing to work for a sponsoring employer or in a STEM field for at least five years. The legislation would also require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to post an updated list of STEM visa employers on its website each month. The new scheme would not affect the current allocation of H-1B visas, and would give first preference to foreign nationals with doctorate degrees and second preference to individuals with master’s degrees.
Despite strong backing from the technology and academic sectors, as well as some bipartisan support, the bill is unlikely to pass amid the highly charged debate over broader immigration reform.